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Data collection and evidence base on synthetic drugs strengthened in the Pacific

Port Vila (Vanuatu) and Honiara (Solomon Islands), 14 August 2017
- A recent UNODC report, "Transnational Organized Crime in the Pacific: A Threat Assessment (TOCTA)", identified the increasing use of the Pacific Islands States and Territories (PIST) as transit points for illicit drugs and precursor trafficking. The report also noted the scarcity of data and information relevant to illicit drugs, and encouraged the PIST to strengthen their capacity to better generate data and information, as a first step to developing evidence-based policies to respond to the increasing flows of illicit drugs and precursor chemicals from neighbouring regions, in particular Asia.

As a follow-up to the TOCTA report, the UNODC Global Synthetic Monitoring: Analysis, Reporting and Trends (SMART) Programme and the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat (PIFS) organised two national technical workshops in the Pacific, one for Vanuatu and the other for Solomon Islands. These brought together various national authorities and Civil Society Organisations relevant to illicit drugs, to discuss measures to improve their data collection capacities.

"In recent years, there are indications that Vanuatu is being used, not only a transit country, but also an illicit methamphetamine manufacture site," said Mr. Dreli Solomon, Senior Desk Officer, Vanuatu Ministry of Foreign Affairs. "However, our legal frameworks and national capacities are not robust enough to cope with the rapidly changing situation. We hope this workshop will be a starting point for Vanuatu national authorities to review loopholes in our system and address the identified gaps."

All the participating national authorities shared their roles, responsibilities, and challenges in generating, managing and sharing illicit drug related data. Among the issues raised by national authorities were, outdated legislation, limited resources and capability and absence of a standardised data collection format. In particular, several participants highlighted the absence of a coordination mechanism among relevant national authorities

"We currently do not have a proper coordination mechanism with law enforcement authorities, in other words we have been working in a silo," said Mr. John Tema, Senior Pharmacist, Regulatory Affairs Unit of the Ministry of Health and Medical Services, Solomon Islands. "We need to have a national coordination mechanism composed of all the relevant national authorities and should exchange our information to better respond to challenges posed by illicit drugs."

The workshops were successful in enhancing the understanding of national authorities from both Solomon Islands and Vanuatu on the importance of good data collection and close coordination at the national level. In addition, both countries requested UNODC to support development of data collection tools, and provide necessary training for data collection, management, and analysis.

According to Mr. Tun Nay Soe, Interregional Coordinator of the UNODC Global SMART programme, there are opportunities for the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu to benefit from UNODC technical assistance activities. "Addressing the identified challenges will require time and resources but Global SMART will continue to work with the national counterparts to manage these challenges taking into consideration the experiences and lessons learnt in other regions."

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.

The both workshops in Vanuatu and Solomon Islands were organised with support from the Government of New Zealand.