Ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you for joining us for the launch of the UNODC Programme for Central Asia for 2022 to 2025.
I am grateful to the Government of Uzbekistan, especially to the honorable President Shavkat Mirziyoyev and His Excellency Mr. Abdulaziz Kamilov, for hosting this event in the beautiful city of Tashkent.
My thanks to the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, the heads of law enforcement agencies, health ministries and all partners for their active engagement in extensive national consultations to develop the programme, which have resulted in firm commitment and agreement on the main areas of cooperation with UNODC.
The Programme for Central Asia is being signed at a pivotal time, when the global COVID pandemic has derailed development progress and strained the capacities of Member States, and the evolving situation in Afghanistan is posing complex challenges to regional as well as international peace and security.
The new programme will ensure that UNODC support to the region is fit for purpose.
Through constructive dialogue with our partners across Central Asia, we have jointly identified comprehensive approaches and solutions to address capacity development, legislative support, knowledge management, infrastructure improvement, research and data, policy dialogue and communications, and digital innovation.
It will also build on all that we have achieved together through the previous cycle of the programme, to strengthen capacities in countering drugs, organized crime, corruption, and terrorism.
Our results include the establishment of 19 Border Liaison Offices, 20 Port Control Units, and the first Air Cargo Control Unit in the region in Almaty Airport, as well as 13 Inter-agency Mobile Teams in Uzbekistan to counter trafficking, while facilitating licit trade.
UNODC also helped to strengthen border security through the construction and renovation of 11 border posts and outposts on the Tajik-Afghan border.
We have promoted better regional and international cooperation and information exchange through several platforms, including the Central Asian Regional Information and Coordination Centre, or CARICC; the Inter-Regional Network of Customs Authorities and Port Control Units within the Global Container Control Programme; the Judicial Cooperation Network for Central Asia and Southern Caucasus, or CASC Network.
Our Office provided expert and technical support in implementing criminal justice and crime prevention reforms, as well as police and penitentiary reforms.
Through this work, we have helped to enhance responses to the threats of terrorism and violent extremism, trafficking in persons and gender-based violence, with an emphasis on age- and gender-sensitive approaches, in line with international norms and human rights standards.
Moreover, we have promoted health-centred, rights- and evidence-based approaches to drug use prevention and treatment.
We have reached out to millions of young people and children in this region through our programmes to encourage a culture of lawfulness and integrity, promote drug use prevention, and build resilience to crime and radicalization to violent extremism.
Civil society cooperation and community structures, such as Mahallas, as well as youth and women’s community-based organizations, have been central to this work.
I am very grateful to our donors for their continuous financial contributions that made these results possible.
With their support, UNODC delivered around 85 million dollars of integrated technical assistance through the Programme for Central Asia 2015-2021, the Regional Programme, and through global initiatives.
The new Programme for Central Asia is fully aligned with national priorities and the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular targets to achieve peaceful societies and accountable justice institutions, gender equality, health, and global partnerships within a rule of law and human rights framework.
The programme is also in line with, and supported by, UNODC’s recently adopted global strategy for 2021-2025.
Our vision for Central Asia echoes the UNODC Strategy’s aspirations for “a healthy, safe, and secure community, free from the threats posed by organized crime and drug use and confident in the integrity of the justice system to provide access to services for all”.
Going forward, UNODC is committed to further advance our work in the region, to address cybercrime and other evolving challenges.
We also stand ready to share international expertise on community-based crime prevention, access to gender-responsive justice and best practices for the safe and humane custody of prisoners, in line with the Nelson Mandela Rules.
I am very pleased to note that all partners confirmed their commitment to increasing cooperation to prevent and counter corruption.
I am looking forward to welcoming the delegations from the region at the Conference of the States Parties to the UN Convention against Corruption in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt from 13 to 17 December 2021.
The successful implementation of the new Programme will depend on national ownership and political support, resources mobilization, and engagement with different stakeholders.
To translate the SDG pledge “to leave no one behind” into concrete action, UNODC will engage with women, youth, and vulnerable and marginalized groups, including victims of violence, trafficking and abuse, to support and empower them, and enable them to share their experiences and ideas, to design prevention and health promotion activities with us.
We will also join forces with UN partners, civil society, private sector, academia and media, in implementing the programme, and we will communicate our joint achievements to the people of Central Asia.
Just last week, UNODC released a new research brief on the drug situation in Afghanistan, which reveals heightened transnational threats posed by drug trafficking and related illicit flows.
The reports also notes with concern that uncertainty since August 2021 has been driving up opium prices and increasing incentives for cultivation.
Afghanistan accounts for some 85 percent of the world’s opium production. The 2021 opium harvest marked the fifth year in a row with production at historic highs of more than 6,000 tons, potentially yielding up to 320 tons of pure heroin to be trafficked to markets around the world.
In response to these challenges, UNODC has developed a new strategic framework, encompassing interventions in and around Afghanistan, to protect people and prevent spillover of threats to security and health. It is a work in progress, and we are engaging with our partners in the region, donors and other stakeholders on its further elaboration and implementation.
The Programme for Central Asia has a key role to play in these efforts, and I welcome your perspectives and feedback on how we can work together to support the people of Afghanistan and reinforce stability in the wider region, also by addressing the linkages between drug trafficking with other crimes, including illicit financial flows, small arms and light weapons and terrorism.
UNODC looks forward to advancing this work with you, in achieving our shared goal of keeping the people of Central Asia safer, and to advance peace and security, sustainable development and human rights for all in the region.