Countries of the Region Assess Progress and Set Priorities under UNODC Regional Programme

A year following its endorsement by the Arab Statest, the Steering Committee of UNODC Regional Programme on Drug Control, Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Reform for the Arab States (2011-2015), comprising different national counterparts from the Ministries of Justice, Interior and Health from 18 Member States covered by the Programme, joined in two-day meeting organized by UNODC and the  League of Arab States at the Headquarters of the League, in Cairo, Egypt.

The main aim of this annual meeting is to bring together members of the Steering and Follow-up Committee of the Regional Programme to examine progress made in the implementation of the Programme during 2012 and identify priorities for the coming year. The meeting was opened by H. E. Mr. Radwan Ben Khadra, Legal Advisor to LAS Secretary-General who congratulated all on achievements made under the Regional Programme while highlighting the gravity of problems in the region yet to be addressed.  Mr. Masood Karimipour, UNODC Regional Representative for the Middle East and North Africa, addressing the participants, stated "UNODC is prepared to support you to deliver justice in a fair and humane manner, in line with international standards and conventions".  Stressing the importance of regional cooperation, he added that "No one country can combat these threats on its own and without the cooperation of its neighbours and the international community" pinpointing that "improved governance and rule of law, including fighting corruption, are the prerequisites for political stability and economic and social progress in the Middle East and North Africa".

The Regional Programme was elaborated through extensive consultations with national counterparts. It was based upon the sixteen years presence of UNODC in the region, during which a number of the challenges posed by illicit trafficking, organized crime, terrorism, corruption, criminal justice, crime prevention, drug abuse and HIV/AIDS were addressed.

The event brought together 82 participants who all agreed on a set of 25 recommendations that respond to the various challenges faced by the Members under the three sub-programmes of the Regional Programme.  These recommendations, inter alia, included i) To intensify cooperation, in the context of the implementation of the Regional Programme, with the Arab countries of the region that are undergoing social and political transitional phases as well as neighbouring countries, by supporting the criminal justice and law enforcement institutions in these countries and areas to strengthen their crime prevention efforts through development of policies, strategies, plans and programmes; ii) To call on UNODC to continue supporting the governments of countries in transitional phases in the field of criminal justice in general and security sector in particular; iii) To intensify efforts for strengthening regional cooperation and border control, as it relates to the implementation of the regional programme, to counter all forms of illicit trafficking into and through the region, particularly, the current challenges posed by increasing trafficking in weapons and ways of countering them; iv) To intensify efforts to implement the "Comprehensive Arab Strategy for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings" through the adoption of measures that aim at the prevention and prosecution of human trafficking crimes, protection of victims of trafficking, and to strengthen regional cooperation for these purposes. This includes the launch of an Arab network for human trafficking information, experience and policy exchange; v) To emphasize the importance of improving the legal framework for international cooperation, in particular establishing a network of central authorities to strengthen cooperation and coordination among Arab States in criminal matters related to terrorism, including extradition and mutual legal assistance, in such a way so as not to contravene national laws and bilateral, regional and international agreements; vi) To urge Member States in the region that have not acceded yet to UNCAC to hasten in doing so, to support States Parties to UNCAC with its implementation and the fulfillment of its review mechanism requirements, to strengthen the Arab-Arab cooperation in combating corruption and to exchange experiences and best practices in this regard; vii) To strengthen institutions, mechanisms and prison programmes through the rehabilitation of prison inmates, and the social re-integration of those released, through the development of aftercare programmes and establishment of alternatives to imprisonment. viii) To support voluntary, evidence-based and rights-based drug dependence treatment programmes with a focus on community based services, moving away from purely punitive approaches towards people who use drugs.

The Regional Programme, developed in close partnership with LAS and through extensive consultations with national counterparts, was endorsed by the Ministerial Council of the League of Arab States and launched on 8 December 2010.  UNODC has been supporting States in the region combat illicit trafficking, organized crime, terrorism, corruption, criminal justice, crime prevention, drug abuse and HIV/AIDS for the last 16 years.