8 July 2020 - Despite the hurdles created by COVID-19, the Asset Recovery Inter-Agency Network West and Central Asia (ARIN-WCA) continues its activities and operations in the new environment. The first meeting of the Networks’ Steering Group (SG) in 2020 was convened on 25 June by the Network’s Secretariat under the chairmanship of the Office of the General Prosecutor’s Office of Kyrgyzstan which holds the ARIN-WCA Presidency, and with technical support provided by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) under its Regional Programme for Afghanistan and Neighbouring Countries.
All SG focal points from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan met virtually and discussed solutions to respond to challenges posed by the pandemic, adapt to the new “abnormality” and ensure business continuity. All participants confirmed their strong commitment to fight ill-gotten assets and to strengthen the role of the Network.
New and innovative initiatives were discussed and agreed upon. A mix of desk resources, offline material and online interaction will gradually be implemented ensuring ARIN-WCA functionality and support to its members will continue as well as other ARINs around the world.
Abror Akbutaev, from the Networks Secretariat, stressed the importance of the role of ARIN-WCA within the ARINs family and informed the group that some additional countries outside the region have expressed interest to join the Network as full members.
The meeting was also an opportunity to discuss how to streamline and make more efficient and cost effective the Networks’ activities. A mix of e-learning, desk material and online interaction could complement traditional activities in the future even when the situation will be back to normal, said Uygun Nigmadjanov, Deputy Director of the Uzbek Academy of the General Prosecutor's Office.
In this regard, Danilo Campisi, Criminal Justice Advisor to the Regional Programme for Afghanistan and Neighbouring Countries, welcomed the idea to complement traditional activities with newer, fresher and hopefully more cost effective approaches, “…I would like to confirm that ARIN-WCA is our priority and that we will continue to provide support to the Secretariat and its members as we have done since its establishment” he added.
A set of decisions on both administrative and substantive matters were taken by the group unanimously and the session adjourned to the next Steering Group meeting which will take place in September.
This meeting, which was financially supported by the government of Finland and the European Union showed the UNODC capacity to adapt to the new reality and to provide support in challenging conditions, linking up experts from seven countries to deliberate on critical issues in two languages.