National Consultant to Review Drug Policy & Law at UNDOC for Sri Lankans only – Colombo

The Indian Ocean Region is at the nexus of global trade and commerce. With nearly half of the world’s 90,000 commercial vessels and two thirds of global oil trade traveling through its sea lanes offering unprecedented opportunity. However, the region is also confronting a myriad of security challenges, including terrorism, transnational crime, trafficking-in-persons and illicit drugs.

Sri Lanka with a coastline is 1,340km and geographic location adjacent to major Indian Ocean shipping routes makes it a favourable transit point for drug trafficking, which evidentially have increased during the recent years. Although Sri Lanka is not a major producer of contraband drugs, its strategic location along important maritime and aviation shipping routes between Europe and Southeast Asia makes it an attractive gateway for international drug trafficking cartels. Gangs seek to conceal their shipments to Australian and European markets by bringing them into Sir Lanka, before switching the cargo into Sri Lankan containers and sending them onwards. Colombo’s high volumes of traffic and lack of effective security checks on cargo make it an attractive trans-shipment point.

Particularly, a spike in large-scale cocaine seizures (a drug previously uncommon in Sri Lanka) is a clear indication that the country is emerging as a key transit point for drug-smugglers. Counter-narcotics operations had traditionally focused their efforts on heroin and synthetic drugs. In December 2016, 928 kilograms of cocaine — the largest ever cocaine haul in South Asia — was discovered aboard a Colombian ship bound for India, one of several high value cocaine seizures in recent years. In March 2019, Sri Lanka’s police arrested two people and seized nearly 300 kilograms of heroin, estimated to be worth US$17 million — the island’s biggest haul of the narcotic. Therefore, the lack of financial and human resources committed to capacity-building like training for anti-narcotic officers is becoming a major challenge.

The majority of drug seizures not only confirms the much alive southern route which runs from Afghanistan through the Makran Coast, but also the fact that Al Qaeda is majorly profiting from it. Apart from Sri Lanka, small unprotected islands like Maldives and Seychelles are seriously affected by the southern route pattern.

The international conventions on drugs and subsequent documents have clearly mentioned the need for a ‘balanced approach’ that includes- production, supply, demand, including harm reduction and that is based on scientific evidence and human rights. UNODC advocates a human rights approach for addressing issues of drug use prevention and treatment across borders. Access to scientifically based drug treatment services may often not be available for a significant proportion of people who use drugs, especially in light of the new and emerging substances.

The current project aims to strengthen communities through evidence-based and family-focused drug use prevention and treatment programmes for children, adolescents and their families to reduce vulnerabilities associated with drug use disorders, violence and delinquency, as well as their recruitment into violent extremist groups.


The overall objective of this assignment is to support project implementation in Sri Lanka including a comprehensive review of existing drug legislations and policy and development of gender-sensitive drug control action plan/strategy in line with human rights and international standards.

Specific Tasks:

Under the overall supervision from UNODC Prevention, Treatment and Rehabilitation Section (PTRS( and Regional Office for South Asir (ROSA), the consultant is expeced to conduct in Sri Lanka ;

  • A comprehensive country needs assessment to review and assess relevant national laws, policies and practices in Sri Lanka to gain an evidence base on the current legal and policy framework related to drugs as well as to identify the main gaps and obstacles in responding to the drug problem; and
  • Support the Government of Sri Lanka in their effort to develop gender-responsive national drug policy including coordination and communication with focal points of the Government and UNODC HQ and ROSA 

UNODC programme staff based in Vienna and Sri Lanka will assist the consultant in identifying relevant respondents in Sri Lanka.

Scope of work and expected outputs/ deliverables:

As a part of the project activities in Sri Lanka, UNODC would like to commission a consultant for following tasks under new drug demand reduction project to be implemented in Sri Lanka for a comprehensive review of existing drug legislations, policies and developing a gender sensitive drug control action plan/ strategy.

The comprehensive review will be a key document for identifying the situation on the ground, and the applicable laws and policies.  The consultant is expected to carry out a comprehensive review based on the information collected through desk research and contacting stakeholders, and prepare a well-written, comprehensive review document. The consultant is expected to conduct a desk review of the existing international literature and the research studies over the past 5 years that are directly related to the scope of the study and the Sri Lankan context. The desk review will include sourcing data from relevant stakeholders including concerned government departments.

The overarching scope of work and expected outputs/deliverables will be:

The situation and needs assessment report:

  • Carry out detailed secondary/desk research through material available online and in printed form, such as relevant websites, journals, reports, media articles, etc.
  • Collect information through phone/ email/ Skype and where possible, direct contact with key stakeholders, such as government functionaries, UN agencies, NGOs, NDDCB, and other experts etc. working on drugs.
  • Collect information shared at UNODC stakeholder consultations, at discussions, as presentations, as well as through direct contact with the attendees.

UNODC’s support for evidence-based and gender-responsive drug policy development;

  • Collect and analyse current national drug policy, in particular drug demand reduction related documents (drug use prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of people with drug use disorders)  
  • Identify focal persons and opportunities for UNODC’s support to further strengthen national drug policy of Sri Lanka towards gender-responsive, evidence- and human-rights-based responses
  • Provide UNODC’s inputs to national drug policy development in appropriate timing for its revision and/or new development 

Preparation and submission of final project report with summary of all the relevant activities and achievements, as well as recommendations/suggestions for further UNODC’s interventions according to investigated drug situation and identified needs in drug demand reduction in Sri Lanka.

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