UNODC reports successes, tackles new and emerging threats in East Asia and Pacific

Bangkok (Thailand), 16 April 2012
- The UNODC Regional Centre for East Asia and Pacific today launched a report that records UNODC's achievements in the region for 2011 and plots future strategic priorities to counter what it calls "the dark side of globalization" in a region spanning 34 countries and territories.

"Our dynamic, rapidly developing region is home to some of the world's most uneven levels of wealth distribution," says Mr. Gary Lewis, UNODC Regional Representative for East Asia and the Pacific. According to him, "inequality is a predictor for significant domestic and international migration which can disrupt communities and isolate vulnerable individuals, generating zones where criminals emerge and the rule of law is challenged."

The comprehensive report outlines UNODC's most notable achievements in 2011 in supporting the region's Member States to tackle their crime, drugs, corruption and terrorism challenges.

Achievements include improving cross-border cooperation to fight human trafficking and the smuggling of people, as well as illicit drugs, wildlife and hazardous goods. In addition, with UNODC support, the region continues to improve its ability to collect and share information on the production, trafficking and use of both amphetamine-type stimulants and opiates as well as transnational organized crime trends. This knowledge is already being used to inform policy making.

In addition, steady progress has been made in establishing a regional voluntary reporting system on migrant smuggling.

"More than 12,000 km of borders divide Cambodia, China, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam. That's 12,000-km-worth of opportunities to smuggle people, drugs, natural resources and hazardous goods throughout the region," says Lewis. "UNODC continues to assist our national law enforcement partners to plan effective border security strategies and counter transnational organized crime."

In Indonesia, UNODC-supported cooperation between anti-corruption institutions has led to an increase in the number of criminal cases which are jointly developed and prosecuted.

In 2011, UNODC initiated a regional counter-terrorism partnership programme "East and Southeast Asia Partnership on Criminal Justice Responses to Terrorism". Developed in consultation with partner countries, the programme provides support to national authorities to implement rule of law-based counter-terrorism measures.

UNODC also continues to support efforts that improve the health and lives of drug-dependent people in the region. Noting the increased willingness by some South-East Asia governments to explore voluntary, community-based drug treatment approaches, UNODC has worked with them to launch evidence-based drug treatment pilots in Cambodia, Myanmar and Viet Nam.

"Alternative-to-poppy" projects in Lao PDR and Myanmar are starting to deliver income-earning opportunities and access to key services such as water, health, markets and micro-credit.

"Growth often brings positive developments but it also provides opportunities for transnational organized crime to expand," says Lewis. "For this reason, in addition to accounting for what we achieved in 2011, we also attempt to outline new, emerging threats - and think through how we can best respond to them."

Key future strategic concerns for East Asia and the Pacific include the significant challenge of migrant smuggling and alarming levels of illegal trade in timber, wildlife and illicit drugs by sophisticated transnational criminal networks. UNODC is also concerned by corruption and a lack of effective national drug prevention and treatment programmes.

The report also urges "the prompt scale-up of alternative development assistance" in both Myanmar and Lao PDR to develop alternative livelihoods - jobs and markets - to keep the recently-recorded resurgence of illicit opium cultivation at bay by giving drug-producing farmers sustainable alternatives to the illicit drug economy.

Since 2009, the UNODC regional programme portfolio has more than doubled from US$8m to US$18m. But Lewis is not satisfied that enough is being done.

"The scale of the need remains vast when you consider the extent of the threats we face. What our report shows is that the US$18 million we have spent in 2011 has delivered a huge number of results," Lewis explains. "With more, we can do an awful lot more. We cannot afford to be complacent. We need our donors to help sustain the turnaround we have witnessed in the past three years. This will help to turn today's results into tomorrow's impacts. This way, we can make the lives of citizens in the region a little safer, a little healthier and a little more dignified."

The UNODC Regional Programme for East Asia and the Pacific covers the period 2009-2012. This report is the third annual implementation update for the Regional Programme.

Later in 2012, the Regional Programme will undergo an independent evaluation. Lessons learnt will be taken forward into the design of a new programme, maintaining and strengthening the engagement of UNODC with partners in the region.

The UNODC Regional Programme for East Asia and the Pacific is primarily funded by the Governments of Australia, Canada, the European Union, Germany, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Norway, Republic of Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.

UNODC wishes to thank the Governments of the region and our NGO and UN sister agency partners for their ongoing financial and technical support to the Regional Programme.