Ghada Waly

Director-General/Executive Director

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

  16 March 2022


Ladies and gentlemen, 

It is an honour to address this CND special event on tackling global drug challenges through the UNODC Synthetic Drug Strategy.  

I thank our partners and donors for joining us for this timely and urgent discussion. 

Opioids and other synthetic drugs are getting deadlier and propelling an ever-growing global health crisis.  

The market is expanding and diversifying, and many synthetic drugs are easily produced close to the markets where they are consumed, using readily available chemicals.  

The situation has further escalated in the shadows of the global pandemic and other crises. 

A recent study warned that more than 1.2 million people will die from opioid overdoses in the United States and Canada by 2029 unless action is taken. Moreover, in the US, the trafficking of fentanyl and synthetic opioidhas been declared a national emergency 

Meth-amphetamine is being manufactured in new places, for example in Afghanistan, where a new drug in tablet form containing both heroin and meth-amphetamine has also emerged, posing a serious health threat to people in the country and beyond.  

Meth seizures have continued to hit record highs in Southeast Asia 

Eurojust reported that nearly one-third of drug trafficking cases referred to the agency involved synthetics, in a market valued at a minimum of 30 billion euros a year.  

Persisting and new synthetic drug threats range from a rise in new psychoactive substances in Latin America and the Caribbean, to non-medical use of tramadol in Africa and captagon trafficking in the Middle East 

No region is immune to the problem, and cross-border action is needed to contain the threat and protect people.  

UNODC launched the Synthetic Drug Strategy last November in response to these diverse challenges.  

Incorporating and building on the work of the UNODC Opioid Strategy, the Synthetic Drug Strategy offers a balanced and comprehensive framework encompassing international cooperation; early warning systems; science-informed health responses; and counter-narcotics capacity-building. 

I had the honour of launching the Strategy last November. Since then, UNODC has stepped up implementation by leveraging the expertise and reach of our existing programmes, including CRIMJUST; the Global Forensic and Scientific Programme; the Global Maritime Crime Programme; the Global Smart Programme; the Global Programme against Money Laundering; the Global Programme on Cybercrime; the Airport Communication Project; the Container Control Programme; and the Regional Office for Southeast Asia and the Pacific- Precursor Control Programme. 

Through its implementation, UNODC continues to work closely with partners including WHO, INCB and the Universal Postal Union.  

In the past few months, we have trained airport security police in Argentina on advanced drug identification devices; built capacities at the Air Cargo control unit in Lahore on drug identification and safe handling of synthetic drugs; helped to counter online synthetic drug trafficking through training on cryptocurrencies and darknet investigation in Thailand; and produced a cyber threats report on Latin America and the Caribbean, which is being presented today at a CND side event.  

Last month, UNODC convened an inter-agency working group to discuss guidance on caring for infants with prenatal exposure to synthetic opioids. 

Furthermore, the Strategy is helping Member States address the safe handling and disposal of synthetic drugs and precursors used in their illicit manufacture, and promoting gender-sensitive research on the synthetic drugs problem. 

Support for Strategy implementation is also provided through the UN Toolkit on Synthetic Drugs, which brings together over 300 practical resources from diverse UN agencies to strengthen capacities on forensics, postal security, legislative approaches, cybercrime, access to medicines, treatment, and precursor control.  

am pleased to note that the Toolkit is available in 5 of the 6 official UN languages and will be available in all 6 languages this 2022, to help ensure that all stakeholders can access these resources. 

I urge all of you to make the best use of the support provided by UNODC through the Synthetic Drug Strategy.  

This event on the margins of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs is also an opportunity to present successful strategies and discuss needs in global efforts to tackle the synthetic drug problem 

UNODC is here to listen and learn, so we can strengthen our work with you to continuously improve and update responses to this shared challenge 

Thank you.