3 May 2010 - Experts from 18 Arab countries have agreed to a five-year programme to improve drug and crime control and criminal justice reform in the Middle East and North Africa. At a three-day meeting in Cairo, jointly organized by UNODC and the League of Arab States, the experts mapped out a strategy to reduce vulnerability to organized crime and terrorism, strengthen integrity and justice, and prevent drug abuse in the region.
"The Regional Programme on Drug Control, Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Reform in the Arab Countries should improve security, justice and health in Arab States", said Mohamed Abdul Aziz, Regional Representative at the UNODC Regional Office for the Middle East and North Africa, in Cairo. The delegates highlighted in particular the importance of implementing regional responses and prioritizing technical assistance for Yemen and the Palestinian Authority.
Factors including the region's geographical location, income inequality, rapid urbanization and instability have increased the vulnerability of the Middle East and North Africa to organized crime and drug abuse. Criminal justice systems are under-resourced and prison conditions need to be improved. There is also a lack of data on drugs and crime. "I urge countries of the region to integrate and mainstream drug control and crime prevention into national and regional development plans", said Mr. Aziz.
"We strongly welcome the joint Programme that reinforces our cooperation and provides a practical mechanism to make a real difference on the ground", said Mohamed Ben Khadra, Head of the Technical Secretariat of the Council of Arab Ministers of Justice.
The main purpose of the Regional Programme is to create a new momentum in promoting the rule of law and human development in the region, outlining the national and regional support that UNODC can provide to such efforts by Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, the Libyan Arab Jamirihiya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the Sudan, the Syrian Arab Republic, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen, as well as the Palestinian Authority.
The 18 countries, represented by experts from the ministries of health, justice and the interior working on trafficking and organized crime, justice and integrity and drug prevention and health, elaborated the Regional Programme, which covers three main challenges to the region by: countering illicit trafficking, organized crime and terrorism; promoting integrity and building justice; and preventing drug use and promoting health.
"UNODC's work is tangible, fruitful and in full accordance with our national priorities", said Khaled Salim, Head of the Planning and Development Unit, Ministry of Interior, Palestinian Authority. UNODC is currently expanding its cooperation with the Palestinian Authority in the criminal justice sector.
The Cairo Declaration and the Regional Programme will be presented to the Ministerial Council of the League of Arab States later this year for adoption and presented to the regional and international development community for further partnership building and cooperation.