Meet Masood Karimipour, UNODC Regional Representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific

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Continuing its commitment to support the rule of law, security, and justice in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has appointed Masood Karimipour as its Regional Representative. Karimipour took the helm at the UNODC Regional Office for Southeast Asia and the Pacific last week in Bangkok, Thailand.

Karimipour will lead United Nations diplomatic engagements, policy dialogue, strategic partnerships, and operations in justice and security matters under UNODC mandates across a vast region stretching from Myanmar to the Pacific states, covering 34 countries that are home to more than 700 million people.

Karimipour will lead a 300-person strong team of UNODC professionals delivering programmes of expert support totaling $US 45 million per year across the region in a wide range of critical areas, including rule of law responses to organized crime, illicit trafficking of drugs, corruption, illicit financial flows, money laundering, cybercrime, human trafficking, smuggling of migrants, environmental crimes, violent extremism, and terrorism.

Karimipour will also lead UNODC’s collaboration with prominent regional organizations such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS).

“We support countries to confront old as well as new criminal threats. For example, criminal networks in Southeast Asia are growing their illegal operations by exploiting technology. Cryptocurrencies, the dark web, artificial intelligence, and social media are boosting the trafficking of people and drugs as well as money laundering and scam operations,” Karimipour stated.

“There are other troubling trends. For example, Myanmar has taken over Afghanistan as the biggest source of opium. Corruption is endemic, waste from other regions is being dumped illegally, cyberattacks are increasing, and the region hosts some of the world’s most overcrowded prison facilities”, Karimipour added.

Altogether, the illicit economy in this region is estimated to generate more than a hundred billion US dollars per year for organized crime while diverting enormous resources and depriving people of services, safety, health, and prosperity,” Karimipour stated. “But, through our comprehensive combination of mandates, expertise, partnerships, and field presence, we are uniquely positioned to strengthen national capacities and enhance cross-border, regional, and global cooperation to counter illicit economies in the region,” Karimipour concluded.

Karimipour brings a wealth of experience to the role. His journey includes 35 years serving as a trial attorney, criminal justice policy advisor, and rule of law development leader. His previous experience in UNODC includes serving as: Chief of the Terrorism Prevention Branch (TPB) in Vienna; Special Advisor on Strategic Coordination at UNODC headquarters in Vienna; Regional Representative for Middle East and North Africa, in Cairo; and Regional Representative for Central Asia, in Tashkent; before joining UNODC, he served as: Senior Judicial Affairs Advisor in UN Peacekeeping, in Sudan; Chief of Afghanistan Justice Sector Support Programme, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State; and Public Defender in the Western Pacific and New York.

Karimipour holds a Juris Doctorate in Law. He is knowledgeable about Southeast Asia and the Pacific, having travelled throughout the region, including living for eight years in the Northern Mariana Islands in the Western Pacific where he met his wife, who is a national of Thailand, and with whom he celebrates 22 years of marriage this year.

“Life is short. You can spend it making money or making a difference,” Karimipour said. “I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to help people experience greater peace, prosperity, safety, justice, and human rights under the law.”