16 September 2009 - On 7 September, UNODC signed a protocol with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Panama to establish the new UNODC regional programme office in Panama.
The office will have three functions. Firstly, it will implement regional programmes in coordination with States members of the Central American Integration System and key partners to fight drug trafficking and organized crime and to strengthen the rule of law in the region.
Secondly, the office will manage and coordinate regional centres of excellence to be established in selected countries on maritime security (Panama), urban crime (El Salvador), organized crime (Guatemala), community policing (Nicaragua) and drug demand reduction and prison reform (the Dominican Republic).
Francis Maertens, Director of the UNODC Division for Operations and Deputy Executive Director said, "this new UNODC office in Panama will upscale operations in this crucial region that is threatened by rising organized crime and drug trafficking. The centres of excellence represent an innovative partnering tool to attract a pool of high-level experts from different organizations in the region who will work together to meet the emerging challenges of escalating crimes by youth gangs, kidnappings and narco-cartels trying to control state institutions".
Thirdly, the new regional office will coordinate activities carried out in the framework of the Santo Domingo pact and the Managua mechanism, which is an interregional technical assistance programme. The programme facilitates periodical consultations and strategic partnerships at the expert and policy levels to more effectively identify and implement coordinated responses to trafficking and transnational organized crime affecting Central America and the Caribbean.
The head of the new office, José Manuel Martínez, said, "Under the Santo Domingo pact and Managua mechanism, we shall strive to strengthen cooperation between the Caribbean and Central America while partnering with key actors such as the Organization of American States, the Ibero-American Secretariat, the Central American Integration System, the Caribbean Community Secretariat, INTERPOL, the European Union and others."