The role of an intergovernmental regional organization in combating drug trafficking: a perspective of the Colombo Plan Bureau

Sections

ABSTRACT
Introduction
Drug problems in the region
Drug Advisory Programme
Areas of activity
Seminars, workshops, conferences
Development of human resources
Research
Consultancy assistance programme
Involvement of the community and non-governmental organizations in drug abuse control
Regional and international co-operation
Disseminating information on legal measures
Bilateral and multilateral talks
Concluding remarks

Details

Author: P.A. ABARRO
Pages: 41 to 50
Creation Date: 1987/01/01

The role of an intergovernmental regional organization in combating drug trafficking: a perspective of the Colombo Plan Bureau

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

ABSTRACT

The Colombo Plan was established in 1950 as a regional intergovernmental organization for co-operative economic and social development in Asia and the Pacific comprising 26 member States. The permanent secretariat is the Colombo Plan Bureau to which is attached the Drug Advisory Programme (DAP) headed by a drug adviser, who consults with Governments and helps develop co-operative programmes for drug abuse prevention and control.

DAP functions in close liaison and co-operation with organizations of the United Nations system and other regional and international organizations in pursuing activities in line with the international strategy and policies for drug control of the United Nations. DAP assists member States in creating public awareness of the dangers of drug abuse and drug trafficking through the use of mass media, seminars, workshops and conferences and study exchange programmes. It assists Governments in updating their drug laws and in establishing special drug units and national co-ordinating bodies on drug abuse control. DAP encourages and supports the utilization of community resources and the activities of nongovernmental organizations and voluntary bodies for the prevention and reduction of drug abuse, as well as the use of mass media for more co-ordinated efforts in this area. It assists member States in developing human resources and technical expertise of personnel in the various disciplines of law enforcement, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation, through training, seminars, study exchange fellowship programmes and research. DAP also assists in promoting co-operation at the regional and interregional levels, and is involved in developing and strengthening co-operation between agencies of member States that deal with drug problems.

Introduction

The Colombo Plan for Co-operative Economic and Social Development in Asia and the Pacific, more commonly known as the Colombo Plan, is an intergovernmental organization of 26 member States. The Colombo Plan was established in 1950. Its membership includes six developed countries (Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and United States of America) and 20 developing countries (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma, Democratic Kampuchea, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Lao People's Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Thailand). The permanent secretariat of the organization is called the Colombo Plan Bureau, with headquarters at Colombo, Sri Lanka.

The Drug Advisory Programme (DAP) was established in 1973 and attached to the Colombo Plan Bureau, after member States had concluded that drug abuse was becoming a serious problem in the region. In view of the importance of the economic and social implications of drug abuse, a drug adviser was appointed in 1973 to consult with Governments and help develop co-operative drug abuse prevention and control programmes.

Drug problems in the region

The Colombo Plan countries are located in a geographical area that houses more than a third of the world's population and has one of the highest rates of drug-dependent persons in the world. Among the countries that have increasing drug abuse problems are, in addition to the six developed member States listed above, Bangladesh, Burma, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Thailand. Two well-known areas which produce the greatest amount of illicit opiates in the world (the "Golden Triangle", comprising the border areas of Burma, the Lao People's Democratic Republic and Thailand, and the "Golden Crescent", along the borders of Afghanistan, Iran (Islamic Republic of) and Pakistan) lie both within the area of the Colombo Plan. Many clandestine laboratories converting opium to morphine and heroin have been operated on the borders of the two above-mentioned areas.

There is a large wild growth of cannabis plant in almost all countries of the Colombo Plan, and in many of them the plant is illicitly cultivated.

A recent panel of experts reported to the Colombo Plan that, according to reports of member States to the United Nations and data from the International Criminal Police Organization (ICPO/Interpol), 100 per cent of heroin trafficking to and through the States of the Arabian Peninsula originated from the Colombo Plan area. It was also stated that 95 per cent of heroin trafficking to and through Western Europe came from the same area. It is estimated that 75 per cent of heroin smuggled into North America originates from South-West Asia and South-East Asia, which are within the area of the Colombo Plan.

Drug trafficking trends have substantially increased in member States of the Colombo Plan. These countries are increasingly used as staging areas and transit points of drug trafficking. Evidence shows that drug trafficking has become more complicated and sophisticated, more ingenious in the methods used and more organized with multinational involvement. Evidence also shows an alarming increase in international drug trafficking involving many developing countries that are member States of the Colombo Plan. Against this background, the role and activities of the DAP in drug abuse control are summarized below.

Drug Advisory Programme

DAP is basically promotional and complementary in nature and does not duplicate the efforts of member States and international agencies and organizations involved in drug abuse control. The activities of DAP are directed towards the promotion of effective national, subregional and regional efforts in tackling drug problems and identifying areas in which bilateral and multilateral assistance and co-operation under the Colombo Plan could be useful and effective.

To this end, DAP has established liaison and consultative and co-operative arrangements with Governments of member States, as well as with private, non-governmental and intergovernmental regional and international organizations involved in drug control. Accordingly, DAP co-ordinates its activities with those of the United Nations system, including the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the International Labour Organisation, the International Narcotics Control Board, the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs, the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Division of Narcotic Drugs, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the United Nations Fund for Drug Abuse Control, the United Nations Sub-Commission on Illicit Drug Traffic and Related Matters in the Near and Middle East and the World Health Organization. DAP closely co-operates with the Association of South-East Asian Nations, the Commonwealth Secretariat, the Customs Co-operation Council, the ICPO/Interpol, the International Council on Alcohol and Addictions, the International Narcotics Enforcement Officers Association, the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation and other intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations involved in drug abuse prevention and control. Regular liaison and consultation of DAP with these organizations is of mutual benefit and provides useful information for forward planning and implementation of programmes. The participation of DAP in meetings and activities of these organizations provides an opportunity for sharing information and ideas on drug problems and on possible ways and means of coping with them. Such participation helps to promote co-operation, which is so essential in this field. In the same way, organizations of the United Nations system and other international organizations share their expertise and resources in drug abuse control with DAP to help its projects and activities. This mutual co-operation provides a safeguard against duplication of efforts and enables DAP to direct its activities towards the achievement of the objectives of the international strategy and policies for drug control adopted by the United Nations.

Areas of activity

The activities of DAP encompass all aspects of drug abuse prevention and control, with particular emphasis on the socio-economic aspects of drug abuse. The programmes for drug abuse prevention and control sponsored by DAP are based on individual country needs and interests identified in the course of consultations between the drug adviser and the officials of member States.

Since its inception, the main thrust of DAP has been in the following areas:

  1. Advising and assisting 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 national drug laws and in establishing special narcotics units and national narcotics co-ordinating bodies for more effective and co-ordinated drug abuse prevention and control efforts;

  3. Encouraging and supporting the utilization of community resources and the involvement of non-governmental organizations in drug abuse prevention and control programmes;

  4. Assisting in the development of human resources and technical expertise of personnel of member States in the various disciplines related to drug control, such as drug law enforcement, treatment and rehabilitation, preventive drug education and information, training and research;

  5. Assisting in the development and strengthening of co-operation in drug control at the national, regional and international levels.

Seminars, workshops, conferences

In close co-operation with member States and regional and international organizations, DAP has organized and sponsored national and regional seminars, workshops and conferences in different areas of drug abuse control. These activities have helped in creating public awareness of the dangers of drug abuse and encouraged member States and non-governmental organizations to initiate programmes for prevention and control of drug abuse. Through these activities, DAP has also encouraged Governments in the region to adopt new legislation and countermeasures against illicit drug trafficking, including more stringent punishment for major drug law violations; to establish special narcotics agencies and national co-ordinating bodies; to develop and strengthen narcotics law enforcement units; to adhere to the international drug control treaties; to initiate drug abuse preventive education and information programmes; to establish facilities for treatment, rehabilitation and after-care of drug-dependent persons; to promote training of personnel involved in drug abuse prevention and control; and to develop national drug control strategies.

The seminars, workshops and conferences have also helped to promote consultation and co-operation between national law enforcement officers and between law enforcement agencies in the region, and to develop closer co-operation and co-ordination between drug law enforcement agencies and programmes for drug demand reduction and other programmes relating to drug control at the national and regional levels.

Two months after its establishment in October 1973, DAP organized its first major meeting on drug abuse problems at Colombo, followed by a series of activities including conferences, seminars, workshops, meetings, bilateral talks and regional conferences that were for the first time undertaken in the various areas of drug abuse prevention and control in countries of the Colombo Plan. Those activities were co-ordinated with the programmes of member States and were carried out in co-operation with developed member States, as well as with regional and international organizations concerned with drug abuse and drug trafficking. Over the last 12 years, DAP has organized or co-sponsored more than 80 similar activities throughout the region.

DAP has used the workshop as a suitable method of searching for solutions to the drug problems of member States. This method, which brings together people from various disciplines, agencies and organizations and from countries that share similar problems, has been effective in identifying problems and in stimulating the development of national programmes and promoting co-operation between countries and between various agencies and organizations dealing with drug problems in a particular country. In undertaking such activities, DAP has emphasized the development of concepts, strategies and approaches that are suitable to local conditions. Experience has shown that there is no single method of coping with drug problems that can guarantee success if applied in the various disciplines of drug control.

In 1974, DAP organized the first regional narcotics control conference of heads of national narcotics agencies of Colombo Plan countries, which was the forerunner of the meetings of heads of narcotics law enforcement agencies that have been organized since 1974 by the United Nations Division of Narcotic Drugs.

DAP, in co-operation with the ICPO/Interpol and the Government of Thailand, organized the first Asian/European meeting of heads of drug enforcement services in 1976, which was followed by similar meetings in 1977 and 1980 and by the first Middle East/European meeting of heads of drug enforcement services held in Pakistan in 1978.

Development of human resources

Since many member countries face a shortage of trained personnel in the various areas of drug control, one of the priorities of DAP has been assistance in developing human resources and technical expertise of officers involved in drug abuse control in member States. Assistance has been extended for training of narcotics officials by means of study grants, exchange fellowships, on-the-job training, research training, grants for participation in bilateral and multilateral meetings, seminars, conferences, workshops, training courses and fellowship programmes.

The fellowship programme of DAP has been an important factor in promoting regional and international co-operation, exchanging information and developing skills, expertise and friendship among narcotics officers at the regional level. Since the inception of the programme, over 630 fellowships have been granted to member countries in different areas of drug abuse control. In 1979, the Colombo Plan initiated a unique fellowship scheme with the cross-posting arrangement among ASEAN countries, under which personnel involved in treatment and rehabilitation were exchanged by participating countries. The scheme was later extended to the cross-posting of personnel involved in drug abuse prevention programmes.

In combating drug abuse and drug trafficking, member States initially tended to concentrate on new laws and specialized narcotics enforcement units, thereby creating the need for more technical personnel with specialized skills in this area. In order to meet this need DAP has endeavoured to promote joint training efforts of member States and supported training courses to be organized by member States and by international agencies. For example, in the area of drug law enforcement, DAP co-operates with the United Nations Division of Narcotic Drugs in providing grants to participants in training. Similarly, in the area of treatment and rehabilitation, DAP co-operates with the World Health Organization in providing grants to participants in annual training courses for physicians.

DAP co-operated with the Office of the Narcotics Control Board of Thailand and the United States Agency for International Development in organizing the first ASEAN narcotics law enforcement training course in 1980 and continues to participate in these courses annually. DAP has also been associated with the ASEAN drug experts meeting and continues to participate annually in it.

To promote the development of human resources, DAP has sponsored specialized training programmes for the following groups concerned with various aspects of the drug problem: prison officers from the Philippines and Sri Lanka; chemists from the Philippines; resource persons from Sri Lanka; local officers and community leaders from the Philippines and Thailand; officers specializing in narcotics detector dog training from Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore; non-governmental organization volunteers from Indonesia, Malaysia, Nepal, the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Thailand; mass media practitioners from Indonesia, Pakistan, the Philippines and Thailand; professionals involved in research and evaluation from Malaysia and the Philippines; professionals involved in preventive drug education and information from the territory of Hong Kong, the Philippines and Thailand; customs and police officers involved in narcotics investigation from Bangladesh, Burma, Fiji, Indonesia, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Malaysia, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Singapore and Sri Lanka.

Research

DAP has supported research on relapse to drug abuse, which was carried out in Thailand at the Thammasat University, as well as the publication of a book entitled "I was a Drug Addict". DAP sponsored the first ASEAN regional workshop on the development and utilization of research for the prevention and control of drug abuse.

Consultancy assistance programme

DAP has carried out a consultancy assistance programme for countries of the region with special needs. Consultants and experts on drug abuse prevention and control of some member States are sent on short consultancy missions to assist Governments of other member States requesting such assistance. Under this programme, experts have been sent from the Philippines to Indonesia to assist in a programme for drug abuse preventive education through the mass media and the utilization of community resources; from Malaysia to Sri Lanka to assist in conducting a survey on evaluation of drug abuse control programme; from Sri Lanka to Maldives to assist in narcotics detection and investigation of narcotics cases; from Indonesia to the Philippines to assist in using narcotics detector dogs; from the Philippines to Thailand and Nepal to assist in the development of non-governmental organizations and their activities in drug abuse control. Several consultants and experts from developed member States, at the request of DAP, have assisted in national and regional workshops, seminars, conferences, training courses and other activities.

Involvement of the community and non-governmental organizations in drug abuse control

Realizing that government efforts alone, without community support and non-governmental organization involvement, cannot successfully deal with the problems of drug abuse and drug trafficking, DAP has consistently encouraged and supported community involvement and the activities of non-governmental organizations to help Governments and complement their efforts in drug abuse control.

DAP encourages the establishment of national non-governmental organizations to help combat drug problems. It also encourages traditional non-governmental organizations to expand their activities so as to include drug abuse prevention and control programmes. To promote the involvement of non-governmental organizations in drug abuse control efforts DAP organized, in co-operation with the International Council on Alcohol and Addiction and the Government of Indonesia, the first international conference on the role of non-governmental organizations in drug abuse prevention and control, held at Jakarta in 1979.

In co-operation with other regional and international organizations involved in drug control, DAP has organized similar conferences annually in different capitals of Colombo Plan countries (Manila in 1980, Kuala Lumpur in 1981, Bangkok in 1982, Singapore in 1983, Jakarta in 1984, Nepal in 1985 and Sydney in 1986), and is planning for conferences to be held in the territory of Hong Kong in 1987 and at Karachi in 1988.

Those non-governmental organization conferences have been very helpful in promoting the involvement of such organizations and in strengthening their efforts to combat drug abuse. They were also useful in searching for solutions to drug problems and in identifying potential leaders who could mobilize community participation to tackle such problems. Since 1980, the annual conferences of non-governmental organizations have been concerned with training to promote development of the knowledge and skills required to deal effectively with drug problems.

A major development since the first international non-governmental organization conference held at Jakarta is that such organizations are helping Governments in both drug demand reduction and law enforcement action to combat drug problems.

Another significant outcome of the non-governmental organization conferences was the establishment of the International Federation of Non-governmental Organizations against Drug and Substance Abuse, which took place at the Kuala Lumpur non-governmental organization conference in 1981. The Malaysian Anti-Narcotic/Drug Association, which hosted the Kuala Lumpur conference, hosts the permanent secretariat of this Federation. The secretariat of the Federation, in co-operation with DAP, co-ordinates the activities of non-governmental organizations associated with the Federation and collects relevant information from, and disseminates it to, non-govern-mental organization members.

To assist the Federation in carrying out its information exchange function more effectively, DAP initiated the publication of the Asia Pacific Drugs News Bulletin in late 1983, with the assistance of the Malaysian Anti-Narcotic/Drug Association and the National Drug Research Centre, Universiti Sains Malaysia. It is published quarterly and has served as a communicating tool among Colombo Plan countries and non-governmental organizations in combating drug problems.

Regional and international co-operation

DAP operates with a strong belief that international co-operation is the backbone of international drug control, and that consistent efforts are needed to ensure that DAP activities complement and support other international activities in the area of drug control. Consistent with this belief, DAP has developed and maintained close liaison and consultation with all regional and international organizations and agencies involved in drug control. In the spirit of co-operation and co-ordination, DAP participates in meetings and activities of these organizations and agencies and they participate in and share their resources and expertise with activities promoted by DAP. This mutual co-operation both safeguards against duplication and enables DAP to direct its efforts to complement and support the international strategy and policies for drug control. As a result, DAP undertakings have consistently won respect and recognition from organizations of the United Nations system and other international and regional organizations involved in drug control. These organizations take into account DAP activities in their programme reviews and their forward planning efforts. For example, the activities of DAP were considered by the following: the World Health Organization consultative group on drug dependence, as well as its advisory group on review and analysis of legislation on treatment; the United Nations Division of Narcotic Drugs in evaluating the regional narcotics co-ordination office in Bangkok; the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs and the Sub-Commission on Illicit Drug Traffic and Related Matters in the Near and Middle East in planning their international drug control strategy and policies; and the United Nations Fund for Drug Abuse Control in reviewing treatment and rehabilitation projects for drug-dependent persons in Pakistan. DAP was invited by the United Nations Division of Narcotic Drugs as well as by the United Nations Fund for Drug Abuse Control to co-operate in executing projects involving training courses for narcotics law enforcement officials in India, Philippines, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Thailand. Similarly, DAP was invited by the World Health Organization to co-operate in preparing the interregional training course for physicians on the treatment and rehabilitation of drug dependent persons in the territory of Hong Kong and Thailand.

In co-operation with ICPO/Interpol, DAP sponsored the first Asian/ European meeting of heads of drug enforcement services, which took place at Bangkok in 1976. The meeting brought together for the first time heads of drug enforcement services in countries of Asia and Europe to learn, share and exchange experiences relating to measures adopted to combat drug trafficking. This meeting was followed by similar meetings in 1977 and 1980 and the first Middle East/European meeting of heads of drug enforcement services held in Pakistan in 1978. These meetings helped to improve the exchange of information and intelligence on the movement of illicit drugs and to promote co-operative assistance between participating countries in curtailing drug trafficking.

In order to facilitate quick exchange of information on drug-related matters between member States and international bodies, DAP prepares a directory of drug law enforcement agencies and national drug co-ordinating bodies which is updated and distributed every six months. The directory has been particularly useful in accelerating contacts between drug law enforcement agencies and in exchanging intelligence and information on illicit drug traffic and related action.

Disseminating information on legal measures

Information on laws and measures adopted by member States to combat drug problems is also distributed by DAP. In response to the growing threat of drug abuse and trafficking in the region, member States have enacted new legislation which, inter alia, provides for the following: stringent penalties for major drug law violations; establishing treatment and rehabilitation centres; developing programmes for drug information, training, and research; setting up and running drug control co-ordinating and policy-making bodies; and establishing specialized enforcement units.

Bilateral and multilateral talks

In order to enhance regional and international co-operation in drug abuse prevention and control, DAP has encouraged and organized bilateral and multilateral talks between member States. It has also arranged for countries outside the Colombo Plan with similar drug problems to take part in the talks. The talks facilitate bilateral co-operation in the exchange of intelligence and information on drug trafficking, as well as in consultations and liaison between narcotics officers and joint operations in the suppression of the illicit drug traffic.

In August 1979, DAP provided the Republic of Maldives with advice on drug-related matters, which was the first international assistance of this kind that it received. It was followed by an intensive anti-drug law enforcement programme and by the establishment of a special co-ordinating and policy-making body for Maldives.

DAP co-operated with the Government of Sri Lanka in holding the first bilateral talks on narcotics smuggling between India and Sri Lanka in 1973, which have since then been continued, as well as in holding bilateral talks between Nepal and Sri Lanka and Maldives and Sri Lanka on illicit drug trafficking and regional co-operation.

Concluding remarks

The available data suggest that the problems of drug abuse and drug trafficking, which at present affect almost all countries of the Colombo Plan, will continue to deteriorate for some time. Inadequate understanding of the multifaceted implications of drug abuse and its associated problems, insufficient expertise and technical knowledge of professionals and lack of financial resources to cope with drug problems tend to give rise to such a situation. To cope with it, Governments should give priority to drug abuse control programmes and strive to achieve the necessary level of co-ordination and co-operation within a given country and between countries.

Many developing countries within the Colombo Plan need financial and technical assistance to deal more effectively with their drug problems. This again proves that regional and international co-operation are indispensable for effective international drug control. DAP, for its part, is ready to co-operate as fully as it can with member States and with regional and international organizations in every endeavour to combat drug abuse and trafficking.