Key Results of UNODC Cooperation on Drug Addiction, Treatment and HIV Control in the Islamic Republic of Iran (2005-2010)
During 2005-2010, UNODC has been successful in achieving the expected goals of qualitative and quantitative improvements of nationwide prevention activities, advocacy for drug demand reduction, NGO empowerment, as well as national and regional networking. A wide network of essential partnerships was built and effective activities and outputs have been carried out.
"UNODC is in a unique position to provide support towards ever more effective drug demand reduction policies and programmes in the I. R. of Iran" was one of the main conclusions of the independent evaluation report on UNODC activities in drug demand reduction.
UNODC in the Islamic Republic of Iran has facilitated study missions to several countries providing the opportunity for senior Iranian experts to get acquainted with good policies and best practices in the areas of drug prevention. UNODC´s work on drug demand reduction, treatment and HIV control, implemented through capacity building and advocacy, has resulted in numerous national programmes and initiatives set in motion in these fields. South-South cooperation aimed at sharing experience on drug use prevention and treatment in the community and prison settings has also been enhanced.
UNODC has assisted in promoting effective primary drug prevention in the key settings of the community and the workplace, and in the education and prison systems. This work led to the formulation of tailored drug prevention packages, successfully piloted in the above-mentioned settings between 2009 and 2010.
UNODC HIV control projects have decisively contributed to the improvement of HIV programmes and introduction of internationally recognized practices such as methadone maintenance treatment and needle and syringe exchange at the country level. Moreover, UNODC has worked closely with national counterparts to implement activities in the following areas: HIV and mass media, HIV voluntary counselling and testing with NGOs and in prison settings, capacity building for field service providers, advocacy for addressing stigma and discrimination against drug users and people living with HIV, assessment of gender-based vulnerability factors related to HIV among sexual partners of drug users, and development of a package on prevention of HIV transmission among groups at risk. In a joint review conducted in March 2010, Iran Drug Control Headquarters stated its intention to extend the use of these packages throughout the country. At the same time, there was agreement on the need to improve national capacity to monitor and evaluate prevention activities. With UNODC support, a set of indicators was identified and agreed upon by the national authorities.
UNODC has facilitated informed decisions on drug policies and programmes. To reach this end, in 2007 the Office organized study missions to Sweden and Switzerland that enabled senior drug control officials to familiarize themselves with, and observe the implementation of, two different policy models in drug demand reduction. Two study missions to Spain and Ireland were carried out in 2010, providing the opportunity for senior Iranian experts to get acquainted with good policies and practices in the areas of drug prevention.
In the field of harm reduction, the I. R. of Iran has established itself as an innovative centre within the region and in the broader Islamic world. Programmes range from needle exchange and opiate substitution treatments to HIV prevention and care. Following a regional meeting on harm reduction, held in October 2008, UNODC provided support for study missions by health officials from such countries as Lebanon, Egypt, China and Malaysia. In cooperation with WHO, training was also provided in 2009 and 2010 for practitioners from Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Information on new and emerging drugs in the local market is also important for sound policy making. During 2005-2010, UNODC supported research and forensic studies meant to learn more on purities, impurities and other characteristics of ecstasy (MDMA) and crack (crystallized) heroin. Both drugs have seen a surge of availability and consumption in the I. R. of Iran in the last few years.
Iranian NGOs play an indispensable role in drug demand reduction, treatment and HIV control. Technical training was provided by UNODC to about 90 drop-in centres, half of their total number in the country. Given the difficulties that many NGOs encounter in financing themselves and becoming self-sustained, training in general planning and management skills, including fund raising, community involvement and voluntary work techniques, was also provided. NGO networking, which allows collective and coordinated approach in dealing with governmental institutions, has been facilitated.
The general public has been another referent of UNODC projects. A national campaign, which included the publication of posters and other scientific-based information materials, and the organisation of events and seminars, has been carried out with the aim to promote drug demand reduction.
The report of the independent evaluation of UNODC activities in drug demand reduction recommended the continuation of the main strategies foreseen by the projects on drug prevention and advocacy. Moreover, it suggested to pay further attention to treatment and rehabilitation issues and reinforce capacity-building and exchange at the regional and international level, particularly through the promotion of South-South cooperation.