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ASEAN adopts a ground-breaking agreement on border management

Bangkok (Thailand), 25 October 2021
- The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has adopted a framework known as the ASEAN Border Management Cooperation Roadmap to improve policy and practical collaboration to address transnational crime at and along borders. UNODC has coordinated with Thailand throughout the development and negotiation process of the Roadmap, co-organizing several rounds of consultations and conferences, and developing and contributing to strategic documents.

Rapid economic development connected to free trade agreements and the expansion of cross-border infrastructure has deepened economic integration between countries in Southeast Asia over the past two decades. But while growth has raised living standards and increased GDP it has also exposed vulnerabilities and created opportunities for organized criminal groups and traffickers. Transnational organized crime networks have developed complex supply chains across the region and they are often able to circumvent or evade authorities whose jurisdictions stop at national borders. Responding requires cooperation at different levels between governments and law enforcement agencies, including at front-lines and borders.

The ASEAN Border Management Cooperation Roadmap consists of nine action items to strengthen the capacity of law enforcement agencies and address existing barriers to cooperation. New channels of communication will be created between policy makers dedicated to border management, operational procedures will be developed and the UNODC-supported Border Liaison Office (BLO) network will be expanded, and common standards for processes and data collection between countries will be established for the first time.

The initiative was advanced through stages that included a high-level conference on border security in 2019 co-hosted by UNODC and Thailand in Bangkok during Thailand’s ASEAN chairmanship. Following the conference UNODC worked closely with Thai authorities to develop a working draft that included a series of recommendations for further action by ASEAN. The draft was presented to the 2019 ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting on Transnational Crime (SOMTC), reference to it was included in the Summit Statement, and leaders discussed it in the ASEAN-UN Summit. The draft was then advanced and unanimously adopted during the 2020 SOMTC and was endorsed by the 2021 ASEAN Directors-General of Immigration Departments and Heads of Consular Affairs Divisions of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs Meeting (DGICM). The September 2021 ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Transnational Crime (AMMTC) adopted the ASEAN Border Management Cooperation Roadmap, commending the time and effort taken to advance the initiative.

Thailand will continue to serve as lead-shepherd for the Roadmap, and UNODC will work with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and National Security Council to advance and monitor it. UNODC will also continue to support and expand the BLO network, encourage improved data collection and exchange, analyse the crime and trafficking situation, and support joint and cross-border operations to address transnational organized crime in Southeast Asia.

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Click here to learn more about UNODC regional work on border management