United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Launch – Remarks by Ambassador Sullivan

Ambassador Sullivan’s Remarks at the UNODC Launch

Friday, September 17, 2021 10:50 a.m.

Alisa Hotel, North Ridge, Accra
-As Delivered-

Mr. Glen Prichard – CRIMJUST Global Coordinator;

Mr. Kameldy Neldjingaye – UNODC Deputy Regional Director for West & Central Africa;

Mr. Francis Torkornoo – Director General of Ghana Narcotics Control Commission;

Mr. Charles Abani – UN-Resident Coordinator in Ghana;

Partners, colleagues, ladies, and gentlemen:


Good morning!

I’m very pleased to be here with you this morning and would like to extend my thanks to the UNODC Crim-just Global Program for asking me to be part of today’s event.

I’d also like to thank the wide range of Ghanaian government officials present and engaged on this issue, which demonstrates the inter-ministerial and interagency cooperation required to reduce illicit opioid production and trafficking.

The use and abuse of opioids is a global epidemic.  And global challenges require global solutions.  The United States, through the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, is pleased to support Operation Azure, an international effort to enhance operational activities to prevent trafficking of synthetic opioids.

U.S. communities know firsthand and practically every family in American has a story to tell about the devastating effects of fentanyl and heroin from overseas and some that is produced in the United States.  Approximately 93,000 Americans lost their lives from drug overdoses in 2020.

And sadly, the scourge of synthetic drugs is a global phenomenon.  According to the World Health Organization – an organization that the United States proudly rejoined some months again – in 2019, worldwide, there were 350,000 deaths attributed to opioid use.  We know that here in Ghana, and throughout the region, the abuse of tramadol and other pharmaceuticals is a growing problem.

Combatting synthetic opioids poses significant challenges due to the ease with which they can be produced and trafficked across borders.   Today’s model of drug trafficking involves deadly products sent globally through legitimate shipping and mail services.  Criminal organizations are seizing the opportunity to profit, particularly when it comes to super-potent synthetics like fentanyl.  Operation Azure focuses on mitigating vulnerabilities in the global postal system and building capacity to investigate and successfully prosecute violations.  The operation will involve training a full range of government interagency – police, narcotics control, revenue authority, judges, and prosecutors – to reduce illicit opioid production and trafficking.

Operation Azure was developed as part of UNODC’s Opioid Strategy and will put into practice guidelines and best practices on both sides of the Atlantic to stop and prosecute those involved in this deadly trade.

While illicit synthetic opioids are by far the deadliest new drugs we are all up against, the use of other internationally trafficked drugs, like cocaine and methamphetamine, remains a devastating problem in the United States and, indeed, around the world.

In order to successfully battle drug trafficking and transnational crime, we must work together more effectively than the criminals who we are trying to stop.  The United States knows we cannot go it alone and that’s why President Biden recommitted to multilateral cooperation at the beginning of his term.

We are grateful to partners like UNODC who lead cross-cutting efforts like Operation Azure.  Our partnership and cooperation across borders are our greatest strength.

I look forward to hearing success stories coming from this operation.  Medaase!