The role of the Drug Advisory Programme of the Colombo Plan Bureau in the fight against illicit drug traffic




Author: P. A. ABARRO
Pages: 67 to 72
Creation Date: 1983/01/01

The role of the Drug Advisory Programme of the Colombo Plan Bureau in the fight against illicit drug traffic

P. A. ABARRO Drug Adviser, Drug Advisory Programme, Colombo Plan Bureau, Colombo, Sri Lanka


The Colombo Plan is an inter-governmental organization of 26 member countries dedicated to co-operative efforts for socio-economic development in Asia and the Pacific. Although the organization was established in 1950, the Drug Advisory Programme (DAP) was introduced only in 1973, after member States noted that drug abuse was becoming a problem in the region. In view of the importance of the economic and social consequences of drug abuse, member States decided to appoint a drug adviser, who would consult with Governments and help develop co-operative programmes designed to eliminate the causes of drug abuse and ameliorate the consequences of such abuse.

DAP is basically promotional and complementary in nature and does not duplicate the efforts of national or international agencies actively involved in the field of drug abuse. While the United Nations and other international organizations are active on a global scale, DAP is geared towards the promotion of effective national, regional and subregional drug control efforts in tackling the drug-related problems and identifying areas in which bilateral and multilateral assistance and co-operation under the Colombo Plan would be useful and effective.

In pursuance of this objective, DAP has established consultative and cooperative arrangements with narcotic drug abuse prevention and control agencies of Governments of member States and with public and private regional and international organizations. DAP also coordinates its activities with the United Nations system, i. e. the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs, the United Nations Sub-Commission on Illicit Drug Traffic and Related Matters in the Near and Middle East, the International Narcotics Control board, the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Fund for Drug Abuse Control and other concerned international bodies such as the Customs Co-operation Council (CCC), the International Narcotics Enforcement Officers Association (INEOA), the International Criminal Police Organization (ICPO/Interpol), the International Council on Alcohol and Addictions (ICAA), the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and other regional and international bodies involved in the field of drug abuse prevention and control. The participation of DAP in meetings and activities of these organizations provides an opportunity for sharing information and ideas on drug programmes and discussions on possible areas of co-operation which is so essential in this field. Conversely, organizations within the United Nations system as well as other international agencies share their expertise and resources with DAP to help its projects and activities. This mutual cooperation provides a safeguard against duplication of efforts and enables DAP to direct its activities in accordance with the international strategies and policies for drug control adopted by the United Nations.


The activities of DAP encompass all aspects of prevention and control. The programmes on drug abuse prevention and control of the member States are based on individual country needs and interests. Since the inception of DAP in 1973, its main thrust has been in the following areas:

  1. Advising and supporting member States in creating public awareness of the dangers of drug abuse through the mass media, seminars, workshops, conferences and study exchange programmes;

  2. Assisting Governments in updating their drug laws and in establishing special narcotics units and national narcotics coordinating bodies for more effective and coordinated drug abuse prevention and control efforts;

  3. Encouraging and supporting the organization of community- based (non-governmental) voluntary organizations to assist Governments in their programmes on drug abuse prevention and control;

  4. Developing human resources and the expertise of narcotics officials of member States in the various disciplines of drug law enforcement, treatment and rehabilitation, preventive drug education and information, training and research related to drug abuse prevention and control;

  5. Developing and strengthening co-operation at the regional and international levels and with agencies that deal with drug problems within individual member States in all efforts directed towards the prevention and control of drug abuse. This is carried out through the exchange of information, study exchange fellowship programmes, meetings, conferences, seminars and training courses, joint operations, task forces, bilateral and multilateral talks.

Seminars, workshops and conferences

DAP has helped member States by sponsoring and organizing national and regional seminars, workshops and conferences in different aspects of the prevention and control of drug abuse. Assistance ranges from financial grants to sponsorship of consultants from member States or from outside the region. An average of four to five major seminars and workshops are held every year. During the 10 years of its operation, the Colombo Plan Bureau has co-operated with concerned national bodies in regional national seminars, workshops and conferences in the fields of law enforcement in India, Indonesia, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Malaysia, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Thailand. In pursuance of recommendations that emerged at these seminars, workshops and conferences, the Governments have taken steps to establish central narcotics boards, bureaux and agencies to co-ordinate and strengthen activities relating to the control of illicit drug traffic through their countries.

Member States are advised and assisted in updating and revising narcotics legislation and improving law enforcement, particularly in relation to combating illicit drug trafficking. New narcotics legislation providing for enhanced punishment has been enacted in several Colombo Plan member States in the region since the establishment of DAP in 1973.

The DAP has helped member States by informing them about regional and world-wide developments relating to prevalence of drug addiction, drug abuse incidence, laws and counter-measures adopted in curtailing illicit drug trafficking and new trends and modus operandi of drug traffickers, as well as other aspects relating to the prevention and control of drug abuse. It has an information exchange system for developing countries in the region, and it has prepared a directory of law enforcement agencies in member States to facilitate the quick exchange of information and intelligence among member countries, which is particularly useful in the prevention and control of illicit drug traffic.

Bilateral and multilateral talks, discussions and co-operation

In order to enhance regional and international co-operation in drug abuse prevention and control, DAP has encouraged and organized bilateral and multilateral talks among member countries of the region and with those outside the region having similar problems of drug abuse. These talks have resulted in arrangements for bilateral co-operation to include exchange of relevant intelligence information, regular consultation and liaison between narcotics officers and joint operations in the suppression of the illicit drug traffic.

DAP also participates, on invitation, in some of these bilateral and multilateral meetings. For example, DAP takes part in meetings of the United Nations Sub-Commission on Illicit Drug Traffic and Related Matters in the Near and Middle East.

DAP initiated an innovative approach to international co-operation among member States in the interdiction of illicit drug trafficking with the sponsorship of the First Asian/European Meeting of Heads of Drug Enforcement Services, Bangkok, Thailand, in 1976 in collaboration with the ICPO/Interpol. The meeting brought together for the first time heads of drug enforcement offices in countries of Asia and Europe to learn and share experiences relating to measures adopted in the prevention and control of drug abuse and illicit drug traffic in the Colombo Plan region. The second meeting was held in Europe in 1977 and resulted in a regular exchange of information and intelligence among the participating countries in the movement of illicit drugs and co-operative assistance in curtailing illicit drug traffic.

Study exchange fellowship scheme and training programme

Assistance is given for the training of narcotics officials in all aspects of drug abuse prevention and control . by means of study, exchange of experience, fellowship programmes, training and observation and also grants to participate in bilateral and multilateral talks, seminars, conferences, training courses and institutes. In collaboration with the United Nations Division of Narcotic Drugs and national agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Administration of the United States of America (DEA), DAP also conducts drug law enforcement seminars and training courses regularly in the developing countries of the region. Narcotics officers who have participated in the study programmes, observation fellowship scheme, training courses and seminars have enhanced co-operation and coordination among the member States of the Colombo Plan, particularly in the prevention and control of illicit d rug traffic.

Realizing that government efforts without community involvement and participation will not be effective, DAP has consistently encouraged and supported voluntary non-government organizations in their efforts to prevent and control drug abuse. DAP sponsored, with the Indonesian Government and ICAA, the First International Conference of Non- Government Organizations involved in the Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation of Drug Abuse at Jakarta in 1979. Following the considerable benefits derived from this Conference, the DAP sponsored similar conferences at Manila (1980), Kuala Lumpur (1981 ) and Bangkok ( 1982). I n response to a recommendation, the Federation of Non-Government Organizations was formed after the Kuala Lumpur conference to coordinate the activities of non-governmental organizations and to co-operate with Governments in every aspect of prevention and control of drug abuse, including illicit drug traffic. A further development of the Conference was increased co-operation between the community members and the public with the national law enforcement agencies in the interdiction of illicit drug traffic and the organization of seminars with Jaycees, Lions and Rotarians.

Consultancy assistance programme

DAP has commenced a modest consultancy assistance programme for the least developed countries of the region. Consultants and experts on drug abuse prevention and control of more developed countries in the region are sent on short consultancy missions to assist the Governments of member States requesting such assistance. Under this programme, an expert from the Philippines was sent to Indonesia to assist in planning a drug abuse prevention education project; a consultant from Malaysia conducted a survey on evaluation of drug abuse in Sri Lanka; and a senior police officer from Sri Lanka conducted a series of lectures on drug identification, methods of concealment, detection and investigation of narcotics cases in the Maldives.


The DAP has supported research in the field of drug abuse prevention and control. Research on repeated drug addiction in Thailand, conducted by the Department of Social Work, Faculty of Social Administration of the Thammasat University, was financed by DAP, and the research findings have been published and distributed to member States, concerned narcotics agencies and officers.

A library has been established by DAP in the office of the Colombo Plan bureau in Sri Lanka. Pertinent developments in the region are brought to the notice and attention of the heads of national narcotics agencies of the Colombo Plan member States.


Reports on proceedings of major seminars, workshops and conferences organized in the region have been published by DAP and distributed to the concerned drug officers of member States.