US Secretary in Vienna – Blinken: “The war on drugs doesn’t end at home”

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday called for global cooperation in the fight against synthetic drugs. He took part in the annual UN drug conference in Vienna. Later in the afternoon he met Chancellor Karl Nehammer and Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg (both ÖVP), and a visit to Federal President Alexander Van der Bellen was also on the agenda.

“My message at this meeting is urgent: if we want to change the course of this crisis, there is only one path to success: together,” Blinken said in his speech at the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) conference. Although the “war on drugs begins at home, it cannot end at home.” No state can solve this problem alone.

“Drug use is increasing rapidly”
The US Secretary of State emphasized that drug use, addiction and fatal overdoses are rapidly increasing around the world. That is why the CND or UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) mission in Vienna is “more critical than ever for the safety, prosperity and health” of citizens in the US and around the world.

Blinken referred to the opioid crisis in the United States, for example the fact that the number of people in his country who have died from overdoses has doubled in the past three years. Synthetic drugs, especially the highly addictive fentanyl, are now the most common cause of death among people aged 18 to 45 in the US. Every five minutes, someone dies from an overdose, Blinken said.

The US is pumping hundreds of millions into the war on drugs
The U.S. government has made combating fentanyl and synthetic drugs a top priority. Blinken’s visit to UN City shows how important the issue is: he is the first US Secretary of State to ever attend a meeting of the United Nations Commission on Drugs. As part of the conference, Blinken pledged $170 million (155.61 million euros) next year to combat the drug problem.

Last summer, the US Secretary of State launched the ‘Global Coalition to Address Synthetic Drug Threats’, which now includes approximately 150 states and a dozen international organizations – including Austria and the EU -. Blinken used his speech in Vienna to call on member states to implement the measures decided in the coalition.

Austria promises “maximum support”
Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) took part in the UN conference for Austria. He also spoke in favor of better international cooperation between member states, organizations and civil society. Austria is committed to access to human rights in the fight against drugs, Rauch explains. It is about “maximum support” for addicts. The minister said in his speech that the punishments would not focus on drug use, but rather on drug trafficking.

Rauch also emphasized Austria’s commitment to continue supporting UNODC and promised to send staff to the UN office in the areas of prevention and border management. He also welcomed the US Secretary of State to the sidelines of the meeting.

Numerous high-ranking politicians are taking part in the 67th conference of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, which started yesterday and runs until next Friday (March 22). The foreign ministers of the coca-growing countries Colombia, Honduras and Ecuador, among others, gave a speech on Thursday.

Blinken met with Austria’s head of state
Blinken met Nehammer and Schallenberg in the afternoon at the Federal Chancellery and will hold a news conference with the Austrian foreign minister at 3:15 p.m. The American Minister of Foreign Affairs then visited Federal President Van der Bellen in the presidential office.

According to the Federal Chancellery, Nehammer and Blinken spoke about the shared commitment to stability in the Western Balkans and current geopolitical challenges, in particular the conflict in the Middle East and Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.

According to the statement, Nehammer praised the visit of the US Secretary of State, saying that Blinken’s visit to the UN Drug Commission “expresses the focus on the issue of security, the fight against smugglers and crime, among other things, in connection with synthetic drugs. Another common interest is “our commitment to the security of all Jewish fellow citizens, which is currently threatened and endangered in many places, as well as to security and stability in the Western Balkans.”

Source: Krone

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