UNODC co-organizes meeting on securing postal services to address the opioid crisis

Image: iStock / koya79

Vienna (Austria), 18 March 2020 – Opioids are the mainstay drugs for chronic pain management, but at the same time, if misused, they present great harm to the health of users. The largest seizures of synthetic opioids at the global level in 2017 were of tramadol, reaching a record 125 tons. Postal security is key to preventing illegal trafficking, including trafficking of tramadol and other synthetic opioids.

At a side event held during the 63rd Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, together with the Universal Postal Union (UPU) and Public Safety Canada, therefore discussed ways to make the global supply chain safer from illegal drugs, especially synthetic opioids.

Through its Opioid Strategy, UNODC is leading the global response to the opioid crisis. To coordinate the international response, the strategy ensures collaboration with several existing UNODC programmes, as well as other international organizations. During the event on March 4, experts from the UPU Postal Security Programme, UPU Postal security Group, UNODC/WCO/ICAO Container Control Programme, UNODC CRIMJUST programme, and Public Safety Canada shared their know-how and presented solutions to help Member States to make postal services and postal workers more secure from the threats posed by trafficking in synthetic opioids.

Speaking at the event, Chris Callahan, Chair UPU Postal Security Group, stated that the Universal Postal Union “sets standards for the exchange of the international mail. The main mission is to protect the employees, its customers and assets and to safeguard mails from fraud, theft and misuse.” Mr. Callahan noted that when it comes to addressing the illegal trafficking of synthetic opioids the key to promote information sharing and training through workshops for employees, so that the relevant knowledge and experience is transferred to the relevant national authorities.

Currently, the UPU is collaborating with the World Customs Organization (WCO) and customs operators to ensure knowledge sharing on the benefits of using Electronic Advanced Data (EAD) in the customs sector, which include, among others, risk assessment and reducing manual interventions.

According to Dawn Wilkes, UPU Postal Security Programme Manager, “the UPU Postal Technology Centre (PTC) has developed many applications in efforts to assist postal offices and their customs operators to capture and utilize EAD.” Ms. Wilkes stated that within the Customs Declaration System, created by UPU PTC to capture data from the postal operator and exchange with customs operators, there are multiple ways to assist identifying items of interest, the most relevant being the Security Alert feature.

The partnership with the Universal Postal Union is important for the success of the UNODC Opioid Strategy, especially when it comes to addressing synthetic opioids trafficking. The UPU’s made an important contribution to the Postal Security Module of UN Toolkit on Synthetic Drugs, which is a web-based platform with a wide range of electronic resources that offer innovative and practical tools on how to approach challenges related to synthetic drugs and particularly opioids.

The UNODC CRIMJUST programme, one of the implementing partners of the UNODC Opioid Strategy, is currently developing guidelines for profiling synthetic opioid and for providing forensic evidence in synthetic opioids cases. Both guidelines will help enhance the control of mail parcels used for drug trafficking and the capacity of judiciary systems to prosecute synthetic opioid cases.

During their presentations, the speakers also emphasised the benefits of inter-agency collaboration and the necessity of developing an efficient postal tracking system. As Asma Fakhri, Programme Management Officer and UNODC Opioid Strategy Coordinator noted, UNODC Opioid Strategy is “looking forward to the joint activities around the world to help strengthen law enforcement and judiciary in responding to those challenges that are posed by synthetic drugs and, in particular, synthetic opioids.”

Further Information

UNODC Opioid Strategy

United Nations Toolkit on Synthetic Drugs

UNODC Opioid Strategy - Impact Story in Nigeria #1

UNODC Opioid Strategy - Impact Story in Nigeria #2

Responding to global opioid crisis, UNODC launches strategy to protect public health