UNODC and LAS Fifth Steering and Follow-up Committee Meeting for the Regional Programme for the Arab States (2016-2021)

03rd June 2021 - Cairo, Egypt 

For the fifth time, UNODC and the League of Arab States (LAS)  held the Steering and Follow-up Committee Meeting for the Regional Programme for the Arab States to Prevent and Combat Crime, Terrorism and Health Threats, and to Strengthen Criminal Justice Systems in Line with International Human Rights Standards (2016-2021) from the 1st to the 3rd of June 2021. The meeting was held in a hybrid format with more than 100 participants, including officials of LAS’ Member States and UNODC’s experts and staff. 

The steering committee annually provides the Member States, LAS, and UNODC with a platform to plan, measure and develop work to face drugs and crime in the region and review and discuss the current Regional Programme’s (2016-2021) implementation. This year the meeting also paved the way for the new 2022-2028 Regional Programme. “The meeting comes at an important time as COVID-19 has led to the increase of crimes of terrorism, organized crime, and corruption in various forms,” affirmed Minister Plenipotentiary, Mohamed Al Amine, Head of Legal Affairs Department of the Legal Affairs Sector, General Secretariat, League of Arab States.

“Even with the pandemic, we have been able to reach 6,000 government officials across the region with capacity-building and delivered services to 26,000 persons, including, vulnerable groups, women, children, and young people,” Ms. Cristina Albertin, UNODC Regional Representative reflected on the implementation during 2020.
Some of the key discussions held between UNODC, LAS, and the Member States included;
-  Efforts under the trafficking in persons (TiP) and smuggling of migrants’ (SoM) portfolio, “A large amount of effort has been done with authorities to address TiP and SoM in Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Palestine, Sudan, Tunisia, yet we still have a lot of work to do,” Harsheth Virk, UNODC TiP and SoM Regional Coordinator.  
-  The Council of Arab Ministers of Social Affairs’ initiative to develop a Pan Arab Plan for Drug Control from a social perspective with the technical support of UNODC“The drug problem remains a wide social problem that matters to citizens in the region. Drugs directly affect and relate to sustainable development,” Minister Plenipotentiary, Tarek El Nabulsi, Head of the Development & Social Policies Department at the League of Arab States. 
-  The vital role of research and data collection in policy making, “Day after day we realize the importance of data and evidence, they allow us to have the necessary knowledge to tailor our responses and decisions,” Ms. Dina Fayad, AIRCOP Regional Coordinator.
-  Regional situational report on drug use across 13 the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) countries, “The situational report tells us the gaps and needs to prevent drug use, treat drug use disorders, provide services to people who use drugs/inject drugs,” Mr. Khaldoun Oweiss, Head of UNODC Office in Palestine. 
The discussions for the implementation of the current and upcoming Regional Programme also reflected on the new UNODC Strategy 2021 – 2025 and the UNODC Strategic Vision for Africa 2030. The Strategy guides UNODC’s efforts to contribute to global peace and security, human rights, and development by making the world safer from drugs, crime, corruption, and terrorism. The Vision builds on decades of partnership and engagement with African countries to support Africa in facing drugs, crime, corruption, terrorism, and illicit financial flows with a focus on whole-of-society approaches and inclusion of the most vulnerable and marginalized populations.
The COVID-19 response was a key point of departure during the meeting. Member States deliberated on the impact of the pandemic, which  UNODC guidance, research, and policy documents can be utilized, the response to the impact, and the way ahead for keeping the region safe. The impact of the pandemic concerning drug trafficking routesorganized crimeviolence against womencybercrimehuman trafficking, and migrant smuggling were specifically noted.
At the end of each annual Steering Committee meeting, Member States’ delegations agree on a set of recommendations that is developed based on feedback received on past efforts. This year’s recommendations were key as they provide the foundation for the upcoming Regional Programme. The recommendations included the need for more people-centered approaches such as youth empowerment, the necessity of best experiences’ exchange, the expansion of national and regional partnerships to include more stakeholders and beneficiaries, the increase of south-to-south cooperation, amongst others.
For further information: 
The Regional Programme to Prevent and Combat Crime, Terrorism and Health Threats and Strengthen Criminal Justice Systems in Line with International Human Rights Standards (2016-2021)
Regional Programme on Drugs and Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Reform in the Arab Countries (2011 - 2015)