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Annual Thematic Discussions of the CND 2020 (thematic discussions) were held on October 19-21, 2020 in Vienna during the 3rd inter-sessional meeting of the CND.
The event of 2020 under COVID-19 conditions was held at the Vienna International Center in a hybrid format (with partial personal participation of delegates combined with virtual participation via videoconference).
Representatives of CARICC took part in the thematic discussions as observers in videoconference mode.
Annual thematic debates share best practices, challenges and lessons learned by Member States in implementing all international drug policy commitments and are a key part of the forward-looking process led by the CND.
In the 2019 Ministerial Declaration, Member States, while recognizing the tangible progress made over the past decade, noted with concern the persisting and emerging challenges posed by the world drug problem and committed to accelerating the response to meet all commitments, operational recommendations and set goals.
In the analytical part of the 2019 Declaration, Member States identified a number of challenges to effective implementation of international commitments, and in discussions held in 2020 they brought them to the attention of delegates. The Commission's thematic discussions were preceded by opening speeches and presentations by UNODC representatives.
The three-day format of the event, designed to reach a global audience, included discussions with participation of experts from each regional group, experts from other relevant United Nations organizations, international organizations and specialized agencies, including representatives of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) and the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as experts from civil society.
In particular, they discussed drug treatment, increasing number of deaths from drug use, adverse health effects and risks associated with new psychoactive substances (NPS) that have reached alarming levels worldwide, etc.
The discussion touched upon the topic of mechanisms and deadlines for establishing international control over NPS. The necessity of introducing mechanisms for early warning of the properties and harm of the first-time detected NPS, introduction of accelerated methods of collection, analysis of relevant information and development of methodologies for their research was especially emphasized.
Speakers and delegates stressed the need to strengthen mechanisms for cooperation and speedy information exchange, to establish and expand public-private partnership mechanisms at national and international levels, to make efforts to address problematic issues in a timely manner and to remove obstacles to practical interaction.
On 19 October 2020, a staff member of the Central Asian Regional Information and Coordination Centre for Combating Illicit Trafficking of Narcotic Drugs, Psychotropic Substances and their Precursors joined an online meeting of the Regional Working Group on Precursors hosted by the UNODC Regional Office for Central Asia, which is held on a regular quarterly basis as part of the UNODC Regional Programme for Afghanistan and Neighboring Countries.
The meeting was attended by delegations from the Regional Programme countries and experts from the International Narcotics Control Board, CARICC and UNODC global programmes such Paris Pact initiative.
The event discussed recent trends in precursor control in the West and Central Asia region and national priorities in this area.
CARICC staff member made a presentation on “Information on situation with illicit trafficking of precursors in CARICC Member States”.
The Regional Working Group concluded with a decision to develop a regional response, including a strategy and joint action plans.
Participants highlighted the importance of events in this format and opportunity to share information in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Major-General Rustam Miralizoda, Centre Director, met with Mr. Michael Nowacoski, Assistant Regional Director of the US DEA Middle East Region Office on 2 October 2020 in CARICC.
In the course of the meeting the parties discussed current topics of the Center's work in the context of coronavirus infection pandemic and assistance in implementation of joint counter-narcotics operations.
Furthermore, the parties highlighted the importance of developing international and regional cooperation despite difficult situation with coronavirus pandemic.
The meeting concluded with an agreement to organize similar meetings at least once a quarter.
Second regional working meeting of Steering Committees established under the Border Component of the UNODC Programme for Central Asia was held on September 30, 2020 within the framework of the Sub-Programme 1 “Countering Transnational organized crime, illicit drug trafficking and preventing terrorism” of the UNODC Programme for Central Asia.
The meeting was moderated by Mr. Yusuf Kurbonov, UNODC International Programme Coordinator. In her opening speech, Ms. Ashita Mittal, UNODC Regional Representative, thanked all beneficiaries of the regional project for their strong commitment and expressed her readiness for a continued partnership in combating drug trafficking in the region.
Project beneficiaries from all participating countries in Central Asia - Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, who took part in the working meeting, presented update on achieved results, as well as planned activities under the Border Component.
CARICC was represented at the online meeting by Mr. Yury Chikalov, Acting Head of IAP. In accordance with agenda, he delivered a presentation on “Illicit trafficking of drugs in Central Asia before and during COVID-19 pandemic” and provided details on the Centre's engagement in implementation of the component in recent years.
During the meeting, national programme managers and UNODC partners from each member country informed the meeting about the progress made so far in implementing the project amidst the spread of COVID-19 pandemic in the region and in countries. They also touched upon the project work plan, which needs to be reviewed with regard to quarantine restrictions. In addition, project team drew participants' attention to national and regional events and trainings planned for October-December 2020.
Mr. Rustam Miralizoda, CARICC Director, and Mr. Eser Çengel, Director of the Regional Office for Institutional Development of the Regional Office for Capacity building for the World Customs Organization Europe Region (ROCB Europe), met on September 24, 2020 in the format of videoconference.
The meeting was also attended by staff members of the regional centers, Mr. Naweed Riaz, UNODC international coordinator and CARICC project coordinator, and authorized representatives of national competent authorities of CARICC Member States.
During the meeting parties made presentations on following topics: “CARICC as a platform for international and regional cooperation” and “Foundation, mission, focus areas and activities of the Regional Office for Capacity building for the World Customs Organization Europe Region”.
After learning about goals, objectives and work of organizations it was decided to strengthen cooperation and practical interaction.
CARICC plans to implement this direction of action within the framework of the UNODC initiative on “Networking the Networks" - to establish and expand ties between regional organizations.
On 19 September 2020 the Central Asian Regional Information and Coordination Centre for Combating Illicit Trafficking of Narcotic Drugs, Psychotropic Substances and their Precursors hosted a meeting of Major-General R. Miralizoda, Director, with Lieutenant-General Ye.Turgumbayev, Minister of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan.
The meeting discussed practical cooperation in combating drug trafficking, information exchange, international joint operations, and challenges related to CARICC work.
Mr. R.Miralizoda expressed his gratitude to the Kazakh side for the support provided to the Centre, including financial, and also stated his hope for further support in addressing matters of development of the Organization's activity.
In his statement, the Minister of Internal Affairs remarked that “Kazakhstan attaches the utmost importance to CARICC efforts. Today the Centre is a unique project that has not only achieved certain results, but also has great prospects in expanding counter narcotics. We firmly believe in effectiveness of CARICC as a regional anti-drug entity. Therefore, Kazakhstan has assumed responsibilities of a host country and is making voluntary contributions to CARICC”.
Mr. Ye.Turgumbayev also added that the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Kazakhstan is an active user of the CARICC Central Database and uploads essential information regularly.
The meeting concluded with agreements reached on further development of constructive and balanced international cooperation in combating drug trafficking.
In the format of videoconference, on September 14-15, 2020, a meeting of the Working Group of Experts of the Participating States on Improving the CARICC Regulatory Framework to consider the draft Agreement between the participating States on the exchange and protection of classified information was held.
The meeting of the Working Group was attended by experts from the competent authorities of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Russian Federation, the Republic of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, the Republic of Uzbekistan, representatives of CARICC, as well as the UN Office on Drugs and Crime as observers.
Taking into account that the meeting was held in the format of videoconference, the representative of CARICC was appointed as its moderator.
Based on the results of the discussion, the participants in the meeting reached an agreement on sending the draft Agreement to the CARICC member states for approval, with the subsequent submission to the next meeting of experts of the Council of National Coordinators of the CARICC member states.
Director of CARICC Miralizoda Rustam Aziz and Head of the UNODC Program Office in the Republic of Kazakhstan Mr. Naweed Riaz in their speeches noted the importance of reaching consensus on the draft Agreement considered, as well as the importance of adopting this document for the full functioning and development of the CARICC potential.
An online expert meeting was hosted within the Inter-Regional Network of Customs Authorities and Port Control Units (Inter-regional Network) of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the World Customs Organization Global Container Control Programme on 10-11 September 2020.
The meeting brought together representatives of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, CARICC, the World Customs Organization, diplomatic missions of donor countries and other international organizations, and customs authorities and customs control services of member countries of the Inter-regional Network (the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Georgia, the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the Republic of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and the Republic of Uzbekistan), and the Republic of Azerbaijan, which expressed its interest in joining the Network.
Foundation of the Inter-regional Network, established upon signature of the Memorandum of Understanding on Network foundation by heads of customs administrations on May 22, 2019 in Tashkent, contributed to establishment and strengthening of practical interaction between customs services of the mentioned countries. A simplified mechanism of information exchange between national focal points of customs services and port control units is implemented within the Inter-regional Network.
Ms. Ashita Mittal, UNODC Regional Representative for Central Asia, Mr. Ketil Ottersen (Vienna), Senior Coordinator of UNODC Global Container Control Programme, and Mr. Peter Timmermans (Brussels), WCO Technical Expert, addressed the meeting with welcome remarks.
The event was moderated by Mr. Batyr Geldiyev, Regional Programme Coordinator, and Mr. Peter Timmermans, and key speakers included international coordinators of UNODC programmes in Central Asia and representatives of customs authorities and customs control services of the countries participating in the Inter-regional Network.
Ms. Tatiana Evdokimova, CARICC representative, presented a report on the Center's work under international and regional cooperation in combating illicit trafficking of narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and their precursors. Participants were introduced to results of a study on the use of container transportation for cross-border drug trafficking in 2018-2020 that was performed by CARICC Information and Analytical Unit personnel. Moreover, the CARICC representative emphasized the importance of analytical efforts aimed at addressing challenges of operational and strategic response to drug trafficking and transnational organized crime.
Participants underscored the need to strengthen mechanisms for cooperation and rapid information exchange, to establish and expand links, to address in a timely manner problematic aspects of practical interaction between national customs contacts and port control units of the countries participating in the Inter-regional Network, and to share information in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Based on the results of the UNODC meeting, recommendations will be developed for the countries participating in the Interregional Network.
Coronavirus pandemic in 2020 is likely to be main factor affecting changes in transnational crime and drug trafficking in the world in general and the Central Asian region in particular.
Closure of borders, restriction of movement between cities and other quarantine measures within states have, to a certain extent, complicated transport of narcotic drugs as well as distribution of drugs within countries, in populated areas and between them.
Analysis of drug seizures in the region over the past period in 2020 shows that illicit market traditionally has a higher share of cannabis group drugs.
Meanwhile, the problem of synthetic drugs is becoming more and more acute. Between January and May this year, about 1 ton and 50 kg of psychotropic and new psychoactive substances, some of which are amphetamine-type stimulants, were seized in CARICC Member States.
In the same period, over 370 kg of opium group drugs and 1 ton and 890 kg of cannabis group drugs were seized.
Thus, as a result of monitoring and analysis of available information, the Centre identified main changes observed in drug trafficking and examined some of anticipated elements of drug crime organization caused by restrictive measures related to coronavirus imposed by countries both worldwide and in the Central Asian region.
Closing national borders to movement of people and restricting movement of goods across borders has to some extent weakened the ability of transnational organized crime groups to smuggle drugs and their precursors, as well as to transfer cash generated by transnational drug trade. However, this assumption requires further study, as there is a trend of increasing seizures of drugs in the Central Asian region as a whole (including those originating in Afghanistan) during the period of the pandemic, which may be a result of increased anti-drug measures, including state control of movement of goods at borders, rather than of intensification of transnational drug groups.
However, according to some experts, this encourages organized drug crime to make greater use of the efforts of states to provide food and medicine, which often disguise drugs, to the population. Drug trafficking groups could also make greater use of high-tech equipment in the form of drones and other semi-autonomous vehicles, and vice versa, “natural” means of transporting drug shipments across national borders using animals and postal birds.
Restrictions on movement within countries/regions due to quarantine and emergency situations (including curfew regimes) have also reduced the ability of drug dealers to supply and drug users to obtain narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. It has also become more difficult to distribute drugs contactlessly through caches, etc. However, attention should be drawn here to the opinions of a number of experts that the sale of drugs by contactless means may have been shifted to sales using or under the guise of courier delivery services. This method may continue to be used for criminal purposes in the future, and drug dealers will start using technological tools more actively.
Limitations on movement of people and goods in the world may shift the structure of international drug trafficking from reducing transnational trade and smuggling of plant-based drugs to organizing production of synthetic drugs and new psychoactive substances in places of their direct sale, which allows drug dealers to minimize their risks and costs associated with logistics of drug supplies. This assumption is confirmed by increasing share of NPS and synthetic drugs in composition of drug market.
Self-isolation has led to increased use of electronic services, including criminal ones. This has increased the motivation of drug dealers to switch from using cash payments to using “Darknet” and electronic payment systems. In addition, coercive measures to isolate population and insufficient state measures to provide material support to the most socially vulnerable groups left without a livelihood may facilitate their transition to underground economy sectors. Economic hardship makes societies more receptive to criminal offers such as recruitment for criminal actions such as plant cultivation or courier services for drugs and money. Transnational drug crime is likely to try to use this opportunity to recruit new relatively inexpensive members for “rough work”. This may also be exacerbated by the trend of labour migrants who have been left without jobs and livelihoods returning to the states of the region.
On the positive side, drug traffickers incurred significant economic losses during the pandemic, which, it is to be hoped, undermined the financial capacity of organized drug groups. This factor is likely to help deter the inevitable adaptation of drug crime to the new environment, and drug control authorities will gain time to devise an adequate response.
Mr. B.Abdijaliev, Acting Advisor/Head of International Operations Coordination Unit, CARICC.
Mr. Y.Chikalov, Acting Advisor/Head of Information and Analytical Unit, CARICC.
Mrs. A.Tiurina, Senior Analyst of Information and Analytical Unit, CARICC.
On July 22, 2020 a working meeting of the Director of CARICC Major-General Miralizod Rustam Aziz with the Head of the Programme Office of UNODC in the Republic of Kazakhstan Mr. Naweed Riaz was held.
During the meeting Mr. Miralizoda R.A. informed Mr. Naweed Riaz about the results of his business trip to the capital of the Republic of Tajikistan.
The parties gave a positive assessment of the webinars organized and held in early July, which were attended by staff of the Centre, representatives of the competent authorities of CARICC member states and international organizations, including UNODC and OSCE. The issue of holding a competition to fill the vacant posts of CARICC was also considered.
At the end of the meeting, plans were outlined for the near future to promote the organization at the regional and international levels and the issue of the CARICC development in the conditions of the spread of coronavirus infection COVID-19 was discussed.
During his working visit to Tajikistan, the Director of CARICC, Mr. Rustam Aziz Miralizoda, met with his Excellency Zohir SAIDZODA, Deputy Minister of foreign Affairs of Tajikistan.
The meeting discussed accession of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Republic of Turkey to the CARICC Agreement, the Centre's work to review and agree upon draft Agreement between CARICC Member States on exchange and protection of secret information, as well as other important cooperation topics in combating illicit drug trafficking and prospects for its development.
A few days earlier, CARICC Director met with leadership of the DCA under the President of the Republic of Tajikistan, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Tajikistan, and other law enforcement agencies and specialized institutions of the country.
On July 10 and 11, 2020 in Dushanbe Major-General R.A.Miralizoda, CARICC Director, had working meetings with Lieutenant-General Sh.O.Salimzoda, Director of the Drug Control Agency under the President of the Republic of Tajikistan, and Colonel-General R.Kh.Rahimzoda, Minister of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Tajikistan.
The meetings discussed CARICC cooperation with competent authorities of Tajikistan, as well as the use of CARICC capacity in promoting regional anti-narcotics collaboration during the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus infection.
During their meetings participants also discussed topics related to Tajikistan's chairmanship at the Centre, accession of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Republic of Turkey to the Agreement on Establishment of the CARICC, the Centre's efforts in reviewing and agreeing upon draft Agreement between CARICC Member States on exchange and protection of secret information, as well as conducting an online competition among employees of competent authorities that passed the first qualifying round for recruitment to vacant CARICC posts, and other matters of mutual interest.
During his visit to Tajikistan, CARICC Director R.A.Miralizoda will meet with heads of other law enforcement agencies and specialized authorities of the Republic of Tajikistan.