Vienna, 3 September 2019 - The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) gathered around 100 drug statistics experts from 60 countries in Vienna from 28 to 30 August to discuss the update of a key international drug-data collection tool, the Annual Report Questionnaire (ARQ), as well as priorities for related capacity building.
The meeting explored how to modernize the ARQ in view of the fast-changing nature of the drug problem. It considered issues such as the diversification of drugs and the implications for health, prevention and treatment, as well as new trafficking modes and increasing demand of the international community to better understand the links between drugs, corruption and illicit financial flows.
During the intense technical consultations experts provided critical suggestions for constructing an improved and streamlined questionnaire. Together with the identification of practical steps to support countries' capacities to report on their drug situation, the meeting will help UNODC to finalize a solid proposal on a new ARQ and a list of priorities for capacity building to present to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) for its consideration.
When celebrating the successful conclusion of the meeting, Angela Me, Chief of the Research and Trend Analysis Branch of UNODC, said that "experts provided important insights on how to improve evidence on drug-related matters. The mission of UNODC research is to provide the best possible evidence to support decision making, a goal that can be achieved only with the support and contribution of national experts on drug information systems. Meetings like this one helps us to build a strong community of national experts which can provide the impartial information the world is asking for."
The process of developing a new ARQ started at the end of 2017 with a global e-consultation on the status of the current ARQ involving Member States, civil society and international organizations. This was followed by a first Expert Working Group meeting in January 2018. Another global e-consultation involving Member states, civil society and international organizations on the newly developed draft ARQ was then conducted in August 2019, after which the second Expert Working Group meeting was held in August 2019.
Some activities are still needed to finalise the ARQ, including a pilot exercise. A new ARQ is scheduled to be submitted to the CND in 2020. If approved by the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, the new ARQ is expected to go live and be used for data collection in April 2021.