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Drug trafficking: Training drug control agents along the Tajik-Afghan border 

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Training drug control agents to effectively respond to drug trafficking challenges along the Tajik-Afghan border

The theme of World Drug Day 2022 is ‘health and humanitarian crises’. To commemorate the Day, UNODC is highlighting its work on drug prevention and treatment around the world, particularly in crisis situations. 

Dushanbe (Tajikistan), 30 June 2022 – Drug trafficking and illicit financial flows emanating out of Afghanistan pose increased challenges for the Central Asian region. Afghanistan continues to dominate the worldwide opium market, accounting for 85 per cent of the global production total in 2020. Opium produced in Afghanistan supplies markets in neighbouring countries as well as Europe, the Near and Middle East, South Asia and Africa. 

Of all of Afghanistan’s neighbours, Tajikistan shares its longest border. The Tajik-Afghan border runs for almost 1400 km and through incredibly rugged mountains that, compounded by weak security, make it porous. Tajikistan is therefore the most vulnerable among its neighbours to drug-related threats and challenges. Accordingly, Tajikistan plays a critical role in fighting illicit drug trafficking, especially given the high opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan, and the increased production of synthetic drugs. Tajikistan ranked eleventh among countries with the largest quantities of opiate seizures in 2020.

UNODC’s counternarcotics efforts in Central Asia aim to strengthen national drug enforcement agencies to address the drug-related threats and challenges effectively. The foremost coordinating institute of drug control, prevention and enforcement-related activities in Tajikistan is the Drug Control Agency under the President of the Republic of Tajikistan (DCA), established in 1999. UNODC has supported it since then to enhance its capacities to counter drug trafficking, including strengthening institutional and human resources capabilities to cope with emerging challenges related to the regional drug situation. 

Since 2020, UNODC in Tajikistan has been establishing a training academy at the DCA as part of a project funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. The academy is designed to empower DCA staff, equipping them with the relevant knowledge and skills to execute effective service delivery.

To establish the long-term sustainability of the training centre, UNODC has assisted in conducting training-of-trainers (ToT) courses to create a pool of national trainers. They will support the DCA by developing and delivering the training curriculum, and advising on the application of relevant tools, standards and norms, and best practices in the design, delivery and evaluation of training programmes.

Two recipients of the ToT courses are Major Nuriddin Sharifzoda, Head of the DCA Legal Affairs Unit, and Lieutenant Colonel Tojiddin Ismoiliyon, Head of the DCA Training Centre. They are building their skills to develop their institution’s capacity, efficiency, and reputation.

Over the past eight months they have delivered training courses with skills and knowledge gained from the ToT programmes and drafted standard operating procedures and some policy documents.

Recently, the pair took a study tour to institutions in Almaty, Kazakhstan and Budapest, Hungary to study methods of organizing, developing, conducting, and evaluating training programmes, and processing information on drugs and precursors. They compared good practices that could be brought to the DCA. 

Mr. Ismoiliyon described his experience to UNODC: “I have extensive teaching experience. By attending ToT courses, I learned about new teaching methods, and how to plan, conduct, and structure a course. I honed my training skills, and knowledge in adult education. I developed the DCA and UNODC project implementation plan and training materials. The trainings greatly contributed to my professional development.”

Mr. Sharifzoda also expressed that “the courses added value to my professional teaching experience. I have trained recruits and in-service officers from the regional and inter-district departments of DCA. The ToT courses improved my training skills and knowledge in using best teaching practices. I am now equipped to conduct advanced training courses for the DCA’s instructors and staff,” he added. 

Both trainers were asked what they intended to do next with their additional knowledge and skills. Both proposed establishing an institute of advanced training and professional development at the DCA training centre to further strengthen the agency’s training and human resources capacities.

Mr. Ismoiliyon discussed developing the DCA’s institutional capacities “to ensure favourable training conditions and high quality of training activities, adapted to modern requirements and in line with international standards. If the agency’s human resources capacity is strengthened, that will contribute to conducting counternarcotics activities more effectively. That will in turn contribute to the effective detection of crimes and drug seizures.”

Mr. Sharifzoda shared his plans to contribute to the agency’s development: “I am engaged in reviewing the current drug control legislation and proposals to improve it. I will help improve drug control regulatory and legal acts and bring legislation in line with international standards and Tajikistan’s obligations. And I will pass my new knowledge on to our officers.”

As part of its activities for World Drug Day, 26 June 2022, the DCA organized and conducted drug abuse prevention public awareness-raising campaigns and contests among youth. Both Mr. Sharifzoda and Mr. Ismoiliyon took active roles in organizing the events and promoting good health, with their enhanced training experience and skills making the activities impactful. 

Mustafa Erten, Head of the UNODC Programme Office in Tajikistan, delivered several ToT courses and follow-up trainings for the DCA officers. He calls the ToT courses “the most sustainable form of capacity development as they support the building of personal skills in imparting knowledge to others, and build up an institutional memory – key for organizations with an eye on continuous development. It is encouraging to witness the strong commitment of the DCA to ToT courses through our joint project,” he added.

Further information

The UNODC Programme for Central Asia will further strengthen the DCA’s capacity through the ongoing Tajikistan Drug Control Agency Establishing the Training Academy: Phase II project. This includes the provision of additional ToT courses, recruit and in-service staff trainings, as well as the establishment of a new database system for tracking information flow on the DCA capacity-building initiatives and the development of e-learning training modules, and an electronic library system in line with the DCA requirements. The electronic library will be updated by DCA trainers with materials, manuals, and instructions.

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