System to address drug challenges in Solomon Islands and Vanuatu strengthened

Port Vila (Vanuatu) and Honiara (Solomon Islands), 25 November 2019
- In addition to being used as transit points for illicit drugs, Pacific island countries are increasingly targeted as destinations and even used for the illicit manufacture of synthetic drugs such as methamphetamine. This worrying development observed in recent years is in part due to a growing presence and collaboration of transnational criminal organizations from Asia and the Americas where large-scale manufacture of illicit drugs takes place. However, the national and regional systems currently in place to respond to this threat are not robust enough and need to be enhanced to enable small-island countries in the Pacific to address these new challenges effectively.

Over the last two years, the UNODC Global Synthetic Monitoring: Analyses, Reporting and Trends (SMART) programme team conducted national training workshops on the challenge of synthetic drugs in Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. Technical-level officers from illicit drug control and health authorities of the two countries assessed gaps and developed practical recommendations to tackle the growing challenge posed by synthetic drugs. The UNODC SMART team implemented one of the practical recommendations - the provision of drug and precursor test kits - in the third week of November 2019 and trained officers on their use. The team also held meetings with senior-level officers to assess the progress made so far and secure their support for the implementation of the remaining recommendations.

"Pacific island countries are overwhelmed with increasing quantities of illicit drugs, in particular methamphetamine, from neighbouring Asia," said Tun Nay Soe, Inter-regional Coordinator of the SMART Programme. "The gravity of drug problems varies country by country in the Pacific, but none of countries in the region is ready to meet these new challenges, and it certainly warrants attention of the international community".

Senior-level officials from the two countries also shared UNODC's view. "Illicit drugs have become a truly regional challenge in the Pacific," said Acting Commissioner Robson Iavro. "Vanuatu completed its first national security strategy, which calls for a coordination mechanism among national authorities for transnational challenges, including illicit drugs." "It is crucial for us to break down silos nationally, but more importantly we need to work with neighbouring countries in other regions and we need direct support from UNODC for that".

During the visit to the two countries, UNODC provided training on drug and precursor test kits for field officers. "I am pleased to see UNODC continues to support Solomon Islands," said Densen Varirokesa, Technical Officer of the Customs & Excise Division. "I feel much confident after this training, as it helps our capacity take a step further to prepare for expected challenges."

Launched in 2008, the UNODC Global SMART Programme aims to enhance the capacity of national authorities of Member States to generate, manage, analyse and report synthetic drug information and to apply this evidence-based knowledge to develop effective policy and programme responses.

Technical support for Vanuatu and Solomon Islands were provided with contribution from the Government of New Zealand.

Click here to learn more about UNODC's work on Drugs and precursors.

Click here to learn more about the UNODC Global SMART (Synthetics Monitoring: Analyses, Reporting and Trends) Programme.

Click here to learn more about the Asia and Pacific Amphetamine-Type Stimulants Information Centre.