UNODC launches  toolkit for improving law enforcement agencies' communication with drug users and other marginalised and vulnerable groups



October 2013, Islamabad -  The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in Pakistan held a dialogue meeting with 14 high ranking senior law enforcement officials from Pakistan. The conversations were focused on the need to include training for police on their important role in public health more generally, particularly with regards to HIV among key affected populations.  

In continuation of the dialogue UNODC conducted a workshop at the Sihala Police Academy in Punjab over two days on 23-24 October, where the participants were presented with a toolkit that has been developed to help law enforcement agencies improve communication with drug users and marginalised groups. This is the first time UNODC has developed this kind of material for law enforcement and it was handed over in a pilot project to 40 station head commanders across Pakistan. 

"This is a very useful document and we commend UNODC for bringing this toolkit to Pakistan and actually delivering it to our senior officers from around the country, we hope that we can work with you to find a way of incorporating this work into our core police training." expressed one of the participants. "We thank UNODC for designing this toolkit, it is clear that the role of police in public health is important and we need to know how we can better respond to HIV in the national context."

To conduct the workshop, UNODC cooperated with Dr. Nicholas Thomson from the University of Melbourne.  "To be able to design a toolkit like this and then actually speak with the country's most senior officials has been incredibly valuable. It has helped us find the right strategy for ongoing advocacy with the police and also has given us a chance to see how the toolkit can be delivered in Pakistan. Considering this is part of a broader regional program, we have got off to a great start." said Dr. Thomson. "Human rights based policing models are not normal topics of conversation with the Pakistani police, given their current pressures. The Toolkit training has found a way to raise these issues in a good learning environment and the participants have been honest and welcoming in their feedback and participation. These few days are going to put us in great position to continue this work in the region" he continued. 

Dr Nadeem Rehman, the Adviser for UNODC Pakistan Country Office's Sub-Programme on Drug Demand Reduction and HIV/Aids, said the event has opened up communication with the police academies on a national scale in Pakistan, which a terrific outcome. "Getting their feedback and inputs will mean that as we go forward in Pakistan with building capacity for the law enforcement agencies' to effectively work with these vulnerable groups in society." 

Around 6.4 million of the Pakistan's adult population is estimated to have used drugs in the last 12 months. This is equivalent to 5.8 per cent. 4.1 million individuals are dependent on drugs and treatment and specialist interventions are in short supply and often not free of charge. Nearly one fourth of the Pakistani population are living on less than US$ 1.25 a day, which makes it very difficult, if not impossible, for many addicts to get access to structured treatment. As a consequence, less than 30 000 drug users get treated every year.


The toolkit is financially supported by the UNODC's Regional Project for Afghanistan and surrounding countries.  Distribution of the toolkit in Pakistan has shown that its design is highly relevant for police on the ground who are working in complex settings. The formalisation of the Toolkit will give us great confidence that we have a package that can be adapted to other countries under the Regional Project which includes Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Iran, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kirghizstan and Kazakhstan. 

UNODC is planning further dialogues and training courses across the region including a regional advocacy and training program in the first quarter of next year. Working with law enforcement and HIV issues is a long term endeavour on the organisation's side, and the positive reactions to the launch of the Toolkit has created a platform from which the organisation can continue to work for an improved environment for people who use drugs in the region.