Responding to COVID-19: UNODC South  Asia 

June-August 2020

COVID-19 Responses: Strategic Assistance
India: No period on periods during COVID-19

During COVID-19 in India, thousands of migrants returned to their villages, missing basic resources. UNODC, in collaboration with the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) procured and distributed sets of washable and reusable cloth sanitary pads, sanitizing products and information leaflets cautioning against Human Trafficking in June. Many of these communities were in areas which are source/transit areas for human trafficking, including at the Indo-Nepal border area of Gorakhpur, in Uttar Pradesh. Basic sanitizing products (sanitizers, masks and soaps) and information pamphlets in local language with dual purpose of awareness on COVID-19 as well as cautioning on human trafficking, were also distributed among the vulnerable communities, the police and anti-human trafficking units.
(Supported by Government of Sweden)
Sri Lanka: Supporting Police Units with Essential Hygiene Products  

UNODC procured and provided sanitizing and hygiene products to the Sri Lankan Police in June, with the aim of preventing the spread of coronavirus among police officials and public who visit police stations. The beneficiary police units included the anti-trafficking units and women and child desks in police stations.

(Supported by Government of Sweden)
Nepal: Providing essential supplies to frontline responsers amid COVID-19 
In July, UNODC provided essential supplies--masks, sanitizers and thermal guns-- to select organisations working on combating human trafficking in Nepal. Through this, the frontline responders from these NGOs will be able to resume efforts to prevent, detect and support victims of trafficking with safety. 

(Supported by Government of Sweden)
Maldives: Support to Ministry of Defence to strengthen maritime security
As part of the Global Maritime Crime Programme, UNODC presented Maritime Domain Awareness Equipment to the Ministry of Defence, Government of Maldives in a special ceremony held at the Marine Rescue Coordination Centre in August. Following the ceremony, the Honourable Minister of Defence, Gpovernment of Maldives, Ms. Mariya Didi, Ambassador of Japan to the Maldives, Ms. Keiko Yanai and  UNODC and Maldivian officials planted mango trees as a special gesture.

(Supported by Government of Japan)
India: Distribution of food kits to drug users and people living with HIV/AIDS
Amid COVID-19, UNODC stands committed to assist frontline responders in providing essential services to drug users and people living with HIV/AIDS. In this context, a local NGO, the All India Institute of Local Self Government, with support from UNODC and the Gujarat State AIDS Control Society (GSACS), distributed a set of food kits among drug users and people living with HIV/AIDS in Ahmedabad, Gujarat in August. The food kits consisted of essential dry ration enough to last for a month.  
(Supported by UBRAF Mechanism)
Fostering Youth Engagement through Education for Justice, Peace and SDGs
The Lockdown Learners Series:
Promoting Youth Action on SDGs and Peace
Bridging socio-economic and gender divides amid COVID-19, UNODC’s Lockdown Learners series continues to receive strong support from students and educators in India. Through interactive dialogues, activity-based learning, open exchange of ideas and creation of action networks, youth have been promoting Education for Justice, Peace and the SDGs, in line with the UN 75 Campaign. The series has leveraged the Education for Justice Initiative (E4J) to reach nearly 3,100 students directly through more than 125 online discussions held across 10 states/Union territories in India, including Delhi, Chandigarh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. Educational resources developed under E4J have been shared with over 15,000 students in the schools, besides across 636 Government-run Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas.

With a special focus on engaging with economically disadvantaged groups and students from rural and low-income groups, the series has used innovative approaches such as using audio recordings on Whatsapp, fostering exchange of notebooks and creating offline youth-driven action clubs in support of SDG 16. Capacity building and network building among educators on teaching issues pertaining to peace and the rule of law is also being undertaken. The response has been extremely positive, with students thinking about ways to address social issues through dialogue, critical skills, knowledge and unified action, and educators reporting positive behavior changes among students. UNODC is also providing knowledge support and mentorship to a range of student-driven initiatives in support of E4J: such as creative websites and games prepared by students from Karnataka and Punjab, songs prepared by Delhi students, artwork prepared by students in Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh.

(Supported by Government of Qatar)
India: Promoting Innovations in Tertiary Education on Justice  

In support of Education for Justice (E4J) Initiative at the tertiary level, UNODC spearheaded partnerships with two acclaimed Indian Universities—the National Law University (NLU) Delhi and Nirma University, Gujarat—in June to share E4J tools and resources developed and conduct a series of dialogues on innovations in justice education. The discussions highlighted a range of themes: good practices in higher education on themes related to crime prevention and criminal justice, with a focus on project-based classroom teaching practices. The dialogues were attended by policy experts and University-level academics, educators and students from various disciplines.

(Supported by Government of Qatar)
India: Youth-led Efforts for Peace, Justice and SDGs
Students who have participated in the Lockdown Learners series are proactively thinking of social issues, emerging risks, SDGs and post COVID-19 roadmap. Educators have emphasized that students are more curious to know about SDGs and peace-related themes, and use their skills and talents to come up with solutions. This is evident in the wide range of creative and innovative products that students have created and shared with UNODC: these include songs, interactive videos, games, blogs and websites. Some have even spearheaded social initiatives, especially to address gender issues, cybercrime, peacebuilding, misinformation, discrimination and digital divides. 
Nepal: Facilitating Socratic Dialogues on Crime Prevention

UNODC’s “Lockdown Learners” series was launched in Nepal in June, in collaboration with a local NGO Canopy Nepal. Through a three-part series of dialogues with students and educators from a mix of schools from Kathmandu, UNODC experts conducted focused discussions on SDGs and emerging risks such as misinformation, discrimination, human trafficking and gender-based violence.  The dialogues also included an extensive Socratic discussion, on issues pertaining to human trafficking, in support of the Education for Justice Initiative. 

(Supported by Government of Qatar)
India: Building Youth Skills on SDG 16 and the Rule of Law
UNODC joined hands with a local NGO Saksham Bharti to convene a Lockdown Learners session in August, with over 80 boys and girls from low income groups in New Delhi. The interactive dialogue convened by UNODC was aimed at helping these young people bridge socio-economic and gender divides, as well as engage with them on issues pertaining to the SDGs, peace and justice. Participants expressed keen interest in working on the Education for Justice Initiative and SDG 16-related issues, especially in the context of social disruptions caused by COVID-19. 

India: Engaging youth on the 'Future They Want' 

In support of the global UN75 Campaign, UNODC joined hands with UN Information Centre India (UNIC) in August to interact with a group of 80 youth from Deoghar, Jharkhand, with a focus on 75 years of the United Nations, COVID-19 and its impact on peace, justice and the SDGs.  The role of youth-led, youth-focused clubs and social campaigns was discussed, besides innovative ideas shared by students, such as dialogues with parents on gender barriers, education and discrimination.
India: Enabling Youth Action for a Better Future
Observing the International Youth Day (12 August), over 150 girls from underprivileged communities in India’s Telangana state interacted with UNODC on gender equality, peace and SDGs. The state-level webinar was convened by a local NGO Mahita and Plan India on the theme, “Enabling Youth Action for a Better Future.” The webinar aimed to sensitise youth on the social impact of COVID-19 and mainstream their voices, actions and initiatives. 
Countering Trafficking in Persons, Migrant Smuggling and Gender-based Violence
South Asia: Regional Dialogue on Countering Cyber-Enabled Trafficking in Persons 
UNODC held the first in a series of workshops focusing on cyber-enabled trafficking in persons, with a specific focus on women and children in August. 82 experts from government and civil society of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka participated in the knowledge sharing and capacity building workshop. During the webinar, UNODC experts shared information on the changing trafficking in persons trends in the current pandemic situation. Country presentations, and discussions with participants indicated that there are reports of spurts in trafficking, new hotspots emerging, and innovative online, and tech-enabled methods being used by traffickers to dupe the vulnerable to move within country or across borders. Participants recommended greater capacity building needs on investigating cyber-related cases, greater platforms to enhance cross-border cooperation on these issues, and continued information exchange.    
(Supported by Government of Sweden)
Bangladesh: GLO.ACT Think Tank on Migrant Smuggling
UNODC, under the framework of GLO.ACT-Bangladesh, organized an online think tank policy session on migrant smuggling for over 54 participants in July. The online think tank session was aimed at collecting inputs and feedback that will support the development of a strategic position paper for policy considerations. The session included expert presentations and breakout sessions on thematic issues, ranging from criminalization as per the UN Protocol against Smuggling of Migrants by land, sea and air to looking at strengthening criminal justice measures to counter smuggling of migrants.

(Supported by European Union)
Bhutan: Trainings on SOP against Trafficking in Persons
In August, UNODC, in partnership with Department of Law and Order, Government of Bhutan, organized a series of training programs for key stakeholders, on the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for strengthening multi-sectoral responses against Trafficking in Persons. With support of the US Department of State, the training aimed at enhancing capacities of over 38 participants, including frontline responders at the community level, local government leaders and civil society volunteers. By the end of the project period, the target is to train 210 frontline responders on the SOP. 

(Supported by US Department of State)
Bhutan: Observing the World Day against Trafficking in Persons

Observing the World Day against Trafficking in Persons in July, UNODC, in collaboration with the Department of Law and Order promoted the Blue Heart Campaign on the Druk Super Star (DSS) show aired on Bhutan Broadcasting Service. The Honourable Minister of Home and Cultural Affairs, Government of Bhutan and the UN Resident Coordinator in Bhutan joined UNODC in gracing the occasion. The highlight of the cultural program was the theme song on Blue Heart composed by DSS and special performances conducted by members of the Royal Academy of Performing Arts. 
India: Disseminating UNODC Research on Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling
A Regional Webinar was held in June to disseminate the key findings of UNODC global research briefs on trafficking in persons (TIP) and smuggling of migrants (SOM). The aim was to examine the TIP-SOM scenario on the ground in South Asia with a specific focus also on cyber-enabled trafficking.  The webinar was attended by 59 participants from the three countries, and Vienna. Experts from Bhutan, India and Nepal shared key points on the Human Trafficking situation in the countries and key recommendations on importance of focusing on data, research on new routes, cyber awareness, training and joint efforts.
Bhutan: Promoting Public Awareness against Trafficking in Persons 
Aired on the national broadcaster Bhutan Broadcasting Corporation, the Druk Super Star (DSS) is the most popular and the only dance competition entertainment show in Bhutan featuring very popular guests from the Bhutan Film Industry. UNODC and the Department of Law and Order, Government of Bhutan collaborated with the Druk Super Star to initiate an awareness program around the Blue Heart Campaign on combating Trafficking in Persons in Bhutan. The campaign continued for four consecutive episodes (broadcast on 18, 19, 25 and 26 July) and the series culminated on 30 July by observing the World Day against Trafficking in Persons. During the show, key UNODC awareness messages, including visual effects such as the Blue Heart logo on the stage background screen were aired. In addition, the activity attracted strong celebrity branding of the campaign, with Bhutanese movie stars actively supporting the program and disseminating UNODC messages through live broadcast as well as through their social media platforms.     

(Supported by US Department of State)
Nepal: Fostering Effective Criminal Justice Responses to Gender-based Violence

In collaboration with the National Judicial Academy of Nepal, UNODC convened a 2-day webinar with Nepalese judges on effective criminal justice responses to gender-based violence against women and girls in July. The ‘UNODC Handbook for the Judiciary’ was also extensively disseminated among the participants. The webinar focused on understanding victims’ trauma, the realities women and girls face when seeking criminal justice, harmful gender stereotypes and key obligations under international law. Over 20 judges from Nepal participated in the dialogue with UNODC experts. The webinar aimed at helping judges be more sensitive and considerate while dealing with cases related to women and girls who have been victims of gender-based violence.
Bangladesh: Webinar on addressing Trafficking in Persons and Migrant Smuggling
Under the framework of GLO.ACT-Bangladesh, UNODC and IOM jointly organized an online national consultation in June with the aim to specifically address the country’s criminal justice response to Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants in times of COVID-19 and beyond. The event was organized in coordination with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs. Attended by over 100 participants and 36 institutions, the webinar built upon a previous consultation held with members of the Counter-Trafficking in Persons Technical Working Group (CTIPTWG) established under the Bangladesh United Nations Network on Migration (BDUNNM).
Addressing the Drugs Problem
India: Workshop on Drug Trafficking Trends During COVID-19 
In July, UNODC convened an interactive dialogue on ‘Addressing the Drug Problem amid COVID-19’. The focus of discussions was on the World Drug Report 2020, and UNODC’s latest research on illicit drug production and trafficking. UNODC experts highlighted key global and regional trends in illicit drug production and trafficking amid COVID-19. Participants included senior officials and experts from India's apex law enforcement, investigation and intelligence agencies. The discussion also reflected on the modus operandi, shifting practices and use of the darknet. The event evoked requests by law enforcement agencies to UNODC, for more such awareness and capacity building initiatives.
(Supported by Government of India)
India: Strengthening Capacity of Law Enforcement Agencies to Combat Illicit Drugs

In July, UNODC provided the expertise and resource for a training and briefing session on the World Drug Report 2020, in a focused session convened by the National Academy of Customs, Indirect Taxes and Narcotics (NACIN) and Narcotics Control Bureau in July. The session was attended by more than 40 officers and included a presentation on the main findings of the World Drug Report 2020, followed by comprehensive interactions between participants. The activity was part of the ongoing capacity building initiatives in the field of drug law enforcement spearheaded by UNODC in the region.
India: Consultation on Synthetic Drugs and NPS Early Warning Advisory
As a part of the sustained capacity building initiative in Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka under the Global SMART Programme in South Asia, UNODC’s First Consultation on Synthetic Drugs and New Psychoactive Substances was convened in July. The event was attended by more than 75 senior level officers from 18 apex laboratories and law enforcement agencies from the three countries.  This event provided an opportunity to brief about the Early Warning Advisory on NPS , the newly emerging substances, and the present situation of illicit drug trafficking and consumption in South Asia. 
Strengthening Criminal Justice Responses
Maldives: UNODC officially presents the Dhivehi translation of the Nelson Mandela Rules to the Vice President of Maldives 
Marking the Nelson Mandela International Day (18 July), a delegation comprising officials from UNODC ROSA, UN Maldives and the Home Ministry, Government of the Maldives met with Vice President of the Maldives to present a Dhivehi translation of the Nelson Mandela Rules. In the meeting, UNODC reiterated its commitment to assist the Government of the Maldives in strengthening prison reforms. 
India: Online Dialogue on the Nelson Mandela Rules 
Commemorating the Nelson Mandela International Day (18 July), UNODC, in collaboration with the India Vision Foundation convened a web dialogue on the Nelson Mandela Rules in the times of COVID19. Featuring experts from UNODC, law enforcement agencies and civil society, the discussion highlighted how prisoners and staff are vulnerable to COVID-19, and why the effort must be to invest more on alternatives to imprisonment in line with the Mandela Rules. UNODC emphasized that amid COVID19, continued vigilance is needed in prisons to ensure that minimum safeguards for prisoners are upheld during these times. 
Nepal: Stakeholder Dialogues on COVID-19 and Prisons  
In July, UNODC led several consultations with prison management, civil society partners, representatives of government and UN agencies to brainstorm the impact of COVID-19 on the prisons of Nepal. The aim of the consultations was to inform the design of the UN Framework for Responding to the Socio-Economic Impacts of COVID-19 in Nepal to generate concrete findings by identifying challenges and recommendations, with the principle of leaving no one behind and building back better.  Key inputs and recommendations were fed into the Socio-Economic framework of the UN Country Team in Nepal.
Maldives: Virtual Round Table on Juvenile Justice Systems 
UNODC convened a Virtual Round Table in the Maldives to present the findings of the 'Technical Assistance Needs Assessment' on Justice for Children in July. The Honourable Home Minister of the Maldives and Resident Coordinator of UN Maldives delivered special remarks at the Round Table. The discussion emphasized that a strong juvenile justice system should embody a child-friendly environment and minimum use of physical restraints. UNODC appreciated efforts of the Government of the Maldives to foster comprehensive reform of the child justice system. The assessment will allow UNODC to develop tailored programs in the Maldives to leave no child behind.
(Supported by Government of Sweden)
Maldives: Strengthening Prison Reform amid COVID-19
Marking the Nelson Mandela International Day (18 July), UNODC, in collaboration with the Ministry of Home Affairs Maldives and Maldives Correctional Service (MCS), organized an online workshop on the Nelson Mandela Rules, with special remarks by Honourable Home Minister of Maldives. The workshop emphasized the need for prison reform, especially amid COVID-19. UNODC experts conducted the interactive information session, which included presentations on a Criminal Justice perspective to prison reform, and on a Human Rights perspective to people in places of detention. The workshop was aimed at correctional and custodial officers from MCS and Maldives Police Service. 
(Supported by European Union)
Maldives: Meeting with the Minister of Home Affairs on Prison Reforms 
In August, UNODC called on Minister of Home Affairs, Government of the Maldives, to discuss ongoing collaboration in the areas of prison reform and countering terrorism. In the meeting, UNODC also extended its strong support to the Government of the Maldives in strengthening access to criminal justice.
Sri Lanka: Meeting with the State Minister of Prison Reforms and Rehabilitation
In August, UNODC called on the State Minister of Prison Reforms and Rehabilitation, Government of Sri Lanka to introduce UNODC’s project on promoting effective use of non-custodial measures. The project addresses prison overcrowding and promotes community-based corrections.
Terrorism Prevention
Bangladesh: Roundtable on Gender Dimensions of Criminal Justice Responses to Terrorism 
UNODC organized an online expert round table to discuss and validate the draft Bangladesh Training Module on Gender Dimensions of Criminal Justice Responses to Terrorism in August. The event brought together 26 participants from the government, civil society organizations, UN agencies and academia. The Training Module seeks to complement the UNODC Handbook on Gender Dimensions of Criminal Justice Responses to Terrorism published in May 2019. The activity falls under the Japanese-funded project on prevention of women’s and youth involvement with violent extremism and terrorism through effective criminal justice approaches, being implemented in Bangladesh and Maldives. 
(Supported by Government of Japan)
Bangladesh: Strengthening Investigations to Counter Cross-Border Terrorism

In August, UNODC conducted a national online workshop in Bangladesh on strengthening the use of advanced investigative techniques and cross-border investigations in accordance with UNSCR 2396. The activity was conducted under the framework of the project aimed at supporting Member States in South Asia, Central Asia and North Africa in the implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution 2396 (2017)-related investigation capacities and cooperation against cross-border terrorism. 
Bangladesh: Creating Regional Networks to Prevent Violent Extremism
UNODC conducted an online regional consultation aimed at promoting the development of a South Asian-network comprising public sector units, local communities and civil society organisations to prevent violent extremism. The event brought together participants from Bangladesh, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka to discuss the establishment and a draft roadmap of a regional Prevention of Violent Extremism Network of practitioners to allow for knowledge sharing and cooperation.
Bangladesh: Enabling Detection of Financial Crimes to Counter Terrorist Financing 

In July, UNODC conducted a webinar with the Association of Anti-Money Laundering Compliance Officers of Banks in Bangladesh on countering financing of terrorism, with a special focus on due diligence and precautionary measures to be undertaken by financial institutions to prevent and detect financial crime particularly in the context of terrorism financing. The online event featured an address from the Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit, and was attended by over 170 participants from various banks in Bangladesh. Presentations covered the topics of cooperation between regulators, private sector and law enforcement on countering financing of terrorism, and managing risks of terrorism financing in remittances and money transfers. 
Maldives: Consultation on Regional Toolkit for Judges on Terrorism Adjucation
To support the Maldives Judiciary in enhancing a rule-of-law based approach to terrorism adjudication, UNODC and UN-CTED convened an online consultation for 30 judges on the “South Asia Regional Toolkit for Judges” in Male, with support from European Union.  The regional toolkit, developed by CTED with the active support and engagement of judges from all South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries and their implementing partner, the Global Center on Cooperative Security, provides practice-oriented guidance to judges and judicial training academies of SAARC countries on the foundations for effective adjudication, judicial management of proceedings and international cooperation in terrorism matters in the South Asia region.
Special Initiative: Media Collaboration
Dainik Jagran-UNODC Dialogue 

Students discuss Peace, Social Change and why SDGs matter.
Dainik Jagran-UNODC Dialogue 

Integrating SDGs, Peace in education is key, educators say.
Dainik Jagran-UNODC Dialogue 

Policy experts and educators discuss innovative approaches to strengthen Education for Justice and Peace.
Dainik Jagran-UNODC Dialogue 

Multi-stakeholder Dialogue on International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.
Multimedia and Podcasts
Deep Dive Dialogue 

Prisons and COVID-19: Alternatives to Imprisonment in Sri Lanka
Conversations from the Ground

Prisons and COVID-19 in the Maldives: Perspectives from Law Enforcement
Deep Dive Dialogue

Youth and COVID-19: Innovative Approaches in Education
Conversations from the Ground

Frontline Responders to Trafficking in Persons in India: Civil Society 
Conversations from the Ground

Frontline Responders to Trafficking in Persons in India: Law Enforcement
Key Links and Resources

Latest updates and information on UN Responses to COVID-19:
Our Partners
Our activities in South Asia are possible
due to the generous support of:

  • European Union
  • Government of India
  • Government of Germany
  • Government of Japan
  • Government of Sweden
  • Government of Qatar
  • US Department of State
Government Partners:
  • Government of Bangladesh
  • Government of Bhutan
  • Government of India
  • Government of Maldives
  • Government of Nepal
  • Government of Sri Lanka
In response to COVID-19, and its impact on vulnerable groups and emerging risks to security and peace, UNODC Regional Office for South Asia has developed a wide range of projects and initiatives on the following thematic areas:

-- Addressing Gender-based Violence
-- Strengthening Law Enforcement Responses
-- Countering Corruption
-- Youth Engagement through Education
-- Promoting Family Skills
-- Addressing the Needs of Drug Users, those with HIV/AIDS and Hep-C and those in prison settings
-- Strengthening Responses to COVID-19 in Prisons
-- Countering Cybercrime and Promoting Online Safety
-- Responding to the Needs of Human Trafficking Survivors, Refugees, Migrants and the Homeless 

Active support from partners is requested to enable the implementation of these programs and to scale-up efforts to promote security, justice and health among vulnerable groups in South Asia. Our partnerships aim at building national and regional alliances on our mandates, which are closely linked to national, regional and global priorities as well as the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals. Let's join hands to enable and aid large-scale and impactful initiatives that help people lead safer and healthier lives .  Your support can make all the difference!

To know more, please contact:

Mr. Samarth Pathak
Communications Officer
UNODC Regional Office for South Asia
Cellphone: +91-9811347927
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) assists Member States in their efforts to combat illicit drugs and international crime. Over the past two decades, the UNODC Regional Office for South Asia (ROSA) has been working with governments and civil society in Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka, providing specialized assistance to address challenges pertaining to drugs, organised crime, security, justice and health. The commitment to Sustainable Development Goals, human rights and the rule of law is at the core of our mandate.
Contact Us

C-97, Defence Colony, New Delhi-110034, India
Email: samarth.pathak@un.org

Website: www.unodc.org/southasia/
Facebook: @unodc.rosa
Twitter: @unodc_rosa

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