Tirana (Albania) 23 June 2023 - The Fifteenth Meeting of Heads of National Drug Law Enforcement Agencies (HONLEA), Europe concluded today in Tirana, Albania, following four days of discussions among practitioners on drug-related challenges and trends in the region.
The regional exchange was timely, at a moment when global supply of illicit drugs is growing notably, with cultivation and production of cocaine having reached unprecedented highs. Demand for illicit drugs, especially among young people, has also soared. Regional challenges also include the alarming pace of synthetic drugs development, the increased use of the Internet in drug transactions, and the negative impact which the illicit drugs market has on the environment.
National experts from close to 30 countries discussed a broad range of topics, including alternative development as a way to reduce illicit cultivation and production of drugs, financial investigations in drug trafficking cases, measures to counter the illicit manufacturing and diversion of precursor chemicals used in the production of drugs, and the link between drugs and the environment. Fostering regional cooperation and finding more effective ways to advance in addressing these drug-related challenges were at the core of the meeting, which resulted in a set of recommendations put forward by all participants which will be presented to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs in 2024.
For example, fostering joint investigations and promoting mechanisms to allow for effective data sharing between law enforcement and private entities, as well as across countries, were considered key steppingstones to advance joint efforts to address and counter the world drug problem. Other recommendations included the importance of providing adequate training for law enforcement officers on the use of new technologies to counter drug trafficking, production, and money laundering, including online. Participants also recommended the possible establishment of an international repository with information on accredited equipment for the detection of new substances.
Ambassador Ruiz-Blanco, Chair of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs at its sixty-sixth session, underscored in his opening video-statement the importance of the HONLEA deliberations, as the recommendations put forward are “particularly important at this point in time, when we are preparing for the 2024 mid-term review of all international drug policy commitments set forth in the 2019 Ministerial Declaration”. He further stressed that the mid-term review provided an opportunity “to take stock of how far we have come in addressing drug challenges, and what needs to be done to advance further, faster.”
Neritan Nallbati, Director of the Criminal Police Department of the State Police in Albania, stressed that drug problems cannot be addressed by individual countries alone, but that they remain an issue of international concern which can only be addressed through the joint efforts of all countries together.Held every two years, HONLEA, Europe – one of the five subsidiary bodies of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs – provides a platform for practitioners to discuss the regional perspective of the drug problem. The Fifteenth Meeting was organized by UNODC with the support of the General Directorate of the Albanian State Police.