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Supporting Pacific island states to improve understanding and address synthetic drug challenges

Port Vila (Vanuatu), Suva (Fiji), and Honiara (Solomon Islands), 14 August 2018
- Targeting Pacific island states to transit and traffic synthetic drugs and related precursor chemicals, has increased in recent years. However, there is no systematic collection and reporting of data and information from countries across the region. To address this situation, the UNODC Global Synthetic Monitoring: Analyses, Reporting and Trends (SMART) Programme met and worked with policy makers and national authorities of three countries in the Pacific, namely Fiji, the Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu for two weeks during late July and early August 2018.   

"The recent UNODC Transnational Organized Crime in the Pacific: A Threat Assessment pointed out that Pacific island countries are not represented in global drug situation reports due to the lack of data and information reported from the region", said Inshik Sim of UNODC. "We are here to support the generation, collection, and management of data on illicit drugs and build a strong coordination mechanism among national authorities to monitor and address increasing synthetic drug challenges."  

In the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, the SMART programme, in cooperation with the New Zealand Customs, conducted national workshops to discuss progress made on recommendations from previous workshops in 2017. These were designed to enhance the capacity for collection of illicit drug data and the UNODC team helped the countries with the development of practical solutions to address data gaps. In addition, participating authorities and UNODC have agreed to establish national coordination mechanisms on drug control for data sharing and reporting purposes. For the Government of Fiji, UNODC contributed to the 3rd National Narcotics Committee meeting by providing briefings on recent trends and patterns of illicit drug markets that may have implications for the country, and also raised awareness about new psychoactive substances (NPS) that are available in the drug markets.

"Thanks to technical assistance from UNODC, our partnerships with other national authorities have significantly improved", said Ms. Agnes Mathias, Principal Pharmacist of the Vanuatu Ministry of Public Health. She further stated that "there is now a channel for the Ministry to receive notifications from law enforcement authorities for any suspicious substances entering the country that require our inspection." "Our joint efforts have resulted in seizures of an unfamiliar substance that originated from Asia".

During the visit to the Pacific, the team also met with policy makers and briefed them on the importance of ratifying the UN drug conventions and amending their respective national laws. "Drug laws of a large majority of Pacific island countries are outdated, significantly constraining the ability of authorities to deal with trafficking of various illicit drugs and precursor chemicals coming to the region", said Tun Nay Soe of UNODC. "Establishing up-to-date national legal frameworks in-line with UN drug conventions could be a cumbersome process, but comprehensive data illustrating the national and regional drug situation could facilitate and move forward helpful changes."

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.

Click here to learn more about UNODC's work on Drugs and precursors.

Click here to learn more about the UNODC Global SMART (Synthetics Monitoring: Analyses, Reporting and Trends) Programme.

Click here to learn more about the Asia and Pacific Amphetamine-Type Stimulants Information Centre.