United Nations, Sep. 24 (PTI): US President Donald Trump on Monday urged the world leaders gathered here to work together to combat the “scourge” of drug addiction and stop all forms of trafficking and smuggling that provide the “financial lifeblood” to vicious transnational cartels.
Trump, who hosted the global leaders at a high-level event on counter-narcotics at the United Nations headquarters here, said illicit drugs were linked to organised crime, illegal financial flows, corruption and terrorism.
“The scourge of drug addiction continues to claim too many lives in the US and the nations around the world,” said Trump who was flanked by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and his top UN diplomat Nikki Haley, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton.
“It is vital for public health and national security that we fight drug addiction and stop all forms of trafficking and smuggling that provide the financial lifeblood for vicious trans-national cartels,” he said.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj also attended the high-level event hosted by Trump.
India is among the early co-hosts of the meeting organised by the US on counter-narcotics that is supported by nearly 130 UN member states.
Citing the 2018 World Drug Report, Trump stressed that cocaine and opium production had hit record highs and global deaths caused by the drug use have increased by 60 per cent from 2000 to 2015.
“This is absolutely terrible…Today we commit to fighting the drug epidemic together,” Trump said as he opened the event.
He said nations must work together to dismantle drug production and defeat the drug addiction.
Last month, the US had announced the ‘Global Call to Action on the World Drug Problem’, which entails reducing drug demand, cutting off supply of illicit drugs and expanding treatment and strengthening international cooperation.
The President emphasised that if nations took steps together, “we can save lives of countless people in all corners of the world”.
He said the US was taking “aggressive action” to take on this scourge by “securing our borders, supporting law enforcement” and devoting record funding to tackle the opioid crisis.
Guterres shared a personal story to highlight how the drug issue had impacted him as well.
“It is personal. Someone very close to me passed away at an unbearably young age,” he said as he recalled that his sister, who was a psychiatrist, had spent many years working at a drug treatment centre in Lisbon.
The UN chief said he saw the “heavy toll” it took on her day after day as she treated those suffering so badly.
“I must tell you. I have enormous admiration for my sister. I think I have done several tough jobs in my life. Nothing compares with what I have seen her do,” he said.
Guterres made a strong appeal for nations to “act now” on the drug problem, warning that the “situation is alarming”.
In recent years, some 31 million people around the world required treatment because of their drug use. Some 450,000 people die every year from overdoses or drug-related health issues.
The UN chief voiced concern that despite the urgency of the problem, for every six people around the world who need treatment for drug use, just one receives it and the figure is even lower for women drug users.
He stressed that to tackle this complex issue, strong action was needed to crack down on drug trafficking and those who profit from human misery and making sure that those who need treatment get it.
“That means denying safe haven to drug traffickers and better cross-border cooperation to pursue kingpins and dismantle networks. It means improved intelligence-sharing and analysis across the entire drug supply chain,” he said.
Guterres underscored that combatting the drug problem also meant targeting the links between drugs, corruption, arms, human trafficking and terror networks.
Trump, who has been very critical of the UN, said Guterres had become a “great friend” and is doing a “wonderful job” at a “very complex but beautiful situation”.
“I have always said the UN has tremendous potential and that potential is being met slowly but surely,” he said.