Remarks at UN General Assembly Third Committee Session on Drugs and Crime
Thank you very much. On behalf of the United States, I would like to extend my gratitude for your leadership as chair of the Third Committee, and for the remarks provided this morning by Executive Director Fedotov. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Vienna plays a critical role in helping governments combat the scourge of illicit narcotics, corruption, and transnational organized crime. Under UN auspices, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) and the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (CCPCJ) play the leading role for developing global responses to these threats, and the United States continues to be a proud member of both commissions, as well as the single largest donor to UNODC.
As President Trump noted in his address to the General Assembly, international criminal networks trafficking in drugs, weapons, and people, continue to threaten our citizens and borders. My own government is highly concerned by increased illicit coca cultivation and cocaine production within our hemisphere, which not only poses risks to local communities, but also fuels transnational organized crime, corruption, money laundering, and cybercrime.
However, the United States has a global interest and indeed, imperative, to help create a future where all nations can be prosperous and secure. Through international cooperation, we can work toward achieving these goals. Criminals do not respect political boundaries or legal jurisdictions, so our prosecutors and investigators must increasingly look outside their own borders to find evidence, witnesses, and stolen assets. Fortunately, there is no need to develop new treaties and instruments to address these threats. Rather, governments must exercise political will to utilize the ones we already have.
President Trump has identified combating transnational crime as one of his administration’s top priorities and has charged the U.S. government to strengthen efforts to dismantle these groups and align U.S. resources more effectively. This push will complement and enhance existing U.S. law enforcement cooperation and technical assistance efforts with foreign governments.
In concert with these efforts, President Trump is leading a whole-of-government response to an unprecedented public health crisis due to opioids and related synthetic drugs. In 2015, over 52,000 people died from drug overdoses in the United States – or 91 people per day. Most of these deaths were related to opioids, and we expect that statistics for 2016 will show an increase when they are released later this year.
Drug production, trafficking, and abuse are global problems. As UNODC noted in this year’s World Drug Report, an estimated 29.5 million people suffer from drug use disorders around the world, and in fact, that number may be even higher, since the Report relies on countries’ self-reported data. That is why we are investing in UNODC and the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB). It is also why we must focus urgently on practical implementation of the commitments we made at the 2016 UN General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem.
We must do more to keep pace with traffickers that rapidly create new substances that are being marketed through the dark web. In this regard, UNODC and INCB are taking steps to accelerate information sharing and analysis with a view to securing international control of the myriad substances and precursor chemicals used to make synthetic opioids. We applaud these efforts, and also need to continue the momentum in the face of new and emerging substances.
We must have an integrated and balanced strategy to counter the world drug problem, which is why we will strongly support international drug demand reduction programs, which have a direct role in improving public security and saving lives. Treating substance use disorders can also help treat mental health disorders, improving quality of life and reducing associated violence.
Finally, the United States is committed to addressing the corrupt behavior that helps drug traffickers, criminals, and terrorists flourish. We look forward to participating in the 7th Conference of States Parties to the UN Convention against Corruption.
We know that most solutions to drugs and crime will be found not by diplomats in the United Nations like us, but by doctors in emergency rooms that are flooded with overdose victims; police officials who respond to murders; investigators who trace links between drug traffickers, money laundering, and terrorists; and prosecutors who risk their lives to ensure that victims receive justice. The United States is committed to making sure they succeed.