South Asia: Visit of UNODC's Executive Director asserts the importance of regional cooperation to counter drugs and crime

UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov 's visit to the South Asian countries of India, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh reinforced partnerships, called for further cooperation in the region and enhanced support amongst countries in matters of crime and terrorism.

Mr. Fedotov began his visit in early December in India, where he met with senior members of the Government to discuss measures to address drug trafficking in India and within the region.  "India is an important partner at the regional and international levels and has an essential role in confronting drug trafficking in South Asia and beyond. I very much look forward to closer cooperation and coordination between UNODC and India in the future," said Mr. Fedotov at the end of his visit.

Commemorating World AIDS Day, he attended a UNODC-organized football match between development partners and members from communities of people who use drugs and people living with HIV. Mr. Fedotov officially 'kicked-off' the match and interacted with the community, encouraging them to work continuously and boldly towards 'closing the gaps' in testing, treatment and prevention of HIV, a universally agreed goal among the international community.

From India, Mr. Fedotov travelled to Nepal, where he met with ministers and high-ranking officials to learn about the country's counter-corruption and anti-poaching initiatives. He visited Chitwan National Park where the Chief Warden showed Mr. Fedotov the on-ground patrolling and other anti-poaching efforts supported by the Park Management Authorities, the Army and the communities. The combined effort has led to 'zero poaching' and has made Nepal a good practice model worldwide.   

In his meeting with the Secretary General of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), Mr. Fedotov highlighted the importance of regional cooperation through the SAARC platform, which will be leveraged through a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) which both Organizations will sign soon.  

In Bhutan, in his meeting with the Acting Prime Minister and Minister of Home and Cultural Affairs, Mr. Fedotov acknowledged the efforts of the Government to maintain a healthy society and control drug trafficking, corruption  and terrorism. He invited Bhutan to ratify and implement the UN Convention against Corruption, and the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, and its three protocols on firearms, smuggling of migrants and human trafficking.   

Mr. Fedotov visited a UNODC-supported de-addiction centre for men and women where people with drug use problems can receive services. The management team shared the history of the centre, as well as the difficulties and efforts to sustain it. Some members of the drug using community shared their stories of recovery.

The visit included an audience with the King of Bhutan and several high ranking members of the Royal Government. After his audience with the King, Mr. Fedotov said: "My meeting with the King reinforces the excellent partnerships UNODC has forged … These relationships will do much to enable our South Asia Regional Programme to help authorities in Bhutan counter drug trafficking, support drug users and those living with HIV, and eliminate human trafficking."

Mr. Fedotov concluded his visit to South Asia in Bangladesh.  In Dhaka, Mr. Fedotov addressed students at an event organized at the University of Dhaka. He spoke about drug trafficking, human trafficking, corruption, drug abuse and how these affect a nation. He encouraged the youth to take on a proactive role, becoming 'youth leaders', motivating their peers to reach their full potential.

In Dhaka, UNODC and the National Board of Revenue, Government of Bangladesh signed a MoU on the UNODC - World Customs Organization (WCO) supported Container Control Programme.

Through the entire visit to South Asia, Mr Fedotov interacted with Government counterparts, civil society and the media in an effort to build support, promote partnerships within the UN System and deliver solutions at the grassroots level.