Remarks by Akira Fujino, UNODC Representative for East Asia and the Pacific at the ACCORD Senior Officials Meeting

Five years ago, 36 countries and 16 international organizations endorsed the ACCORD Plan of Action at the First International Congress "In Pursuit of a Drug-free ASEAN 2015" so ably hosted by the Royal Thai Government in Bangkok.

Today, we meet again, this time in Beijing , for the Second International ACCORD Congress, which the Government of China has graciously agreed to host.  I would first of all like to express our sincere appreciation to the authorities of China for their thorough assistance extended to the UNODC Regional Centre and the ASEAN Secretariat in preparing for this Congress.  I would also like to thank all the delegations for their presence here today, a reflection of their firm commitment to the ACCORD process.

 With the ACCORD Plan of Action, you all launched something which no other region had done collectively before.  And today, we gather here to decide where to head tomorrow.

Much has been achieved.  Today, I would like to reflect upon some salient developments and upon new challenges we now face.

Over these years, law enforcement agencies in this region achieved tangible results through practical partnerships.  For instance, over 40 Border Liaison Offices, or BLOs, have been established, through our cross-border cooperation project, with more than 240 Border Liaison Officers working at high risk border zones at the Greater Mekong Sub-region.  BLOs are about building trust on both sides of the borders, which did not readily exist before.  It was a ground breaking mechanism when it was created. The BLO mechanism now ensures real-time information and intelligence exchange, and resulted in seizures of different kinds of illicit drugs, arrests of traffickers and some top level criminals, and the investigation of over 500 cases.   That is impressive.  BLOs have become a model to other regions.  I am pleased to note that more ACCORD partners desire to have the mechanism extended to them.

 

And yet we have all observed recent changes in patterns of clandestine manufacture and trafficking routes of drugs, particularly amphetamine-type stimulants, or ATS.  How did they happen?  As a result of tightened controls and law enforcement actions in, for instance,   Thailand , and more recently China and Myanmar , traffickers are being forced to relocate their clandestine methamphetamine laboratories.  Such changes tell us that we require a further network of intelligence exchange and joint operations.

 

Let us take a look at the development a bit closely.  In the last few years, traffickers attempted to target the Philippines as a new centre for the clandestine methamphetamine manufacture in the region. The Philippine authorities effectively dismantled a large number of methamphetamine laboratories.  Last year in April, as a result of a joint operation between China and Malaysia , a major lab was dismantled in Kuala Lumpur .  Two months later, a mega methamphetamine  lab was found in Fiji .  In April this year, the second large scale MDMA laboratory was dismantled near Jakarta , following the first one uncovered three years ago.

  

These suggest smuggling by sea routes and point to the increased need for greater networking of law enforcement agencies for real time information and intelligence exchange and for maritime drug law enforcement cooperation, both for the final products and for precursor chemicals.  We will exercise our role to link different agencies in various countries to facilitate collective law enforcement operations.

 

When drug trafficking patterns and routes change, abuse follows.  The recent patterns in drug trafficking warrant further advocacy efforts in all countries in the region.  We must take collective actions, involving all concerned: governmental and non-governmental; regional and international.

 

When juveniles and young adolescent drug dependents come in conflict with the law, all too often, imprisonment is the only answer.  It is important to consider also alternatives to imprisonment, including juvenile justice solutions, treatment services, and counseling.  We all must explore comprehensive approaches.  Again UNODC will explore possibilities for linking  experiences within this region and beyond.

 

We all know also that there has been a major, significant reduction in illicit opium poppy cultivation in this region, unprecedented and far-reaching.  Thailand and Vietnam are now clear to a large extent.  Laos is about to declare opium free.  Myanmar also had a significant reduction of three fourths during the past decade.

 

We must now make it sustainable.  We must work on farmers' well being, and not on their fears.  The farmers in the Golden Triangle must benefit from sustainable alternative development activities.  With the loss of opium income, those poor farmers and their families not only lose their coping mechanism to deal with endemic poverty and a chronic food shortage.  They are vulnerable to exploitation and misery. 

  We cannot afford to eradicate illicit opium poppy cultivation at the expense of eradicating communities and displacing families.  Assistance must also be structured with agencies, knowing who is doing what, how, where, and when.  We urge countries, international bodies, and donors to support sustainable alternative development  initiatives.  UNODC will serve as a hub in so doing. 

  Alternative development efforts should also be extended beyond opium poppy.  I am pleased to note that Cambodia , Indonesia , and the Philippines , have expressed their determination to address illicit cannabis plant cultivation.   We shall work together on this.

  We are also deeply aware that the link between drug abuse and HIV/AIDS requires a  comprehensive approach, in addition to emergency measures to prevent HIV infection, through injection or otherwise under the influence of drugs. This approach encompasses treatment and rehabilitation, including relapse treatment, and prevention and education.   The challenge is to conduct massive upscaling.  We must also look into the situation in prisons, or otherwise in custodial settings.   UNODC is working closely with WHO and UNAIDS on this.

  Linkages with crime prevention and criminal justice system issues

Drug trafficking has many interlocking issues. Almost always, it  involves transnational organized crime. It involves corruption. It could involve terrorism.  A comprehensive drug control strategy for the region needs to address these links with other forms of crime. 

  The Convention on Transnational Organized Crime and the Anti Corruption Convention offer new tools in the fight against transnational organized crime. They complement the existing drug control Conventions.  They offer common definitions of criminal acts, tools for joint investigations, confiscation and forfeiture of assets, mutual legal assistance and extradition, and victim protection.  Effective countermeasures require a readiness by drug control agencies to integrate these new challenging issues into their agendas. 

  Steps forward

These recent changes require  further networking for all concerned.  It requires further advocacy.  New types of advocacy.   Given the regionfs diversity in culture, Governments have employed different strategies, resulting in different degrees of impact.  The ACCORD mechanism provides the opportunity for further sharing these best practices and enabling countries to build on them.   It is a multi-sectoral approach that we must all take. 

  I am confident that we will have fruitful deliberations at the various working groups and the plenary sessions, resulting in a realistic and workable Plan of Action.   As you did five years ago, together we now launch new initiatives, into new phases, where you are pioneers.  Other regions will follow.  UNODC is committed to continue its support to ACCORD.  Together we will bridge the gaps and help forge strong regional responses. 

  Thank you for your attention.