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UNODC holds the 2nd Steering Committee meeting on the EU-UNODC joint action on enhanced border control

22. februar 2022.

22-23 February 2022, Belgrade, Serbia / online: UNODC held the 2nd Steering Committee on the EU-UNODC joint action promoting rule of law and good governance through targeted border control measures at ports and airports in South-Eastern Europe in a hybrid mode to discuss the main developments within the action to date and agree on the way forward.

The initiative is aimed at enhancing the capacities of authorities in the Western Balkans to fight organized crime, by supporting more effective and coordinated responses to illicit trafficking by border law enforcement at land and port border crossing points and international airports in the region. The action is funded by the European Union (EU) and is implemented by the UNODC-WCO Container Control Programme (CCP) and the UNODC-WCO-INTERPOL Airport Communication Project (AIRCOP) in cooperation with the UNODC Regional Programme for South Eastern Europe.

Specifically, UNODC is working on the establishment of joint airport inter-agency groups composed of an AIRCOP Joint Airport Interdiction Task Force (JAITF) and a CCP Air Cargo Control Unit (ACCU) to cover both cargo and passenger threats as well as providing continuous technical assistance to the existing Port Control Units (PCUs) established by CCP.

The action’s main stakeholders were convened to the event, including senior representatives from the Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR), EU delegations and the Government authorities in the region as well as UNODC along with WCO and INTERPOL.

The UNODC Chief of the Regional Section for Europe, West and Central Asia and Regional Representative for South Eastern Europe opened the event and highlighted that “international commitment and cooperation is an investment in our shared vision of the future and if we have learnt anything from the pandemic it is from the numerous examples globally of how acting together we are stronger and can tackle the greatest of threats.” He pursued with pointing out the challenges still faced by South Eastern Europe while underlining the importance of national ownership in UNODC work in the region.

The Head of Sector Rule of Law, Security, Migration and Reconciliation at DG NEAR stressed in her statement that “regional cooperation is at the heart of what EU membership entails” and expressed appreciation on the strategic partnership with UNODC and the hope that “the positive trend will continue and will be strengthened”.

Fotografija: © UNODC

The event followed with interventions from UNODC representatives stating the importance of continuing efforts in addressing both cargo and passenger related threats while reminding on the objectives of the action. Subsequently, the Governments’ authorities from the region provided a status update on activities within the action, progress and the next steps, particularly on the establishment of the joint inter-agency groups.

A special session was dedicated to gender mainstreaming, and the necessary efforts in this direction. CCP presented its Women’s Network, its objectives, what is being done to support the women working in CCP units, including raising awareness on the issue and creating tools for women to be able to exchange on the challenges they face and the need to have more gender mainstreaming activities. CCP also mentioned a study on representation of women in the Customs Administrations of the region currently conducted within the action, which is intended to collect qualitative and quantitative data on women’s representation in the relevant agencies and provide tailored recommendations. Similarly, AIRCOP presented its initiatives to promote gender related policies and activities, including the “Series of Portraits” initiative which gives more visibility to women in law enforcement. The AIRCOP representative also mentioned the benefits of women being part of the inter-agency groups from an operational perspective, and announced the introduction of a mandatory training focusing on gender within the inter-agency groups to mitigate potential weaknesses caused by the lack of women in key posts.

The first day sessions concluded with the review of the workplan for 2022 and its endorsement and adoption by all the participants. This was followed by an overview of the communication and visibility activities within the action.

The second day focused on the practical elements of cooperation such as the development of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) as well as inter-agency cooperation illustrated with case studies presented by CCP and AIRCOP. The value of the Steering Committee meeting was also underlined through discussions among the authorities present in the room.

The action’s Steering Committee is aimed at providing specific guidance and support to the action as it allows for all the stakeholders to meet and discuss key issues aimed at reviewing the progress of the action and deciding on future undertakings. In doing so, the national ownership of the governments in the region is ensured leading to greater coordination and coherence in the action implementation.

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