Tehran :Countries of West and Central Asia have created a network of drug demand and harm reduction Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), which will greatly contribute to the development and implementation of more effective drug and HIV-related policies and practices in a region heavily hit by the problem of illicit drug use.
The establishment of the network came as the culmination of the “Second Regional Consultative Meeting towards Networking of Drug Demand and Harm Reduction NGOs”, which was jointly organized by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Office in Iran (under the Regional Programme for Afghanistan and the Neighbouring Countries), the Drug Control Head Quarters (DCHQ) of Iran, and the Iranian NGO “Rebirth Society”. The meeting aimed to support the formal networking of the regional NGOs active in the field of drug demand reduction and harm reduction, which will strengthen their ability to collaborate and exchange best practices to address the problems of drug abuse and HIV prevention.
Held at the Iranian Centre for International Conferences in Tehran, the meeting brought together the representatives of 24 drug demand and harm reduction NGOs from Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan; 11 NGOs working in this field from Iran; five relevant international, regional and country networks; as well as DCHQ and UNODC.
UN Resident Coordinator in Iran, Mr. Gary Lewis added that Iran happens to be the only country in the world to establish “drug prevention and control” as a distinct programme pillar within the United Nations Development Assistance Framework, which governs all UN development work in the country. He also emphasized the importance of networking among the NGOs working on drug demand and harm reduction because NGOs are fundamental actors in making life safer from drugs and crime.
In his address at the opening ceremony, H.E. Mr. Fazli highlighted the importance given by Iran to the work of NGOs in addressing drug problems and challenges, pointing out that Iran had also hosted the First Regional Consultative Meeting of this kind in 2011. He also stated that the Government values the support provided by UNODC, Iranian NGOs, and DCHQ to this significant event, which he hoped would lead to a “civil movement against drug demand” in the region.
The UNODC Representative also pointed out that in the last 15 years, the Islamic Republic of Iran has attained groundbreaking achievements in programmes to contain the problems of HIV and drugs in the various areas of prevention, treatment and care in communities and prisons..