Key Challenges

Rule of Law challenges
Illicit Trafficking
Criminal Justice
Health and Development challenges
Drug Demand Reduction
Sustainable Livelihoods

Overview of the Problem


The economies of most countries in the East Asia and the Pacific have grown steadily over the past decade, although the global financial crisis of 2008/09 has seen growth rates cut dramatically.  This has resulted in better standards of living for many of the region's people.  Over the past five years, up to 50 million people per year have been able to rise out of poverty.   If the medium-term growth trend continues, and the current financial crisis is effectively tackled, the region is expected to achieve the first 2015 Millennium Development Goal of reducing extreme poverty and hunger by half.  However, this rapid economic transformation of the region has resulted in increasing disparities of economic wealth.  Even while extreme poverty has been reduced, the share of national consumption by the poorest 20% has declined over the same period, particularly in East Asia.

These growing disparities in the distribution of economic wealth will, on the basis of existing evidence, contribute to rising levels of crime.   A significant portion of this crime is carried out by organized criminal groups.  Such organised criminal activity includes drug trafficking, migrant smuggling, trafficking in persons, terrorism, money laundering, illicit small arms trafficking and the trafficking in illicit natural resources and hazardous substances and protected wildlife.  Organised crime, by its very nature, is also a major contributor to the cancer of corruption.  Associated with illicit drug production, trafficking and use (especially injecting drug use) is the serious damage which these problems cause to "social fabric" including morbidity and the spread of HIV/AIDS.  Drug abuse undermines human resource development, affects primarily poor communities, and can destroy the livelihood of households, thereby undermining sustainable development.