Home » Side Event: Addressing the Global Synthetic Drug Problem: UNODC Synthetic Drug Strategy

Side Event: Addressing the Global Synthetic Drug Problem: UNODC Synthetic Drug Strategy

Organizer: UNODC Laboratory and Scientific Service Co-sponsors: Canada & United States of America

Co-sponsors: Canada & United States of America

Moderator: Mr. Jean-Luc Lemahieu, Director, Division of Policy Analysis and Public Affairs, UNODC

Summary: The global synthetic drug problem is complex requiring dynamic and comprehensive strategies supported by interagency and international cooperation. Join us to learn about the UNODC Synthetic Drug Strategy and hear more about international responses from a distinguished panel of speakers.


Keynote Speakers:

  1. Ms. Ghada Waly: Executive Director, UNODC

2. Ms. Jagjit Pavadia President: International Narcotics Control Board

3. Dr. Mariangela Simao: Assistant Director General for Access to Medicines and Health Products, World Health Organisation

4. Dr. Rahul Gupta Director: Office of National Drug Control Policy, White House, USA

5. Ms. Jennifer Loten: Director-General, Global Affairs Canada


Moderator: Good morning and thank you for joining us! We’ll be focussing on global synthetic drug policy with a fantastic panel. We’ll give the floor to Ms. Ghada Waly!

Ms. Ghada Waly: Executive Director, UNODC: Thank you for joining us for this timely and important event. The situation on expanding synthetic drugs has been exploding during the pandemic. Estimated 1.2 million . For example, in Afghanistan, new drug containing opioid and methamphetamine has formed. Synthetics have been exploring in Asia; according to new report, 30 Billion Euros per year. Resisting a new synthetic drugs since ranged from arise the new new psychoactive substances in Latin America and the Caribbean to non-medical use of tramadol in Africa and cut about trafficking in the Middle East. No region is immune, and cross-border action is needed to contain the threat and protect people. UNODC launched a synthetic drug strategy last November in response to these diverse challenges, incorporating and building on the work of the UN Body Opioid Strategy. The Synthetic Drugs Strategy offers a balanced/comprehensive framework, encompassing international cooperation, early warning systems, science informed health responses and counter-narcotics capacity-building. Since last November, UNODC has stepped up implementation with the expertise and reach of our existing programs, including Crime, just the global forensic and Scientific Program, the Global Maritime Crime Program, the Global Smart Program, the Global Program against Money Laundering, the Global Program on Cybercrime, the Airport Communication Project, the Container Control Program, and the Regional Office for South East Asia and the Pacific Precursor Control Program.

Building capacities in various airports around the world, guidance on the safe handling of synthetics, handling of crypto/dark web activities, and managing prenatal exposure. The UNODC convened an interagency working group to discuss guidance on caring for infants and prenatal exposure to synthetic opioids. Furthermore, the strategy is helping member states address the safe and then again disposal of synthetic drugs and precursors used in their illicit manufacture and promoting gender sensitive research on the synthetic drugs problem. Action to handle precursors used in manufacturing. Support for strategy implementation is also provided through the UN Toolkit on Synthetic Drugs, which brings together over 300 practical resources from diverse U.N. agencies to strengthen capacities on forensics, postal, security, legislative approaches, cyber crime, access to medicines treatment and precursor control.The toolkit is available in 5/6 of official UN languages, and all by end of 2022. I encourage all to make use of this support and toolkit by the UNODC. This event is an opportunity to present successful strategies on tackling the WDP.

Moderator: Thank you for this call to action and encouraging to work with parters, including INCB. Pleasure to present next speaker, Ms. Pavadia!

Ms. Jagjit Pavadia President: International Narcotics Control Board: On behalf on INCB, I offer some insights and tools for governments to tackling this issue. Chemicals and emerging synthetic drugs have expanded greatly in recent yearsThe board’s mandate allows for dialog with governments to assist and facilitate effective national action to prevent such substances from reaching consumer markets. Given the expansion of novel psychoactive substances in recent years, the INCB presents recommendations…to prevent diversion and trafficking, including the pre-exposure notification, an online system, the Precursor Incident Communication System X and the Project PRISM Taskforce, along with guidelines to prevent the diversion of equipment used in the illicit drug manufacture.

At the heart of these activities is Ionic’s, the only secure and real time communication system where governments have exchanged details of over 30000 incidents involving and traffickers. It’s expanded voluntary cooperation with the four “M” industries that manufacture, marketing, movement and online monetization, provides tools to some of the world’s leading companies to help address exploitation by would be fentanyl traffickers.

INCB approach does not stop there. They are Is developing machine learning technology for enhanced synthetic drug targeting efforts. We are building cross-platform communication with international partners to flag suspicious shipments before transportation, and we are providing advanced online monitoring tools such as Snoop, which stands for scanning novel opioids on online platforms to identify those who would attempt to exploit legitimate internet related industry partners to trafficking in synthetic opioids and fentanyl related substances. I wish to recognize our international operational partners Interpol, Oceania Customs Organization, the Universal Postal Union and the World Customs Organization Bridge, who through our MoUs use have contributed to these tangible outcomes. It is through coordinated efforts that support member states that have successfully contributed to dismantling of organized crime groups by governments around the world. [00:09:46][67.2]

Moderator: Thank you for your attention and walking us through the important work by INCB. Important partner is the WHO, and we have here Dr. Simao. She brings time experience from UNAIDS and public health.

Dr. Mariangela Simao: Assistant Director General for Access to Medicines and Health Products, World Health Organisation: Thank you. The other speakers have highlighted the risks of NPS, and presents one fo the greatest public health challenges of the world today. We see an increase in use which claims 100s of thousands of lives every year, while we still have those who suffer in pain, deprived of access to medicines. Very prevalent is new synthetic opioids, also synthetic sedatives, cannabinoids, and sedatives particularly dangerous when used in conjunction with opioids. UNODC, INCB, WHO collaboration is essential. You all know the WTO does head to Expert Committee on Drug Dependance, then this expert committee to provide support to scientific and medical expertise in identifying substances, including new synthetic drugs that should be considered for international control and evaluating those substances in the party conventions. 

You already know the expert committee provides essential insight on how to manage the issue, including international control. Since 2017 we’ve seen an increase in new drugs, in particular non-medical use opioids. But WTO process to identify and evaluate has been successful in responding to the threat to human health and welfare of an increasing number of substance that have the potential to cause significant harm, including death.But it’s not enough because the pace where many more new synthetic drugs are being developed in use is much faster than we can review them today. 

Nevertheless, we’d like to thank the states who support WHO’s work to address these new drugs. Also, we’re missing key scientific data necessary to review many of the drugs and thank those who offer their expertise in helping us do so. We see it as the main obstacle to clean is the number of reviews by the incident. 

So it;’s clear to respond to this problem requires continued partnership and strengthening of our strategies moving forward. You’ll notice before taking the lead on this, I believe you will continue to work on the positive dimension of the world drug problem in partnership with you all. And we are aiming to accelerate the implementation of the commitments made for the achievement of the recommendations

The WHO continues work to focus on the pub health aspects of the WDP, and continue to work towards the goals of UNGASS 2016. So, it’s not over and won’t be soon, but we have a good ongoing effort to tackle new subs and the World Drug Problem.

Moderator: Thank you! Now, we’ll shift outside the UN family, starting with the USA, with the director of national drug policy: Dr. Gupta! We’re excited,

Dr. Rahul Gupta Director: Office of National Drug Control Policy, White House, USA: Thank the UNODC for making synthetics the focus of the side event. The USA is committed to addressing the risk of synthetics, both home and abroad, to preserve the safety of the global community. Now, the USA faces its own challenge of synthetic drugs. More than 140,000 Americans perished from drug overdose in a 12 month period; this means every 5 minutes an American dies, more than 2/3 involving synthetics, primarily fentanyl, and more than thirty thousand involves synthetic stimulants, primarily methamphetamine. Most important: these are individuals, people’s family. This is heartbreaking and as a physician and policymaker, it’s even more tragic because they’re preventable. We’re dedicating $40 mil to our strategy to reducing demand and supply for illicit drugs in the USA.

We’re tackling two significant drivers of the pandemic, specifically: untreated addiction, and drug trafficking profits. We’re hitting criminal orgs where it hurts the most: their wallets! 2 weeks ago Biden identified in his state of the union speech that ending the overdose epidemic and improving mental health as a top priority for this term. Decreasing addition: looking at social determinants of health. These will be detailed in our forthcoming National Drug Control Strategy that we will be concluding. We’re also working closely with our partner nations, including Mexico, Canada, China and India, as well as our international organization partners, many of whom are speakers here today to reduce the supply of chemical precursors and illicitly manufactured fentanyl.

[00:20:56] Synthetic drug trafficking leads to deaths caused by overdose and violence. It leads to corruption of governments and regional destabilization, and it is incredibly detrimental to our societies because the threat does not start or end at any border. If your country has not yet experienced this, you know there’s a high likelihood that you will, and that’s the unfortunate fact. I appreciate the aforementioned efforts, including early warning systems, and USAhas dedicated $8mil to UNODC to bolster these strategies.

Together, we will continue to make and take the necessary steps forward. To this end, the USA encourages the 3 steps:

  1. Consider voting in favor of adding 3 fentanyl chemicals to 1988 convention as recommended by the INCB and requested by the US.
  2. Consider voting in favor of controlling three synthetic substances under the 1961 and 1971 conventions, as requested by the Mulattos Expert Committee on Drug Dependance.
  3. Consider supporting the United States sponsored resolution on strengthening efforts to address the proliferation of uncontrolled and designer precursors used in the illicit manufacture drugs.

Doing so will help prevent new substances and interdict them when found, and reduce harm to trafficking and use. Also targeting illicit finance, including new sanctions President Biden has recently ordered, as well as domestic law enforcement actions on illicit finance going after illicit financial activities. Doing so serves 2 purposes: disrupting flow of money to illicit actors to reduce incentive, and denies the capital for manufacturers to fund their activities.

Ultimately, if it’s easier to access illicit substances than treatment, this problem will not end. Thank you to you all for supporting these efforts, and the USA looks forward to working with you to to disrupt drug trafficking organizations, prevent overdose deaths and improve global health.

Moderator: Thank you very much. We have noted the three steps you outlined and going after the money. Our last speaker is of Global Affairs Canada:

Ms. Jennifer Loten: Director-General, Global Affairs Canada: Canada continues to face an ongoing opioid crises. More than 54k cases of deadly overdose cases, and has affected vulnerable populations and disproportionate effect on indigenous. Despite decrease in 2019, the covid pandemic has exacerbated the risks. Canada’s approach has been comprehensive, compassionate, and collaborate, guided by our federal drug control strategy, the CDSS (Canadian Drugs and Substances Strategy). It is guided by public health and an evidence-based approach, and it includes: prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and enforcement. Canada has worked w/ UNODC on numerous projects on this effect, including SMART project, which assists governments in the Americas ability to identify and anticipate threats related to synthetic drugs and new psychoactive substances. It contributes to early warning systems with contributions of just under $3 million over three years, Canada has also funded UNODC strategy to join projects in Americans and Southeast Asia. The government has also supported the development of the UN toolkit on synthetic drugs in French, to aid Francophone countries around the world in these efforts.

Canada welcomes the call on he strategy, and in particular on women and girls, tackling thru the gender lens. Also appreciated the science-informed health actions, particularly, emphasis on non-stigmatization to ensure access to health and social services to those seeking help. Also, we appreciate the emphasis on neonatal exposure and emphasis on infants, and also, the role of civil society participation to join and inform on these efforts.

As world begins to ease pandemic rules, it’s doubly important to maintain our efforts. Those who use drugs will continue to bear the burden of the pandemic in disproportionate ways and we must strive to curb this impact. Congrats to Ms. Waly, and those in the UNODC who’ve contributed to this effort. Canada remains prepared to contribute to this mission.

Moderator: Thank you for your efforts. Here is a short video summarizing our efforts. *plays short video; will try to find*

Predict, prevent, protect. Two key words, which on the right wing, the stakeholder partnership for the future have been building up here to get it. And with this, I would like to thank you all, especially those who have been connecting in from far distances. Geneva not being so far, but those from Washington and in Canada as mean many, many times, thanks indeed for being with us today and wishing you still a fantastic remainder of the day. Thank you very much to all those day. Thank you very much.





Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *