11 May 2017 - Ministers and officials from Mekong countries - Cambodia, China, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam - and UNODC have come together, in Phnom Penh, to endorse a new strategy to address regional drug challenges.
The Mekong region has a persistent and evolving drug problem. Alarmingly, production and trafficking of methamphetamine and heroin within and from the region are now estimated to generate over US $40 billion annually, with the latest data showing that the flow of illicit drugs and precursor chemicals continues to rise across all six countries.
National authorities have been candidly discussing the challenges and difficulties they have managing the situation, and the fact that in some parts of the region peace and stability are being undermined by the drug economy and trafficking. The situation related to methamphetamine is particularly difficult, with all six countries reporting rising use for several years in a row, and four of the six countries reporting seizures of significant production facilities in the past three years.
"The Mekong MoU is an important platform to address different drug-related challenges we face. The drug problem transcends all our borders and is truly regional and shared," said H.E. Gen. Ke Kim Yan, Deputy Prime Minister of Cambodia and Chairman of the National Authority for Combating Drugs. "The new Mekong MoU Action Plan that we have agreed to today is owned by the six countries of the Mekong and reflects our commitment to work together," he added.
Significantly, the Mekong MoU is among the first regional cooperation platforms in the world to adopt the approach endorsed at the 2016 Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on the World Drug Problem (UNGASS). The new Action Plan will address drug-related challenges in the region by strengthening strategies and capacities across four thematic areas: drugs and health; law enforcement cooperation to address organized crime and improve border management; legal and judicial cooperation; and sustainable alternative development.
Aldo Lale-Demoz, Deputy Executive Director of UNODC, said "the Mekong MoU is a unique international cooperation and partnership framework that mirrors the UNGASS outcome document, adapting it to the regional reality. Other groups of states considering how to address the drug problem should look at what has been agreed to here today."
"The Mekong is a complex expanding drug market, and it is clear that approaches in the region have not been very responsive," added Jeremy Douglas, Regional Representative of UNODC for Southeast Asia and the Pacific. "It is encouraging to see regional policy makers reflect on past policies and strategies, and to agree to a plan that re-focusses efforts to address negative impacts on communities and people," Mr. Douglas added.
Ministers also endorsed the "Phnom Penh Joint Declaration on Effectively Addressing the Drug Problem in the Region" during the meeting. The Declaration reaffirms the determination to address drug challenges within the framework of the three international drug conventions, while connecting the Action Plan with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Post 2030 Development Agenda.