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The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) finalised a four-year memorandum of understanding with the Burmese government on Monday, allowing them to partner on an “integrated programme” aimed at strengthening the rule of law and tackling crime and drug issues.
Jeremy Douglas, UNODC’s representative for Southeast Asia and the Pacific, told DVB on Monday that while the agreement does not mark any significant change to the UNODC’s work in Burma, it does consolidate their projects into a broader framework that has been approved by the government.
“It just basically pulls everything together into a common strategy, and then everything is approved for the next four years,” Douglas said.
The new programme, which the UNODC has described as a “landmark agreement”, will “consolidate” five projects focused on transnational crime, counter-corruption, criminal justice, health and alternative livelihoods, or crop substitution.
Of the programme’s US$40 million price tag, about one third of the budget has been allocated to creating alternative livelihoods, Douglas said.
“That [programme] will be targeting the north of the country where there is opium production, and assisting farmers to shift to alternative crops, sustainable alternative crops,” he added.
Burma has long been among the world’s largest opium producers. The UNODC reported in late June that Burma currently produces about 18 percent of the word’s opiates, and that the past decade has also seen a dramatic rise in demand for synthetic drugs, like ya-ba – a pill-form methamphetamine.