The UNODC Regional Office for South Asia assists Member States in their struggle to combat illicit drugs and international crime. Over the past two decades, UNODC has been working with governments and people in the region to provide specialized assistance on challenges pertaining to transnational organised crime, security, justice and health. The commitment to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), human rights and the rule of law is at the core of UNODC's mandate.

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UNODC delivers technical interventions aimed at promoting security, justice and health, which are linked to national priorities as well as the achievement of SDGs. This is done through targeted technical cooperation projects that are gender and youth responsive, human rights-based, and evidence-informed. UNODC also works towards facilitating the ratification and implementation of the relevant UN conventions, standards and norms, generating and exchanging comparative data and information, promoting cross-border consultations and cooperation and ensuring access to technical expertise, global knowledge products and best international practices. The UNODC comparative advantage lies in its neutrality to address the most complex and sensitive challenges affecting the region. The cross-cutting principle of "leave no one behind" is at the crux of all our efforts.

Broadly, UNODC's work involves:

  • Evidence-based research and threat-impact assessments
  • Training and capacity building initiatives
  • Community-level interventions
  • Exchange of global expertise and successes in customised local frameworks
  • Strategic outreach with Governments and key stakeholders
  • Policy advocacy
  • Implementation of technical innovations to counter crime
  • Public awareness campaigns

The activities of UNODC are grounded on a series of international instruments for which the Office acts as the worldwide guardian and advocate. They include the three international drug conventions, the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) and its Protocols, the conventions and protocols against terrorism, and the UN Standards and Norms in Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice.

In addition, building dialogue and engagement with a broad spectrum of national and regional stakeholders, including civil society organizations, regional bodies (like the SAARC Secretariat, Bali process, the Colombo Plan, BIMSTEC and ASEAN) academic and research institutions, think tanks and UN agencies remains a critical area of focus.

Since UNODC is a technical agency, contributions from external partners form a core funding base for our work. UNODC's partnerships typically involve building mutually beneficial national and regional alliances by aligning the partner's philanthropic, strategic and branding focus with UNODC's core mandate areas. UNODC Regional Office for South Asia maintains an ongoing, substantive dialogue with the Governments, civil society, UN agencies, bilateral and multilateral organizations, corporate sector, academia and media.


Over the past few years, South Asian countries have witnessed accelerated economic and social progress by spearheading efforts to meet the sustainable development goals and address conflicts and crisis. However, the region continues to face profound challenges to the rule of law and human security, in the wake of newly emerging forms of organized crime. This, coupled with inadequate governance, weak criminal justice institutions and corruption, threaten peace and development in the region. South Asia today comprises about 1.89 billion people, or about one fourth of the world's population, making it both the most populous and the most densely populated geographical region in the world. Overall, it accounts for over 24% of the world's population. South Asia is also home to the largest share of the world's youth, with 48 percent of its population below the age of 24. Clearly, the achievement of sustainable development goals, and the realization of global peace and security is not possible until the challenges facing South Asia are holistically addressed.

Many of these challenges directly relate to UNODC's mandate areas. Drug production and trafficking have become more complex as drug markets in the region are evolving and now include an increasing number of drugs, ranging from both natural and synthetic opiates, Amphetamine-type stimulants and other synthetic drugs, pharmaceutical preparations and prescription drugs as well as a rising number of so-called 'new psychoactive substances'. The availability of and easy access to this variety of drugs entail serious health consequences, especially when injecting drug use occurs with the subsequent risk of infection with HIV and hepatitis, placing additional burden on health systems. Stigma and discrimination of those who require access to services remain a serious social problem.

The region is also a source, transit and destination for large numbers of vulnerable groups of people, including women and children moving within and beyond the region in search of better lives. Many of them - on their journey- become exposed to and victimized by criminal organizations, both for smuggling across borders as well as for various forms of exploitation. South Asia is also facing cyber-enabled crime - wherein many 'traditional' crimes have taken a new turn with the advent of the internet, such as crimes against children, drug abuse through the dark net, financial crimes and online radicalisation. A series of new emerging crimes have added to the already existing challenges, ranging from wildlife and forest crime, gender-based violence and human rights violations, radicalization and violent extremism. Related economic crimes threaten the integrity of financial systems in the region, while corruption is seen as another major handicap to good governance, sustainable development and accountability. When addressing these threats, criminal justice and prison systems struggle with providing services to victims, witnesses and prisoners in line with international criminal justice standards and human rights women and juvenile offenders are especially exposed.

UNODC is well placed to address the aforementioned challenges, as it has a proven capacity to translate global normative frameworks into operational assistance, and to identify how the different phenomena interact and impact sustainable development and human security.

The UNODC Regional Programme for South Asia (RPSA) is a strategic framework for the Regional Office that informs and guides UNODC's technical cooperation and delivery of assistance in close consultation with government counterparts of South Asia. The Regional Programme highlights a set of priorities and operational responses for the period 2018-2021, while offering sufficient flexibility to adapt to evolving threats and Member States' specific needs and constraints.

In line with the UNODC Strategic Framework 2018 - 2019, the Regional Programme is structured around the following five sub-programmes, outlined in more detail below:

Sub-programme 1:

Combating Transnational Organized Crime

Sub-programme 2:

A comprehensive and balanced approach to counter the drug problem (drug trafficking & drugs and health: drug use prevention, treatment and care and HIV prevention, treatment and care and support services for people who use drugs and for people in prisons)

Sub-programme 3:

Countering Corruption

Sub-programme 4:

Terrorism prevention

Sub-programme 5:

Crime prevention and criminal justice

Regional Office for South Asia
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
C-97 (Ground Floor), Defence Colony,
New Delhi-110024

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