What is it?

The Mekong Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Drug Control brings together six countries in East and Southeast Asia - Cambodia, China, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam - to address the threat of illicit drug production, trafficking and use.

As a non-state signatory and the seventh partner to the MOU, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) provides secretariat and technical support to the MOU process.

UNODC's Regional Programme for Southeast Asia is carefully designed to ensure effective support for the Mekong MOU mechanism. With support from the international community and UNODC, the Mekong MOU Governments have worked together on issues related to illicit drugs for over 25 years.

This work continues today. 

Why is it needed?

Despite significant efforts, the Mekong countries continues to face challenges in stemming the flow of illicit drugs and precursor chemicals in, to and from the Sub-region.

Despite a decade of declines, the illicit cultivation of opium continues at high levels. Today, cultivation is concentrated in Myanmar and Lao PDR.

Synthetic drugs, particularly methamphetamine in pill and crystal forms, have now emerged as the primary drug threat in the Sub-region. The diversion and subsequent trafficking of precursors chemicals, and the emergence of new psychoactive substances, also continue to be of concern.

The Mekong MOU provides an ideal operational platform to address these challenges. It is a framework that already has the strong foundations of collaboration and partnership in place.

The consultation and evaluation mechanisms that are built in to the MOU process will allow it to respond to the constantly evolving nature of the threat. Under the MOU umbrella, the Mekong countries will continue to work towards holistic, balanced and evidence-informed drug policies. 

Sub-regional Action Plan - prioritizing "Action"

The Sub-regional Action Plan (SAP) is the engine that drives the MOU process. It provides a strategic outline for collaborative efforts of MOU signatories and puts into place action-oriented programmes that assist member Governments, individually and collectively, to address illicit drug production, trafficking and abuse.

Initially established in 1995 to cover a period of three years, it was changed in 1997 to a rolling plan of action with no time limit, to be periodically revised and updated in order to better address newly emerging drug control priorities.

The tenth revision of SAP (2017-2019) has adopted recommendations from the 2016 Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGASS) on the World Drug Problem, and acknowledges the importance of the drug policy spectrum to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals.

In recognizing the breadth of issues pertinent to drug policy, the SAP covers the following four thematic areas:

  1. Drugs and health;
  2. Law Enforcement Cooperation;
  3. Legal and Judicial Cooperation; and
  4. Sustainable Alternative Development.

The SAP is primarily implemented through clearly defined activities and initiatives that address specific problems and operational weaknesses. The four thematic areas above contain individual Workplans that outline and implement these activities and initiatives.

Ultimately, these activities build the legal, institutional and operational capacities of member Governments. The SAP also facilitates in-depth and independent evaluations, which allow the MOU partners and UNODC to pinpoint problems in drug-control operations in a timely manner. 

Click here to learn more about the Mekong MOU process.

Back | Overview | SMART Programme | Resources