Responses to illicit trafficking are impeded by weak capacity of law enforcement agencies and patchy cooperation among member states
Export-driven growth in combination with inter-regional competition will result in medium- to long-term reductions in transportation cost. Anticipated increases in traffic flows in the coming decade will force countries to improve the efficiency of their infrastructure and reduce the transaction costs of lengthy border inspections. This will further increase cross-border trade. Major regional infrastructure and development projects will concentrate resources along key zones of movement - the so called "development corridors". While these trends are positive in principle, and will lower costs to consumers, they also portend increased opportunities for organized criminal groups to exploit the vulnerable. Law enforcement must therefore be part of the development agenda. An effective criminal justice system must end the current high levels of impunity which organized criminal groups enjoy. At all stages, the criminal justice response to organized criminal groups involved in trafficking drugs, human beings, illegal firearms, timber products, and smuggling migrants must reflect internationally-agreed criminal justice and human rights standards. Law enforcement authorities have generally lagged behind organized crime groups in terms of organization, adaptability, adoption of new technology and effective networking.
The two main reasons for law enforcement's reduced effectiveness are: (a) inadequate technical capacity and inadequate operating resources; and (b) insufficient cooperation among law enforcement agencies within and across borders. Both of these factors contribute to ineffective handling of a range of crimes. Insufficient political commitment and varying levels of corruption also reduce effective operational law enforcement responses. The implications are clear for law enforcement in the region. It must increase national capacity to respond and it must improve intelligence sharing, specifically cross-border intelligence-sharing. The focus of the UNODC programme in illicit trafficking will be on those crimes which by their very nature tend to have a strong transnational character and are highly damaging to human security and sustainable development.
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- Trafficking in persons (TIP) remains a significant concern throughout the region, from a human rights, law enforcement and social development perspective. While law enforcement efforts to combat trafficking in persons continue to increase across the region, convictions for human trafficking remain relatively few. Although there is no universally accepted estimate for the total number of victims of human trafficking in the region, it appears very likely that only a small percentage of victims are ever formally recognized. Victim support mechanisms also need strengthening, including more effective coordination and referral mechanisms between law enforcement agencies and those tasked with victim support (including NGOs).
- Migrant smuggling remains a significant challenge. Abuse of legal entry channels and the misuse of legal travel documents obtained by fraudulent means continue to play an important role in facilitating migrant smuggling. Smuggled migrants are exposed to considerable danger during the smuggling process, and are often left vulnerable to human trafficking on reaching their destination.
- With respect to illicit drugs, poppy cultivation and opium production continued to increase in 2011, in both Myanmar and Laos PDR. Production and trafficking of methamphetamine pills, originating mainly from Myanmar, soared in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) in 2011. The diversion of licit chemicals and pharmaceutical preparations for the manufacture of methamphetamine also continues to be a concern for the region. Emergence of new synthetic drugs (i.e., "designer drugs" or "legal highs"), coupled with inadequate forensic analysis capacity and treatment capacity, is an emerging issue of serious concern.
- Crimes such as the illegal trade in timber and wildlife trafficking have reached alarming levels in East Asia and the Pacific. For example, it is estimated that in some countries illegally harvested logs account for as much as 90% of timber exports. The sophistication of criminal networks has grown at a faster pace than the capacity of Governments to protect their natural resources.
- Levels of trust, information exchange and operational support among law enforcement agencies operating along and across the land borders in the GMS need to be further enhanced. Remoteness, shortage of operational resources and increasing traffic of goods and persons make these border areas particularly susceptible to transnational crime.
Implications for the future
|Lack of technical capacity in some countries hinders progress in the Global SMART programme||As reported last year, the limited technical capacity of some of the countries in the region continues to present a challenge to the SMART programme's ability to share quality comparative regional data. In order to deal with this, the Global SMART programme is supporting the relevant agencies to develop alternate data-sharing structures which match their capacities.|
|UNODC must continue to build a more prominent role in combating human trafficking in the region||UNODC engagement with key stakeholders around the important issues of victim support / identification and law enforcement capacity to investigate trafficking offences has developed significantly over the past twelve months. This process must continue and, subject to available funding, translate into concrete activities on the ground.|
|Greater focus needed in the area of environmental crime||The lack of specialized human resources in the broad area of environmental crime continues to hamper the development of programme activities. UNODC will need to increase its in house expertise in this area to be more effective.|
Implications for follow-up in 2012 and beyond
UNODC will focus its work in the region on the following areas:
- Build on the work commenced in 2011 concerning the development of enhanced BLOs which deal with all forms of cross border crime rather than only on drugs only, through strengthening the existing structures and identifying new sites for possible development. Continue to explore the potential relevance of maritime BLOs, or Joint Port Control Units, through structured assessments of feasibility and local capacity.
- On human trafficking, we will continue to promote a victim-centred approach in all areas of activity, and encourage the development of improved national mechanisms for identifying and supporting victims. We will work to enhance proactive and reactive investigative capacity in law enforcement agencies mandated with combating trafficking in persons, and build on work begun in 2011 to build stronger informal police-to-police relationships in the region, allowing for easier exchange of time-critical criminal intelligence. We will continue to encourage law enforcement agencies to reduce their reliance on NGOs for the dissemination of operational material and for investigation of trafficking crime, while building a stronger role for civil society in other areas.
- In 2012, the Global SMART Programme (East Asia) aims to focus on developing national-level studies in a few selected countries and to continue to work on enhancing the data-generation capacities of priority countries, in order to continuously strengthen our understand of the threat posed by ATS in our region
- In 2012, activities in the area of environmental crime will focus on consolidating the emerging position of UNODC as a relevant player, especially in the field of the illegal wildlife and timber trade. Indonesia will remain a priority country, with special reference to the linkages between environmental crime and corruption. At the same time efforts will continue to increase the capacities of the partner governments to interdict illegal movements of natural resources through the BLO mechanism.
- Furthermore, in 2012, UNODC will publish a regional Transnational Organised Crime Threat Assessment (TOCTA) which will help us to ensure that the strategic focus of our work is based on a clear and up-to-date understanding of the existing and emerging threats.
The success of these activities will rely significantly on the maintenance of strong partnerships with other organizations involved in the same areas of work.