Regional Programme for Afghanistan and Neighbouring Countries (UNODC)

The Regional Working Group meeting on Forensic Capacity and Illicit Drugs

On 8-9 November 2022; Astana, Kazakhstan - Effective law enforcement remains the critical cornerstone to countering the production, trafficking, and use of narcotics. The need to strengthen and scale up counter narcotics policies and interventions is more pressing today than ever before, especially in view of the continued high levels of drug production in Afghanistan. While enhancing the capacity of law enforcement agencies, it is equally important to enhance the capacity of forensic laboratories and develop strong communication between law enforcement and forensic experts, to cooperate on investigations of drug-related criminal investigation cases.

UNODC, under Sub-programme 1 “Transnational organized crime and illicit drug trafficking” of the UNODC Regional Programme for Afghanistan and Neighbouring Countries (RP) organized a two-day regional meeting of the Regional Working Group on Forensic Capacity and Illicit Drugs (RWGFD) on 8-9 November 2022 in Astana, Kazakhstan.  Bringing together 35 senior officials of the competent counter narcotics authorities and forensic laboratories from seven RP countries (Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) of the West and Central Asian region, as well as the Central Asian Regional Information and Coordination Centre for combatting illicit trafficking of narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and their precursors (CARICC), the working meeting provided a platform for information sharing and learning from best practices on illicit drugs, with focus to new psychoactive substances (NPS) and precursor control.

Opening the meeting, Dr. Jeremy Milsom, UNODC Representative in Pakistan and Senior Programme Coordinator of the Regional Programme for Afghanistan and Neighbouring Countries, noted that “…NPS remain a global phenomenon with 134 countries and territories from all regions of the world having reported one or more NPS to the UNODC Early Warning Advisory (EWA) on NPS from 2009 up to December 2021. Within this time period, 1,124 substances were reported to the UNODC EWA on NPS by governments, forensic laboratories, and partner organizations worldwide. The number of NPS reported each year increased from 131 in 62 countries and territories in 2009 to 1,124 individual NPS in 134 countries and territories in 2021.… Although the overall quantity of NPS seized fell in 2021, an increasing number of countries have been reporting NPS seizures, and concerns have been growing over the harm caused by the use of NPS”.

In his opening speech Mr. Yerlan Akbarov, Head of division in the department on countering drug crimes of the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Kazakhstan (Police Colonel) welcomed all participants and thanked UNODC for holding the event in Kazakhstan. He also stated that “ a major issue affecting the drug situation in the country is the spread of NPS and other synthetic drugs, the volume of seizures of which has increased significantly over the past three years in Kazakhstan”.

During the 2-day event the delegations from the mentioned countries discussed enhanced regional cross-border law enforcement cooperation, as well as how to improve forensic capacities based on good practices and more detailed analysis of seized narcotic substances in the region.

Ms. Kyzylgul Mambetalieva, Head of the unit on forensic expertise of materials, substance and items of the Ministry of Justice of the Kyrgyz Republic noted that “…thanks to the important Regional Platform, our forensic experts are able to solve many challenges through sharing opinions and best practices existing in West and Central Asian region… We have been receiving expertise on synthetic drugs and improving our expert skills thanks to the trainings provided by the UNODC”.

Ms. Sana Hassan, Forensic scientist on narcotics, Punjab Forensic Science Agency of  Pakistan said  “…To receive physical evidence from law enforcement agencies in criminal as well as civil matters, analyse and provide accurate result of forensic analysis, well in time and testify in Courts of Law on analytical findings is very important… Quality Assurance is kept on all activities carried out by analysts… The Regional Working Group on Forensics Capacity and illicit Drugs (RWGFD) is very useful forum for mutual exchange of ideas and strategy development among the participating countries of West and Central Asia”.

The working group meeting saw strong collaboration and exchange of information overall on the challenges of interdicting and identifying illicit drugs, particularly NPS, with valuable exchanges also on the need to share and strengthen legislative advances to counter the burgeoning number of different illicit substances.

UNODC thanked the Government of Italy for supporting this activity.