Regional Overview

The Arab region comprises three diverse and culturally distinct geographical areas, namely the Mashreq, the Maghreb and the Gulf States. Across these three subregions are displayed considerable disparities and differences in the levels of development, economics, politics, legal systems and culture. National capacities, capabilities and treaty adherence relevant to UNODC's mandates and operations vary from country to country.  The presence of ROMENA Subregional and Programme offices

Moreover, this is a region that has a number of conflict, post-conflict and fragile states, namely the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine, the continuing instability in Iraq, Sudan, particularly Darfur, along with South Sudan, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. This contributes to an environment of violence and unrest in the respective countries and causes considerable negative consequences in neighbouring countries in the region.

Poor governance, insecurity, conflicts, poverty and economic disparities among and within countries of the region are giving way to opportunities for transnational organized crime, as is reflected in increasing incidences of the illicit trafficking of drugs, persons, money and arms, and the consequential generation of proceeds of crime and acts of money-laundering.

Growing Challenges

The drug and crime control issues are becoming more and more prominent in the region, and have the potential to escalate considerably if countermeasures are not strengthened now. HIV/AIDS, which was not previously a particularly prevalent problem in the region, is now increasing, particularly amongst injecting drug users and in prison settings. This situation is further aggravated due to the inadequate performance of the criminal justice system.

The institutional challenge of combating transnational organized crime and terrorism in the region largely relate to the human, organizational and financial capacities of national counterparts to respond to these forms of criminal conduct. While the ratification of international conventions dealing with crime and drug matters is a step forward, adherence to such legal instruments requires an in-depth understanding of complex legal issues, political will and the capacity to implement them in a coherent manner.

The dramatic changes of the 2011 Arab Spring have given the people a platform from which to voice their demands. Responding to popular demands to fight corruption, recover stolen assets and reform institutions, UNODC support is increasingly focused on improved governance, rule of law, enhancement of the justice systems and integrity as key cornerstones of development, human rights, peace and security.

UNODC Assistance

The mission of the office is to support and cooperate with countries to strengthen their response to threats of crime, drugs and terrorism by:

  • Strengthening national policies, institutions and practices in response to drugs, crime and terrorism;
  • Promote rule of law, good governance, adherence to international standards and obligations;
  • Strengthening capacity to combat transnational organized crime, illicit trafficking of drugs, arms, persons, and goods;
  • Promoting regional and international cooperation and partnerships to respond more effectively to shared problems in crime, drugs and terrorism;
  • Promoting best practices and evidenced-based policies and practices in drug prevention and reduction, through education and treatment, particularly among the youth;
  • Providing research, data analysis and expertise on global, regional and national trends on crime, drugs and terrorism

The Regional Office for the Middle East and North Africa

Since the beginning of its work in the MENA region, UNODC's delivery assistance has grown substantially. In the period 2008-2009, the UNODC Regional Office for the Middle East and North Africa (ROMENA) delivered $15 million in technical assistance. UNODC is seen as a trusted and experienced partner for Member States and regional bodies in the Middle East and North Africa.

Regional Programme 2011-2015

To support the effort of Member States in the Arab region to respond to evolving threats, UNODC established the Regional Programme 2011-2015. It covers eighteen countries: Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, South Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

Learn more about the Regional Programme Framework here.