UNODC & Member States Renew Commitment Towards Strengthening Regional Cooperation Between Afghanistan and Neighbouring Countries

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Kabul (Afghanistan), 29 December 2020 — UNODC’s Regional Programme for Afghanistan and Neighbouring Countries held its Ninth Annual Programme Steering Committee (PSC) to review its achievements over the past two years. The meeting was opened by Ms. Deborah Lyons, Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) for Afghanistan and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).

The SRSG, Ms. Lyons, emphasized that “The Regional Programme is at the very core of the vision for the needed collaboration and hard work that must be done to bring stability and prosperity not only to Afghanistan but the whole region.”

Ms. Miwa Kato, Director of Operations at UNODC, and Mr. Habibullo Vohidzoda, Director of the Drug Control Agency of Tajikistan, also attended the virtual event. They were joined by high-level officials from drug control agencies, ministries judicial branches, donor countries, implementing partners and Permanent Missions from the eight countries that make up the Regional Cooperation Programme: Afghanistan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

The SRSG commended UNODC and the Member States for establishing the Programme, highlighting the importance of  regional cooperation in addressing important cross-border issues through joint action.

Ms. Lyons also noted the impressive level of engagement that the Programme has garnered on critical issues for Afghanistan and its neighbours, while taking stock of its many achievements. She further emphasised the United Nations reform, aimed at fostering inter-agency collaboration and working ‘as one family’.

In her remarks, she stressed that continued regional cooperation and partnerships with countries in West and Central Asia is absolutely critical to Afghanistan’s peace, security and development agenda; with the Programme laying a strong foundation for the prosperity of the entire region.

During the meeting, the Programme’s work was commended as a clear reflection of what was echoed at the Geneva Conference on Afghanistan. Member States then reviewed the Programme’s achievements throughout 2019 and 2020, renewing their commitment to strengthening regional cooperation as a pathway to promoting regional peace, security and sustainable development.

In her intervention, UNODC Director of Operations, Miwa Kato, noted that “the Regional Programme is strategically positioned as an ideal platform to allow countries to come together to discuss, devise solutions around the many areas addressed through UNODC mandates and put them into action.”

Donors and partners expressed their satisfaction with the results achieved thus far through the Programme’s nine years of existence, strongly supporting the roll-out of the new phase 

“The Regional programme is one of the most important UNODC programmes, which is providing an opportunity to exchange experience and best practices,” extolled Mr. Habibullo Vohidzoda, Director of the Drug Control Agency of Tajikistan.

He then noted the negative effects of illicit drug trafficking across the region. The threats this crime poses to peace and security can be only addressed through integrated regional responses based on the principle of ‘shared responsibility’, he added.

Mr. Vohidzoda further emphasized the importance of cooperation at the regional level, and that the Programme’s ongoing implementation is vital to overcome the latest challenges in jointly tackling illicit drug-trafficking and associated crimes.

The structure and elements of the Programme’s third phase were presented before the Steering Group as well as its donors and partners during the meeting. The launch of the new phase received strong and unanimous support from all attendees, particularly Finland; who generously offered funding to secure its ongoing implementation.