KABUL MEETING DISCUSSES
VIENNA, 23 JULY (UN Information Service) -- President of the Afghan Transitional Authority (ATA), Hamid Karzai, has reiterated his government’s strong commitment to fight cultivation, processing, trafficking and abuse of illicit drugs. He was speaking at the opening session of the conference on coordination of counter-narcotic activities co-organized by the United Kingdom and the UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (ODCCP), held in Kabul today (23 July).
The conference, attended by representatives of UN agencies involved in the reconstruction effort as well as donor countries, supported the Afghan government’s decision to ban opium poppy cultivation in the upcoming planting season. Participants -- including Michael Ryder, British government’s Special Representative for International Drugs Issues, and Nigel Fisher, Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Afghanistan -- emphasized the need to assist Afghanistan in building the country’s law enforcement capacity, in implementing drug demand reduction projects and providing Afghan farmers with sustainable alternative livelihoods.
"The drug problem in Afghanistan is a global, but also a regional issue. It has to be dealt with at a regional level. We are working with Afghanistan and all neighboring countries in order to strengthen their cross-border cooperation and their capacity to interdict illicit drug trafficking," Antonio Maria Costa, the Executive Director of the ODCCP, said.
ODCCP has been actively engaged in a broad range of anti-narcotics and crime prevention efforts in Afghanistan. The Office is conducting continuing opium poppy monitoring, providing internationally the most reliable estimates of the extent of growing. Since reopening its country office in February, ODCCP has developed a comprehensive strategy to assist Afghan authorities in building their own capacity to fight drugs and crime; to develop a judicial framework consistent with international conventions; and to face -- through demand reduction projects -- a growing drug problem within the country. The Office is working with all other agencies within the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) in order to make sure that drug control element is included in their development assistance to the country.
During his two-day visit to Kabul, Mr. Costa met with President Karzai and other government representatives. "The Transitional Authority has made a strong commitment to fight illicit drugs. In our meetings, we discussed ways in which ODCCP can assist in that effort," Mr. Costa said.
Afghanistan was the leading supplier of the world’s heroin market throughout the 1990s, amounting to 70 per cent of global production of opiates in 1999. ODCCP’s Opium Poppy Pre-assessment Survey in February indicated that -- following the Taliban ban in 2001 -- the cultivation has resumed throughout the country at the relatively high levels of the mid-nineties.
On 17 January this year, Mr. Karzai issued a ban on opium poppy cultivation, production, processing, drug abuse and illicit trafficking. His administration conducted a campaign to eradicate opium poppy fields, offering farmers modest compensation. The ATA is determined to enforce the ban on cultivation in upcoming planting season. They will conduct a broad campaign against opium poppy growing, which will include provincial authorities and religious leaders, as well as the media, reaching remote areas of the country.
Yesterday in Kabul, Mr. Costa joined the Afghanistan’s Interior Minister Taj Mohammed Wardak in attending a ceremonial burning of seized illicit drugs. Mr. Costa also met heads of UN agencies participating in UNAMA, discussing the inter-agency coordination and cooperation.
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