UNODC promotes international cooperation in West and Central Asia

2 August 2010 - The opium industry's epicentre may be in Afghanistan but its spin offs - drug trafficking and other organized criminal activities - are spilling over into the larger region. The Islamic Republic of Iran, Afghanistan's western neighbour, is the primary transit country for smuggled heroin and opium, while to the south and east, the drug trade contributes to the destabilization of Pakistan. Similarly, Central Asian nations to the north are negatively affected.

Having recognized that it is essential to find common judicial mechanisms and build trust between law enforcement agencies across the region, UNODC and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe recently held a regional workshop on international cooperation in criminal matters in Astana, Kazakhstan.

Participants focused on areas that have proven problematic throughout the region, including extradition, mutual legal assistance, seizures, the freezing and confiscation of assets and the exchange of data from criminal records. Cases were analysed and practitioners exchanged contacts with a view to making operations more effective.

The workshop included representatives from Afghanistan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan as well as Australia, the European Court of Human Rights, the European Union, the Russian Federation, and the United States of America. In total, over 30 practitioners and experts in the criminal justice and law enforcement fields undertook a comprehensive exercise aimed at devising technical recommendations for the development of a thematic regional programme.

"We have laid the foundations for dialogue and cooperation, and for the establishment of a regional network of practitioners in line with the United Nations conventions", said Sandra Valle, UNODC Senior Interregional Adviser.

The workshop is part of the preparatory phase of the UNODC regional programme for Afghanistan and neighbouring countries. It was made possible thanks to the support of the Governments of Canada, Italy and Kazakhstan.