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Government of Panama signs agreement with UNODC for the implementation of the Airport Communications Project (AIRCOP)

On 10 April 2014, the Government of the Republic of Panama signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) for the implementation of the Airport Communication Project (AIRCOP).

Funded through a 7.8 million Euro investment from the European Union for the implementation of the project worldwide, AIRCOP is a joint initiative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), INTERPOL and the World Customs Organization (WCO). First piloted in West Africa in early 2010, AIRCOP serves as a fundamental part of the strategic activities of the Cocaine Route Programme, which is designed to allow for increased technical advice and support to help strengthen the capacity for coordination amongst the 38 Member States found along all cocaine routes, thereby enhancing the capacity to combat and dismantle organized crime and drug trafficking.

AIRCOP is designed to strengthen research capabilities and the capacity for intelligence and interdiction in international airports, by facilitating a real-time exchange of operational information through the incorporation of the I-24/ 7 and CENcomm technology platforms of INTERPOL and the World Customs Organization respectively.

Through, continuous improvement and information sharing by all States, as well as through a series of complementary projects, AIRCOP promotes the exchange of experiences and good practices through an integrated approach to the following challenges to peace, security and global development:

  • illegal trafficking,
  • money laundering,
  • trafficking in persons

During the third week of March, the AIRCOP Evaluation Mission composed of representatives of INTERPOL, WCO, and UNODC, successfully completed the evaluation process with all national institutions involved in the programme, among which are the Ministry of Security, the National Aviation Security (DINASA according to its acronym in Spanish), the National Police, the Directorate of Judicial Investigation, the Interpol National Central Bureau, the National Police Intelligence Office, the National Immigration Service, the National Aero-naval Service, the National Security Council, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the National Customs Authority , Tocumen S.A. and the Attorney General's Office.

One of the strengths highlighted during the assessment mission corresponded to the recent creation of the National Directorate for Aviation Security within the Ministry of Public Security, whose main mission is for the provision of public safety services in the airport area, which articulates all main AIRCOP objectives for proper coordination and monitoring. Additionally, it was also noted that Panama has strong logistics and that there is growth in the importance of the Tocumen International Airport, considered the Hub of the Americas, with an approximate movement of 12 million passengers by 2013, thus becoming a major challenge in the real time production, handling and provision of information and intelligence.

Now that the signing of the AIRCOP Memorandum of Understanding has been formalized by representatives of the National Government of the Republic of Panama, Panama becomes the second country in Latin America, just after the Dominican Republic, to join the first group of countries leading the implementation of AIRCOP. Panama is also considered a strategic partner in this initiative, having excellent practices in public safety, including technological top infrastructures, and these provide an excellent model for implementation in selected airports across Latin America and the Caribbean.

The Honourable Eric Dejoie, Head of the European Union Office for Panama, represented the European Union at the signing ceremony of the AIRCOP Memorandum of Understanding. On behalf of the Government of the Republic of Panama, the participants included: His Excellency José Raul Mulino, Minister of Public Security; Her Excellency Patricia Arias Cerjac, Acting Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs; the Honourable Ana Belfon, Attorney General; the Honourable Alejandro Garuz, Executive Secretary of the National Security Council; and the Honourable George Carney, Director General of Customs. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime was represented by Dr. Amado Philip de Andrés, UNODC Regional Representative for Central America and the Caribbean.