Regional Workshop on drug data and information sharing results in the establishment of a regional drug data experts network

The first Regional Workshop on Strengthening Data Collection and Analysis Capacities was successfully held in Tashkent on 16-18 July under Sub-Programme 4 of the Regional Programme for Afghanistan and Neighbouring Countries. As a co-host of the Workshop with UNODC, the Government of Uzbekistan demonstrated its continued commitment to working towards regional solutions to the Afghan drug problem. The Regional Workshop brought together participants from Regional Programme countries as well as UNODC thematic and technical experts from across the region, substantively led by experts from the Vienna-based UNODC Research and Trend Analysis Branch. The workshop participants brought a breadth of expertise with representation from analytical and statistical units of national drug control agencies and national analytical centers, ministries of health and foreign affairs as well as law enforcement agencies dealing with collection, analysis, dissemination and international cooperation on drug and drug-related crime data and statistics.

The Regional Workshop provided an opportunity for the Regional Programme countries to share experiences on the collection and analysis of data related to illicit drugs and to present international standards and best practices. Discussions were interactive and activity-focused with working group sessions with real-life examples and exercises. The focus was on identifying new types of drugs in the markets as well as increasing use of existing drugs, mapping drug users and data sources, data on drug seizures and ways of using this data to understand markets, the collection and processing of price data and size and routes of regional drug flows. The role of precursors in the production of drugs and scale and direction of trafficking was also considered. The overall aim was to link these issues with existing data with a view to developing and strengthening data quality and availability in line with international standards and best-practices and to better inform and support operational and technical interventions focusing on law enforcement, regional/international legal cooperation and drug demand reduction.

One of the key outcomes of the Regional Workshop was the establishment of the first-ever network of drug data experts from the Regional Programme countries - the Sub-Programme 4 Expert Group, responsible for coordinating the sharing of drug-related information, improving the quantity and quality of drug-related data in RP countries and ensuring timely submissions to UNODC through ARQs and Individual Seizure Forms and overseeing the development of reports which describe the regional situation of drug supply, demand, and trafficking in the region. It is anticipated that the establishment of this network will be critical in concretely improving the quality of data collection and analysis and the exchange of data and information on fighting illegal trafficking in the region.

The first Sub-Programme 4 (on Trends and Impacts) Task Force meeting was also held on the margins of the regional workshop on 18 July. Sub-Programme task forces form part of the Regional Programme governance framework, which consist of a senior-level Steering Committee and expert-level Regional Task Forces. The Task Forces meet atleast once a year to ensure strategic coordination at the working level as well as to set priorities for the coming year, which are then endorsed by the Steering Committee. The Sub-Programme 4 Task Force meeting focused on concretely identifying priority areas of assistance and support by the Regional Programme for the next year and these will be finalized with consultations with partner governments through diplomatic channels.

The overall vision of the UNODC Regional Programme is that by the year 2014, the countries of the region and their institutions are substantially strengthened and capable to work together cooperatively to counter the destabilizing impact of drugs and crime. The Regional Programme is currently assisting the governments of the region to engage in regional interventions, not only through policy advice and coordination support, but also through dedicated resources to support cross-border operations and promote regional cooperation. The focus of Sub-Programme 4 is on ensuring that work at the operational level is supported by a solid evidence-base and understanding of trends in the region, which is crucial to ensuring targeted and cost-effective interventions.