Nadi (Fiji), 9 December 2022 – Pacific island countries and territories, located between two major drug markets, namely East and Southeast Asia and the Americas, have long been a target for the transit of synthetic drugs to destination markets. However, transit countries come with a risk of eventually turning into destination countries as well.
This transformation was confirmed at a regional workshop organized by the UNODC Global Synthetics Monitoring: Analyses, Reporting and Trends (SMART) Programme on 22-23 November 2022 in Nadi, Fiji. This was the first regional synthetic drugs workshop for the Pacific, bringing together law enforcement, public health, and forensic experts from Fiji, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Vanuatu to discuss and share information on the drug situation in their respective countries.
While cannabis remains a major concern in the region, several countries reported that methamphetamine has now become their primary drug of concern, including Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa.
“The drug market for methamphetamine is now established in Fiji, and with it comes increasing security concerns,” said Joji Dumukoro, the Fiji Deputy Secretary for Defence, National Security and Policing. “This has also caused a strain on our public health systems, as they are not yet equipped to properly handle the rise in methamphetamine users.”
Though drug data in the region is available, it remains limited, hindering understanding of the scale of the drug problem. This includes forensic data, which is critical to understand what drugs are in the market. The emergence of synthetic drugs, other than methamphetamine, in the region highlights the need to enhance the forensic capacity of national authorities to accurately detect the presence of new illicit substances.
“For the past three years, methamphetamine samples have formed the largest proportion of samples received by our forensic laboratory for analysis,” noted Venti Chandra, Senior Scientific Officer of the Fiji Police Force’s Forensic Chemistry Unit. “We have also received samples we suspect to be new psychoactive substances (NPS). However, our testing capacity is limited and we were unable to determine the exact nature of the substance.”
The UNODC Global SMART Programme will continue working with countries in the Pacific to enhance their data collection and monitoring capacity to support the development of evidence-based policy responses in addressing the evolving drug situation in the region.
“I would like to thank UNODC for seeing the importance of this region and organizing this necessary workshop,” said Alapati Moafanua from the Samoa Ministry of Police, Prisons & Corrections (MPPC). “We look forward to working more closely with UNODC in the future as we tackle the drug problem in our countries.”
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