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Lao PDR coordinates responses to illicit drugs and transnational organized crime

The 7 th High Level meeting of the Illicit Drug Sector Working Group met in Vientiane on the 18 October to share information and discuss coordination efforts to address illicit drugs and the threat of transnational organized crime to the Lao PDR. The meeting was opened by H.E. Mr. Kou Chansina, acting Chair of the Lao National Commission for Drug Control and Supervision and co-chaired by H.E. Ms. Junko Yokota, Japanese Ambassador and Mr. Leik Boonwaat, UNODC Representative.

Mr. Kou Chansina stated that this was the fifth consecutive year in which the Lao PDR has seen increases in illicit opium poppy cultivation, from 1,500 ha in 2007 to 4,100 ha in 2011 which is a 173 % increase. There is a risk of continued increases in opium poppy cultivation due to the absence of other alternative initiatives and the high rise of opium price. Only some 175 villages (15%), out of 1,100 priority former opium poppy cultivating villages targeted by the National Program Strategy have received assistance since 2006.  He said that US$ 72 million was required to implement the National Drug Control Master Plan 2009-2013, however only US $ 15 million or 20% has been received as external funding through UNODC. The funding support is provided mainly by the EU and the Government of Germany, Luxembourg, USA, Australia and Japan. There has been other bilateral assistance from the Governments of Vietnam, China, USA, Republic of Korea and also INGOs such as Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) and the private sector.

He stressed the importance of continuing support to the implementation of the National Drug Control Master Plan 2009-2013. A new Drug Control Strategy for 2014 to 2020 will be developed after a review of the current Master Plan.

The Japanese Ambassador, H.E. Ms. Junko Yokota, said illicit drug issues have enormous health, social and economic implications. They can lead to corruption as well as impede sustainable economic growth.  Within the Lao PDR, illicit drug issues directly affect the Lao government's ability to achieve the country's Millennium Development Goal targets by 2015. She said that the success or failure of illicit drug prevention efforts rests on sector-wide, multi-sector coordination and collaboration.  Not only must donors continue to cooperate with all functions of the Lao government to tackle illicit drugs, donors must also strengthen cooperation with each other to contribute to joint, comprehensive and sustained efforts to address this serious threat.

Transport connectivity is one of the key goals of ASEAN, which stresses that being able to move goods and people more efficiently will allow countries to increase trade volume, create jobs, reduce poverty and improve the quality of life. However Mr. Leik Boonwaat, stressed the equal importance of addressing the serious threats from transnational organized crime and transit trafficking through the Lao PDR. He underlined the fact that increased illicit trafficking contributes to increases in drug abuse; crime; violence; corruption and money laundering which if left unaddressed could undermine the security and stability of the country. The region has seen many rapid changes for which governance regulatory structures are failing to keep up with. Increased drug and human trafficking has left communities and families devastated with misery and suffering. He said that in order to address these serious threats it was important to understand the problem, establish the normative frameworks required for national and international responses, strengthen and build up local capacity, as well as strengthen and expand regional partnerships. The UN conventions for drugs, crime and corruption form a solid foundation on which solutions can be built.

Priority projects addressing alternative development, drug demand reduction and criminal justice as well as a draft joint statement of the illicit drug sector working group to be submitted to the upcoming Round Table Meeting were presented for comments.

Representatives from the Diplomatic Corps, Ministries, International Organization and Civil Society provided many useful comments and recommendations to the meeting.