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UNODC and the Government of Myanmar partner to develop new national drug policy

Troels Vester UNODC Myanmar, UN United Nations

Nay Pyi Taw (Myanmar), 14 October 2016
- As part of a comprehensive effort to respond to drug challenges in Myanmar, UNODC has partnered with the Government of Myanmar to lead a consultation process that will feed into the development of a national drug policy. The intention is that the policy will be in-line with the recommendations and outcomes of the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem (UNGASS) which took place in April 2016 when the Minister for Health, Dr. Myint Htwe, participated and spoke on behalf of the Government of Myanmar.

The first of three one-week rounds of working group meetings co-organized with the Myanmar Police Force (MPF) Central Committee for Drug Abuse Control (CCDAC) took place this week in Nay Pyi Taw 10-14 October 2016. Two additional sessions will take place between late October and the end of the year.

Brigadier General Kyaw Win, Commander of the Drug Enforcement Division and Joint Secretary of CCDAC, highlighted at the opening that "Myanmar has been facing drug problems for many years and the government has tried to handle the problem in a comprehensive way. But the focus has been mainly on supply reduction and law enforcement which has led to limited results. Reflecting on the reality of the situation and the aim of the Government to reduce the negative impact on the country, we have decided to develop a balanced and comprehensive drug control policy. The working groups that have been convened this week have been set-up according to thematic areas we will prioritize including prevention, treatment and rehabilitation, law enforcement and supply reduction, alternative development, and cross cutting and new challenges. The Government of Myanmar and CCDAC see this as the start of an important process to develop a new national drug policy with the partnership and technical support of UNODC."

Each of the five thematic working groups was attended by a cross section of staff from agencies and ministries associated with the issues, NGOs and partner organizations, and included a UNODC expert to inform and facilitate the discussion, share international standards and guidelines, and provide examples from other regions that Myanmar might consider. UNODC has started to document the process, and will produce a report at the end of the three rounds.

A significant amount of groundwork was completed prior to the start of the consultation process. UNODC together with other UN partner agencies, including UNAIDS, supported a comprehensive review of the 1993 'Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Law' (the drug law) in 2015. The consultation on the drug law was managed with the MPF and CCDAC and resulted in proposed amendments including the removal of compulsory registration for people who use drugs, a recommendation to transfer programmes for people who use drugs from prison to drug treatment centres, a significant reduction of penalties for small drug offenders, and the inclusion of harm reduction measures. Importantly, implementation of the law was also considered, and when it is finalzed and passed there will be a clear division of responsibility according to ministerial mandates . The draft law is currently with the Attorney General's Office prior to be being finalized and submitted to the Office of the President.

Troels Vester UNODC Myanmar, UN United Nations

On June 27 of this year representatives of a Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (Myanmar Parliament) committee were also briefed by the UNODC Regional Representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, Jeremy Douglas, and UNODC Country Manager Troels Vester on national and regional drug trends, international frameworks and best practices, and policy and programme options for Myanmar to consider. UNODC agreed to assist with finalizing the law, and to help develop an accompanying drug policy framework that acknowledges the mandates of different stakeholders. Mr. Douglas commented at the briefing, "moving forward with the law is a very important step that needs to take place ideally very soon, but the law will need to be accompanied by a policy and strategy that takes into account the different aspects of the drug challenge including focusing law enforcement and criminal justice efforts on organized crime, drug use and health, sustainable alternatives for opium farmers, and also international cooperation. It will need to be comprehensive, and implementation will require that the right parts of the government and society are engaged and ready to contribute. Ultimately, we hope that it will contribute to the peace and stability of the country." Mr. Vester added "we will continue to support with technical assistance where the challenges are most significant in the country, and with regional programmes that help Myanmar to engage with its neighbours. The revision of the law and development of the policy are something we will be able to show as a concrete success at our next country programme governance committee in a few months."