CRIMJUST and RFAI organize webinar on the evolution of the synthetic drugs and opioids markets

19 August 2020 - The Global Programme CRIMJUST, in partnership with the Ibero-American Network of Anti-Drug Prosecutors (RFAI) of the AIAMP, organized a webinar on the evolution of the synthetic drugs and opioids markets to over 400 attendees from 26 different countries from across Central and South America and the European Union via the Microsoft Teams platform.  The event sought to enhance the understanding of criminal justice practitioners of current production and trafficking trends characterizing these illicit drug markets. 

UNODC officials, Diego Quintero and Sofia Cordero, inaugurated the webinar outlining its intended outcomes as well as offering a short overview of the scope and objectives of the Global Programme CRIMJUST, launched and implemented as an integral component of the EU-funded Global Illicit Flows Programme. Mr. Quintero outlined the program’s role in strengthening inter-regional channels of communication between criminal justice institutions in Latin America, West Africa and the European Union and in facilitating post-seizure cross-border investigations. His remarks were followed by Matias G. Alvarez, co-director of RFAI, who recalled the network’s efforts to equip prosecutors with the knowledge and capacities to respond effectively to current challenges posed by emerging drug trafficking trends. His intervention was complemented by his colleague, Ignacio Miguel de Lucas, who described the role and functions of the network and encouraged participants to use the RFAI resources and contacts to facilitate transnational investigations. 

A first presentation was offered by UNODC official, Hernando Bernal Contreras, leading expert at the Integrated System for Illegal Crop Monitoring (SIMCI). Mr. Bernal Contreras discussed the differences between natural and synthetic drugs underscoring the evolving nature of their respective production and trafficking methods. He further described and analyzed New Psychoactive Substances (NPS) shedding light on the challenges facing health and criminal justice agencies in regulating and countering their dissemination. His presentation was followed by Thomas Pietschmann, Drug Research Expert at the Research and Trend Analysis Branch (RAB) of the UNODC, who began his presentation by reminding participants that opioids are the second most consumed drug worldwide, ahead of cocaine. Both Mr. Bernal Contreras and Mr. Pietschmann pointed to the importance of raising awareness around the health and security risks posed by synthetic drugs and opioids. They argued that their high potency enables organized crime groups to reap high returns even when, and if, producing and trafficking small quantities. 

The ensuing Q&A session offered participants an opportunity to interact with experts and clarify remaining doubts. For instance, questions on the type of actors involved in this illicit drug trade or on challenges posed by prescription drug diversion were posed. 

This webinar was organized as part of CRIMJUST’s efforts to strengthen capacities of criminal justice practitioners and to enhance transregional judicial cooperation. It received widespread positive feedback with 99% of participants rating it as extremely useful or useful and 97% of the view that they would apply the knowledge within the next six months. This is the second online activity organized jointly with the RFAI network and contributes to ensuring trainings and knowledge are still made available despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 crisis.

This training was delivered online, in compliance with domestic regulations and the World Health Organization’s recommendations for physical distancing due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

This CRIMJUST activity was funded by the European Union under the framework of the "Global Illicit Flows Programme" [GIFP]). It joins existing efforts to enhance law enforcement and judicial counter-narcotic strategies beyond interdiction activities and to foster transnational responses targeting each stage of the drug supply chain.

For more information, please visit:

-  European Union