April 25, 2017
UNODC is a world leader in combating illicit drug trafficking and transnational organized crime. The organization's activities are aimed at ensuring health, security and justice for all through providing assistance in countering global threats, including terrorism prevention.

Our today’s guest is Ms. Ashita Mittal, the UNODC Regional Representative for Central Asia. She informed UT readers of the tasks the organization plans to implement during this year.

- What threats are currently being prevented by your organization in Uzbekistan?

- More than ever before, the stakeholders in Central Asia and the Southern Caucasus regions recognize the need and importance of expanding the efforts to address the complex challenges of drugs, crime and terrorism. Proper strategies on countering narcotics, prevention of transnational organized crime and radicalization are central to peace, stability, and effective governance in the region, based on the rule of law that ensures sustainable development. Moreover, it is important to stress that no country alone can address these complex problems and collaboration, joint programming, sharing of information, expertise and experiences are critical.

The UNODC Programme for Central Asia was signed in May 2015. In 2016, the UNODC Regional Office for Central Asia provided technical assistance worth more than USD 12 million as the coordinated, integrated and coherent response to support efforts in the region through 24 national, regional and global initiatives and programmes.

The underlying principle behind UNODC’s assistance is that well-equipped and well-trained actors, when managed and operated in a manner that is consistent with international norms and principles of good governance, health and human rights, contribute to the establishment of healthy and safe societies founded on the rule of law and human rights.

The nexus of transnational organized crime and terrorism including drug trafficking is a concern for the region. On one hand, prevention of the drug trafficking and illicit financial flows emanating out of the increasing opium cultivation in Afghanistan, and on the other, the emergence of new psychoactive substances remains a formidable challenge and present a potential threat to the security and development of the Central Asian region, including Uzbekistan.

UNODC ROCA continued to strengthen the border co-operation between the Central Asian states as well as strengthen the border between Afghanistan, with 13 Border Liaison Offices established and with new border posts being constructed across the region, 4 of them In Uzbekistan. These efforts were further complemented by the UNODC and World Customs Organization’s Global Container Control Programme and its regional segment for Central Asia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. Under this programme, nine Port Control Units were established in the region, with the relevant customs officers duly trained on identifying the illicit trafficking of drugs and goods. 2 Port Control Units were established in Uzbekistan. Additionally, a new initiative was started in Uzbekistan as Inter agency Mobile Teams for furthering counter narcotics efforts especially along the border areas. Developing forensic capacities is also an important part of the work. UNODC is working in Uzbekistan with the Ministry of Justice and Ministry Of Interior forensic laboratories especially for international accreditation processes.

- What national agencies do you cooperate with?

- UNODC ROCA is working with law enforcement agencies in training their staff to counter new challenges and threats.

Additionally, with cybercrime and drugs online being articulated as emerging concerns for the region, the use of cyber space for such illicit purposes as narcotics, trans¬national organized crime, terrorism and radicalization begin to also pose a challenge. In recognition of this threat, the UNODC Programme for Central Asia 2015-2019 ,as well as the Network of Prosecutors and Central Authorities from Source, Transit and Destination Countries in response to Transnational Organized Crime in Central Asia and Southern Caucasus (CASC Network); the Regional Programme for Afghanistan and Neighboring Countries and the UNODC Global Pro¬gramme on Terrorism prevention are engaging in supporting the national responses to build capacities in order to counter these threats.

UNODC is also working with the National Center on Drug Control under the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Uzbekistan; Ministry of Interiors; State Customs Committee; State Border Protection Committee; Ministry of Health; Ministry of Public Education; the Prosecutor General's Office; civil society and many other national counterparts. This of course is full cooperation with theMinistry of Foreign Affairs .

- Mandates of your organization include drug dependence treatment. Tell us more about this area of work.

- Yes, indeed, this is important area of the work of UNODC ROCA towards increasing evidence based drug dependence treatment and HIV prevention. This work is being conducted under the component of the Programme on advocacy of HIV prevention, the TreatNet project, and the drug use prevention programmes such as the Family and Schools Together and Strengthening Families Programme. These are increasingly being adopted in Uzbekistan. The challenge is to improve quality coverage of drug using populations, including people who inject drugs, with evidence based, evidence informed acceptable, affordable and accessible treatment and rehabilitation as well as prophylactic services with a health and humane perspective. Mitigating the consequences of drug use is also central to UNODC work. Preparedness of practioners and service providers are also supported through sustainable training.

- 2016 marked the first year when the countries in the region have embarked on the process of localization and nationalization of the global commitment to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). What role does your organization play in this process?

- UNODC is actively engaged in the work of UN country teams in the region, including Uzbekistan - which is significantly ahead of other countries in the region in nationalizing and localization of SDGs - providing available data and participating in the identification of national SDG indicators, baselines and targets with the UNODC programmes aligned to the SDGs and contributing to their achievement. UNODC work is fully aligned especially in the context of Goal 3.3; 3.6 , Goal 5; Goal 16 . It stands committed to support the national processes on SDGs.

Working in the spirit of “One UN”, UNODC has increased its strategic focus on building multi-partner responses, which help ensure the best and most effective use of our limited resources.

- A new UNODC Programme for Central Asia for 2015-2019 was launched in May 2015, in Ashgabat. Tell us more about it.

- The new programme is being implemented jointly with five Central Asian states. Its total budget is USD 70 million, which is designed for the period 2015-2019. The Programme involves four sub-programmes: SP1 - Combating transnational organized crime, illicit drug trafficking and preventing terrorism; SP2 - Criminal justice, crime prevention and integrity; SP3 - Prevention and treatment of drug dependence, reintegration of drug addicts and HIV prevention; and SP4 - Research and trend analysis. The new Programme is closely linked to the objectives of the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) and SDGs adopted in the countries of Central Asia. Implementation of the Programme objectives will contribute to the achievement of the UNDAF goals, in particular the rule of law, good governance and health.

The first Steering Committee Meeting was held n Tashkent, in February 2016 with Uzbekistan as the Chair. The second annual Steering Committee Meeting of the Programme comprising of high-level officials from countries of the region was held on 6 April in Astana (Kazakhstan). The Steering Committee performs its direct governance role. Particularly, the Meeting reviewed achievements of the Programme in 2016 and approved the Programme Work Plan for 2017.

(Source: «Uzbekistan Today» newspaper)


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