UNODC = United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) that aims to combat illicit drugs, organized crime, and corruption. It was established in 1997 through the merger of the United Nations Drug Control Program (UNDCP) and the Centre for International Crime Prevention (CICP). The UNODC operates globally, working with governments, organizations, and civil society to promote peace, security, and justice.

The UNODC plays a crucial role in facilitating global efforts to address drugs, crime, and corruption, working towards building safer and more just societies.


The primary function of the UNODC is to assist member states in their efforts to address the interconnected issues of drugs, crime, and corruption. It provides support through a comprehensive approach that encompasses policy development, capacity building, research and analysis, technical assistance, and international cooperation. UNODC’s work is guided by the three pillars of its mandate:

1. Drugs: UNODC supports countries in their efforts to prevent drug abuse, expand access to treatment and care for drug-dependent individuals, and combat the illicit drug trade. It promotes alternative development programs to provide sustainable livelihoods for communities affected by drug cultivation and production.

2. Crime: UNODC works to prevent and respond to various forms of crime, including organized crime, human trafficking, smuggling of migrants, terrorism, cybercrime, and corruption. It provides technical assistance to strengthen criminal justice systems, enhance law enforcement capacities, and improve international cooperation in combating crime.

3. Corruption: UNODC assists member states in preventing and combating corruption through the promotion of transparent and accountable governance systems. It supports the implementation of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) and provides countries with tools and expertise to enhance their anti-corruption measures.


The UNODC is headed by an Executive Director who is responsible for the overall management and coordination of its activities. The Executive Director is supported by a team of senior officials and staff members working in various divisions and offices. The organizational structure of the UNODC includes the following major components:

1. Divisions: The UNODC comprises several divisions that focus on specific thematic areas, such as the Division for Policy Analysis and Public Affairs, the Division for Operations, the Division for Treaty Affairs, the Division for Criminal Justice, and the Division for Corruption and Economic Crime.

2. Field Offices: The UNODC has a global network of field offices located in different regions, which serve as operational hubs for implementing programs and providing direct support to member states. These field offices work closely with national authorities, civil society organizations, and other stakeholders to address specific regional challenges.

3. Research and Analysis: The UNODC conducts research and analysis on drugs, crime, and corruption to generate evidence-based knowledge and inform policy development. It publishes reports, studies, and other publications to disseminate its findings and promote informed decision-making.

Type of Activity:

The UNODC engages in a wide range of activities to fulfill its mandate. These activities include:

1. Policy Development: The UNODC supports member states in formulating and implementing policies and strategies to address drugs, crime, and corruption. It provides technical expertise and advice based on international best practices and promotes evidence-based approaches.

2. Capacity Building: UNODC assists countries in strengthening their institutional capacities to prevent and combat drugs, crime, and corruption. It delivers training programs, workshops, and seminars to enhance the skills and knowledge of law enforcement officials, prosecutors, judges, and other relevant stakeholders.

3. Technical Assistance: The UNODC provides targeted technical assistance to member states, tailored to their specific needs and challenges. This assistance may include legislative drafting, developing national action plans, establishing specialized units, improving forensic capabilities, and enhancing border control measures.

4. International Cooperation: The UNODC facilitates international cooperation among member states, promoting information sharing, collaboration, and mutual legal assistance. It supports joint operations, regional initiatives, and partnerships to tackle transnational organized crime and drug trafficking networks.

5. Awareness and Advocacy: The UNODC raises awareness about the harmful effects of drugs, crime, and corruption through public campaigns and advocacy efforts. It promotes international conventions and frameworks, advocating for their ratification and implementation by member states. The UNODC continues to adapt and respond to evolving challenges in the areas of drugs, crime, and corruption, employing a multi-faceted and comprehensive approach to support member states in their efforts to build safer and more resilient societies.

1. International Conventions: The UNODC supports the implementation of various international conventions related to drugs, crime, and corruption. These include the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, the United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, and the United Nations Convention against Corruption. The UNODC assists member states in ratifying these conventions and aligning their national legislation with their provisions.

2. Research and Data Collection: The UNODC conducts extensive research and data collection to monitor trends, analyze the impact of drugs and crime, and inform policy decisions. It produces global reports such as the World Drug Report, the Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, and the Global Study on Homicide. These reports provide valuable insights into the dynamics and challenges related to drugs, crime, and corruption worldwide.

3. Alternative Development: UNODC promotes alternative development programs as a strategy to address the cultivation of illicit drug crops, such as coca, opium poppy, and cannabis. These programs aim to provide sustainable and licit livelihood opportunities for affected communities, reducing their reliance on illicit drug cultivation. Alternative development initiatives include supporting agricultural diversification, improving infrastructure, providing access to markets, and promoting social and economic development.

4. Victim Support and Crime Prevention: UNODC recognizes the importance of victim support and crime prevention in its work. It assists member states in developing victim-centered approaches to support and protect victims of crime, including trafficking in persons, smuggling of migrants, and violence. The UNODC also promotes crime prevention strategies, focusing on youth and vulnerable populations, through initiatives such as community-based programs, education, and awareness campaigns.

5. Cross-cutting Issues: The UNODC addresses cross-cutting issues that intersect with its primary areas of focus. These include the links between drugs, crime, and terrorism, the role of gender in crime and drug-related issues, the impact of drugs on health and society, and the challenges posed by new and emerging forms of crime, such as cybercrime and environmental crime. The UNODC integrates these issues into its programs and policy recommendations.

6. Partnerships: The UNODC collaborates with a wide range of partners to enhance its impact and reach. It works closely with other United Nations entities, international organizations, regional bodies, civil society organizations, academia, and the private sector. By fostering partnerships, the UNODC leverages expertise, resources, and networks to strengthen its activities and promote comprehensive approaches to addressing drugs, crime, and corruption.

7. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): The work of the UNODC contributes to several of the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal 3 (Good Health and Well-being), Goal 5 (Gender Equality), Goal 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities), Goal 16 (Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions), and Goal 17 (Partnerships for the Goals). By addressing drugs, crime, and corruption, the UNODC contributes to the overall agenda of sustainable development and promoting peaceful and inclusive societies.

The UNODC has been actively involved in supporting alternative development programs in various regions of the world. These programs aim to provide sustainable livelihoods for communities affected by illicit drug cultivation and production.

1. Golden Triangle, Southeast Asia: In the Golden Triangle region, which includes parts of Myanmar, Laos, and Thailand, the UNODC has been involved in alternative development initiatives for opium cultivation. These programs focus on promoting sustainable agricultural practices, providing technical assistance, and creating economic opportunities in sectors such as coffee, tourism, handicrafts, and sustainable forestry.

2. Andean Region, South America: UNODC has implemented alternative development programs in countries like Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia to address coca cultivation. These programs aim to support farmers in transitioning from coca cultivation to legal and sustainable crops. They provide training, access to markets, infrastructure development, and support for value chains in sectors such as coffee, cocoa, fruits, and textiles.

3. Afghanistan: The UNODC has been actively engaged in alternative development efforts in Afghanistan, where opium poppy cultivation is a significant challenge. These programs focus on promoting rural development, supporting agricultural diversification, and creating alternative income opportunities. Examples include initiatives in horticulture, saffron cultivation, and livestock rearing.

4. West Africa: The UNODC has implemented alternative development projects in West African countries affected by cannabis cultivation, such as Nigeria, Ghana, and Sierra Leone. These programs aim to provide viable alternatives to cannabis farming by supporting farmers in transitioning to legal crops, promoting agroforestry, and facilitating market access for products like shear butter, cocoa, and cashew nuts.

5. Central Asia: In countries like Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan, the UNODC has supported alternative development programs to address the challenges of opium poppy cultivation. These initiatives focus on promoting sustainable agriculture, improving irrigation systems, and supporting value chains for legal crops such as fruits, vegetables, and medicinal plants.

These examples illustrate the diverse range of alternative development programs implemented by the UNODC. The specific approaches and interventions may vary depending on the local context, including the nature of illicit drug cultivation, socio-economic factors, and the needs and aspirations of the affected communities. The UNODC works closely with governments, local communities, and other stakeholders to design and implement tailored programs that contribute to sustainable development and reduce the reliance on illicit drug economies.

1. Sustainable Livelihood Approach: Alternative development programs are based on a sustainable livelihood approach, which recognizes the need to address the underlying socio-economic factors that drive communities to engage in illicit drug cultivation. These programs aim to create sustainable and legal income opportunities, improve access to basic services, enhance infrastructure, and strengthen community resilience.

2. Participatory Approach: The UNODC emphasizes the importance of a participatory approach in designing and implementing alternative development programs. This approach involves engaging local communities, farmers, and other stakeholders in decision-making processes, ensuring their active involvement, and taking into account their perspectives, needs, and aspirations. Participatory approaches promote ownership, empowerment, and sustainability of the interventions.

3. Market Linkages and Value Chains: Alternative development programs focus on developing market linkages and strengthening value chains for legal and sustainable products. This includes supporting farmers in improving production techniques, quality standards, and post-harvest handling practices to meet market requirements. The UNODC facilitates access to local, regional, and international markets, as well as promoting fair trade practices and certification schemes.

4. Access to Finance and Credits: The UNODC recognizes the importance of access to finance and credits for farmers transitioning from illicit drug crops to legal alternatives. It works with financial institutions, microfinance providers, and development agencies to facilitate access to capital, credit, and savings services. This enables farmers to invest in productive activities, acquire necessary inputs, and sustain their livelihoods.

5. Environmental Sustainability: Alternative development programs implemented by the UNODC prioritize environmental sustainability. They promote climate-smart agricultural practices, agroforestry, and sustainable land management techniques to preserve natural resources, protect biodiversity, and mitigate the environmental impact of illicit drug cultivation. These programs contribute to the achievement of both development and environmental goals.

6. Social Development and Infrastructure: The UNODC recognizes that alternative development goes beyond economic aspects and encompasses broader social development. These programs often include interventions aimed at improving access to education, healthcare, clean water, sanitation, and other basic services. Infrastructure development, such as roads, irrigation systems, and storage facilities, is also a key component to enhance productivity and market connectivity.

7. Monitoring and Evaluation: The UNODC emphasizes the importance of monitoring and evaluating the impact of alternative development programs. It utilizes robust methodologies to assess the effectiveness of interventions, identify lessons learned, and make evidence-based adjustments. Monitoring and evaluation help measure the progress made, understand challenges, and ensure accountability and transparency in the implementation of programs.

These examples highlight the UNODC’s efforts to connect farmers engaged in illicit drug cultivation with legal and lucrative markets. By strengthening value chains, improving product quality, and facilitating market access, the UNODC aims to create sustainable livelihoods and reduce the reliance on illicit drug economies.

1. Coffee Value Chain in Colombia: In Colombia, the UNODC has supported alternative development programs focused on coffee production. The organization has worked with local farmers to improve coffee cultivation techniques, enhance the quality of coffee beans, and facilitate access to specialty coffee markets. By connecting farmers with international buyers and promoting fair trade practices, the UNODC has helped establish sustainable market linkages and value chains for Colombian coffee.

2. Cocoa Value Chain in Peru: In Peru, the UNODC has been involved in alternative development initiatives targeting cocoa cultivation. The organization has supported farmers in improving cocoa production, post-harvest processing, and quality standards. Through partnerships with chocolate companies and international buyers, the UNODC has facilitated market linkages for Peruvian cocoa, enabling farmers to access premium markets and obtain better prices for their products.

3. Saffron Value Chain in Afghanistan: In Afghanistan, the UNODC has worked on alternative development programs focused on saffron cultivation. Saffron is a high-value crop with good market potential. The UNODC has provided training and technical assistance to farmers, supported the establishment of saffron processing facilities, and facilitated market linkages. By connecting Afghan saffron producers with international buyers, the UNODC has helped create sustainable value chains and increase the economic viability of saffron cultivation.

4. Shear Butter Value Chain in West Africa: In West African countries such as Ghana, Burkina Faso, and Nigeria, the UNODC has supported alternative development programs targeting shear butter production. The organization has worked with local communities and cooperatives to enhance shear butter processing techniques, improve product quality, and establish market linkages. Through partnerships with cosmetic companies and fair trade networks, the UNODC has helped develop sustainable value chains for shear butter, providing income opportunities for women and rural communities.

5. Fruit and Vegetable Value Chains in Central Asia: In Central Asian countries like Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, the UNODC has focused on alternative development programs promoting fruit and vegetable cultivation. The organization has supported farmers in adopting modern agricultural practices, establishing fruit and vegetable processing facilities, and accessing regional and international markets. By facilitating market linkages, the UNODC has helped farmers in these countries diversify their income sources and establish sustainable value chains for their produce.

1. Handicrafts and Textiles: In various regions, the UNODC has supported the development of value chains for handicrafts and textiles. This includes training artisans in traditional crafting techniques, improving product design and quality, and connecting them with national and international markets. By promoting unique cultural products, the UNODC helps communities preserve their cultural heritage while generating income through sustainable livelihoods.

2. Medicinal and Aromatic Plants: The UNODC has facilitated the development of value chains for medicinal and aromatic plants in different countries. By supporting cultivation, processing, and marketing of these plants, the UNODC helps communities tap into the growing demand for natural and herbal products. This includes establishing partnerships with pharmaceutical companies, promoting sustainable harvesting practices, and ensuring fair trade principles are followed.

3. Organic Farming and Fair Trade: The UNODC encourages organic farming practices and fair trade principles in the development of value chains. By promoting environmentally friendly farming methods and ensuring fair prices for producers, the organization helps create sustainable market linkages that benefit both farmers and consumers. This approach contributes to the preservation of ecosystems, biodiversity, and the overall well-being of communities.

4. Access to Finance and Certification: The UNODC recognizes the importance of access to finance and certification in developing market linkages and value chains. The organization works with financial institutions and microfinance providers to facilitate access to credit, savings, and investment opportunities for farmers and producers. Additionally, the UNODC supports certification processes such as fair trade, organic, and sustainability certifications, which enhance marketability and product credibility.

5. Tourism and Culinary Experiences: The UNODC promotes the development of tourism and culinary experiences as part of alternative development programs. This involves showcasing local cultural traditions, cuisines, and natural attractions to attract tourists. By creating market linkages between farmers, artisans, and the tourism sector, the UNODC helps communities benefit from tourism-related activities, such as agro-tourism, handicraft sales, and culinary tourism.

6. Value Addition and Processing: The UNODC emphasizes value addition and processing in the development of value chains. This involves supporting farmers and producers in improving post-harvest handling, processing techniques, and packaging. By adding value to their products, communities can access higher-value markets and increase their income. The UNODC provides technical assistance, training, and support in setting up processing facilities and meeting quality standards.

7. Public-Private Partnerships: The UNODC collaborates with private sector entities, including companies, retailers, and traders, to develop market linkages and value chains. Through public-private partnerships, the organization leverages the expertise, networks, and resources of the private sector to support farmers and producers in accessing markets, complying with quality standards, and establishing sustainable business relationships.

Communities engaging in alternative development programs often face several challenges in accessing finance and certification.

Some of the common challenges include:

1. Limited Financial Resources: One of the primary challenges is the limited availability of financial resources for communities. Many farmers and producers lack access to formal financial institutions, credit facilities, and investment opportunities. The absence of collateral, inadequate financial literacy, and the perception of high-risk activities like illicit drug cultivation can make it difficult for communities to secure loans and investments for their alternative development initiatives.

2. Lack of Financial Literacy: Financial literacy and business management skills are crucial for communities to effectively access and manage financial resources. However, many communities may have limited knowledge and understanding of financial concepts, budgeting, and financial planning. This can hinder their ability to navigate financial institutions, negotiate favorable terms, and make informed decisions regarding loans, savings, and investments.

3. Complex Certification Processes: Certification processes, such as fair trade, organic, or sustainability certifications, can be complex and demanding for communities. Meeting the required standards, obtaining certification, and renewing it regularly often involve specific procedures, documentation, and compliance with stringent criteria. Communities may lack the necessary resources, technical expertise, and information to navigate these processes, making it challenging to access certification benefits and premium markets.

4. High Certification Costs: Certification processes can involve significant costs, including fees for audits, inspections, and compliance assessments. These costs may be prohibitive for small-scale farmers and producers with limited financial means. Additionally, communities may need to invest in infrastructure upgrades, training, and capacity building to meet certification requirements, further increasing the financial burden.

5. Limited Market Access: Accessing markets, especially premium and niche markets, can be challenging for communities engaged in alternative development. They may face barriers such as lack of market information, limited networks, language barriers, and inadequate transportation and logistics infrastructure. Connecting with buyers, negotiating fair prices, and complying with market demands for quality, quantity, and consistency can pose significant hurdles.

6. Lack of Awareness and Demand: Communities may face challenges in creating awareness and generating demand for their alternative development products. Building market recognition, consumer trust, and demand for new or lesser-known products can be time-consuming and require targeted marketing efforts. Communities may need support in product branding, packaging, and marketing strategies to effectively position their products in competitive markets.

7. Institutional and Regulatory Barriers: Communities may encounter institutional and regulatory barriers that impede their access to finance and certification. Complex bureaucratic procedures, unclear regulations, and limited government support can hinder their ability to access financial services and navigate certification processes. Inadequate policy frameworks or lack of coordination among relevant agencies may create obstacles for communities seeking financial assistance and certification support.

Addressing these challenges requires comprehensive support from various stakeholders, including governments, financial institutions, certification bodies, and development organizations. Providing financial literacy training, facilitating access to microfinance and investment opportunities, simplifying certification processes, improving market information and infrastructure, and strengthening policy frameworks can help overcome these barriers and enable communities to access finance and certification for their alternative development initiatives.

1. Lack of Collateral: Financial institutions often require collateral as security when providing loans or financial services. However, many communities engaged in alternative development may not possess traditional forms of collateral, such as land titles or assets, to fulfill these requirements. This lack of collateral makes it challenging for them to access formal financial services and limits their ability to invest in their alternative development projects.

2. Informal Financial Systems: In some regions, communities heavily rely on informal financial systems, such as community-based savings and credit groups or rotating savings and credit associations. While these systems provide some level of financial support, they may not have the capacity to meet the larger financing needs of alternative development initiatives. Integrating informal financial systems with formal financial institutions can help bridge this gap.

3. Limited Awareness and Capacity: Communities may lack awareness of available financial services and resources. They may be unaware of government programs, grants, subsidies, or loans specifically designed for alternative development initiatives. Additionally, communities may lack the capacity to prepare business plans, financial statements, and other documentation required to access financial resources. Enhancing financial literacy and providing capacity-building support can empower communities to navigate the financial landscape effectively.

4. Cost of Compliance: Certification processes, such as obtaining organic or fair trade certification, often come with associated costs. Communities may need to invest in infrastructure upgrades, training, and audits to meet the certification standards. These costs can be a significant burden for communities with limited financial resources, particularly for small-scale farmers or producers. Support in the form of grants, subsidies, or technical assistance can alleviate the financial burden and encourage certification participation.

5. Market Access Barriers: Gaining access to markets can be challenging for communities engaged in alternative development. Limited market information, lack of market linkages, and the absence of reliable transportation and logistics infrastructure can hinder their ability to reach buyers and effectively distribute their products. Building partnerships with market intermediaries, improving market intelligence, and enhancing transportation networks can help overcome these barriers.

6. Compliance with Standards: Meeting the standards required for certification can be a complex and ongoing process. Communities may need to adopt sustainable farming practices, implement quality control measures, and adhere to specific environmental or social criteria. Complying with these standards may require additional investments, training, and changes in farming or production practices. Providing technical assistance, training, and mentorship can support communities in meeting these standards effectively.

7. Policy and Regulatory Environment: The policy and regulatory environment can either facilitate or hinder communities’ access to finance and certification. Inadequate policy frameworks, unclear regulations, and limited government support can create barriers for communities. Governments can play a crucial role in creating an enabling environment by developing supportive policies, streamlining regulatory processes, and allocating resources to facilitate access to finance and certification.

Capacity-building support plays a vital role in helping communities access financial resources.

1. Financial Literacy Training: Providing financial literacy training programs can enhance communities’ understanding of financial concepts, basic budgeting, financial planning, and investment options. These programs can cover topics such as managing personal finances, understanding interest rates, credit management, and savings strategies. By improving financial literacy, communities can make informed decisions, effectively navigate financial institutions, and better utilize financial resources.

2. Business Development and Planning: Capacity-building support can include training in business development and planning. This involves assisting communities in developing viable business plans, conducting market research, identifying target markets, analyzing competition, and setting realistic financial goals. Communities can learn how to articulate their business ideas, project financial needs, and create comprehensive business plans that attract potential investors or lenders.

3. Access to Market Information: Capacity-building initiatives can focus on improving communities’ access to market information. This includes training on market research techniques, understanding consumer trends, identifying market opportunities, and establishing market linkages. Communities can learn how to gather and analyze market data, assess demand for their products or services, and tailor their offerings to meet market needs.

4. Financial Management and Record-Keeping: Capacity-building support can help communities develop strong financial management skills. This involves training in financial record-keeping, bookkeeping techniques, and financial reporting. Communities can learn how to maintain accurate financial records, track income and expenses, and generate financial statements. These skills enhance transparency and accountability, which are crucial for accessing financial resources.

5. Networking and Partnership Development: Capacity-building initiatives can facilitate networking opportunities and partnership development for communities. Workshops, seminars, and conferences can bring together community members, financial institutions, investors, and potential buyers. These platforms provide communities with opportunities to showcase their projects, establish connections, and build relationships with stakeholders who can support their access to financial resources.

6. Technical Assistance in Proposal Writing: Communities may require assistance in preparing proposals for funding or investment opportunities. Capacity-building programs can provide training on proposal writing, highlighting key components, structuring the proposal, and presenting a compelling case for financial support. Communities can learn how to articulate their project’s objectives, outcomes, and financial needs in a clear and persuasive manner.

7. Mentorship and Coaching: Engaging experienced mentors or coaches can be highly beneficial for communities. Mentors can provide guidance, share expertise, and offer practical advice on accessing financial resources. They can support communities in identifying suitable financial institutions, understanding application processes, and navigating potential challenges. Mentorship programs can help build confidence and empower communities in their financial dealings.

8. Technology and Digital Skills: Building digital skills is increasingly important in accessing financial resources. Capacity-building initiatives can provide training in utilizing digital tools for financial management, online banking, accessing financial services, and marketing products or services. Communities can learn how to leverage technology to streamline financial operations, access online platforms for loans or investments, and expand their market reach.

These capacity-building initiatives can equip communities with the necessary skills, knowledge, and resources to access financial resources effectively. By enhancing their financial literacy, business acumen, market intelligence, and networking capabilities, communities are better positioned to secure loans, investments, and other financial support for their alternative development initiatives.