Press Releases

    11 March 2002


    VIENNA, 11 March 2002 (UN Information Serivce) -- Following is the text of the statement of Mr. Steinar B. Bjornsson, Officer-in-Charge of the United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (ODCCP) delivered at the opening of the forty-fifth session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs which began its work here today:

    It is an honour and a pleasure for me to welcome you to the forty-fifth session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs.

    I am sure you join me in welcoming the decision of the Secretary-General to appoint Mr. Antonio Maria Costa as the new Director General of UNOV (United Nations Office at Vienna) and Executive Director of the Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention. Mr. Costa is currently the Secretary-General of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and has a strong background in economics, finance and management. Earlier in his career he worked with the United Nations for 14 years. Mr. Costa is expected to join the Organization in June.

    We are confident that, based on our year-long effort to implement the ODCCP management reform - following recommendations of the OIOS (Office of Internal Oversight Services) - we are creating the foundations for new leadership initiatives and restoration of the donors' confidence in our work. Running the smooth operation of the office after the stepping down of previous Executive Director was possible mainly because of high degree of professionalism and dedication of the ODCCP staff.

    We attach special importance to developing and maintaining better lines of communication with Member States and ensuring continuing consultations. In line with recommendations of the Commission, several inter-sessional and informal meetings have been held in the course of the year.

    Since your last meeting, our office - as well as the international community as a whole - have faced the greatest challenge in Afghanistan. While there was the ultimate challenge, the one posed by terrorism and threats to international peace and security, at the same time we have to deal with the menace of drugs produced in and trafficked from Afghanistan. Our just-released opium poppy pre-assessment survey for 2002 confirms earlier indications that - after the effective implementation of the Taliban ban in 2001 - the drug cultivation in the country has resumed at relatively high levels. The estimated production in 2002 might reach between 1,900 and 2,700 metric tons, which is less than in a record year of 1999, but close to the still high levels of mid-1990s. That requires a strong and creative response. In short term, the challenge is: How to prevent this year's harvest to reach European drug markets? In mid- and long-term, the best solution could be based on two pillars:

    • one is, helping Afghanistan establish effective law enforcement and drug control agencies and mechanisms (and the ODCCP/UNDCP (United Nations International Drug Control Programme) has been engaged in those efforts and has initial projects in place);
    • and the other, equally important, is a need to provide Afghan farmers livelihood and security in production of commercial agricultural crops which will liberate them from a decade of dependence on drug cultivation.

    Well coordinated and focused community development project, which involves the whole UN system, faces the ultimate test of success, which is - empowering Afghanistan people to assume the responsibility and ownership of the overall reconstruction process. And there is a growing consensus in international community that effective drug control represents a precondition for the success in that process since the drugs have that capacity to cause all sorts of problems, from the financing of organized crime and even terrorism to the destruction of the society and its values.

    We have been very much encouraged by the decree of the Afghanistan Interim Authority Chairman, Dr. Hamid Karzai, announcing the ban on opium poppy cultivation and processing, trafficking and abuse of opiates, and by their strong commitment to eradicate illicit drug business. But we need to assist them in that process, from creation of an adequate legal framework, to establishment of effective police force and drug control agencies.

    We have re-established our country office in Afghanistan and have been engaged in both domestic capacity building and in advisory role - in helping all other UN agencies in making drug control issue part of their reconstruction efforts.

    Your thematic debate this year will focus on alternative development and the eradication of illicit crops.

    At the 1998 special session of the General Assembly, Member States committed themselves to eliminating or reducing significantly the illicit cultivation of the coca bush, the cannabis plant and the opium poppy by the year 2008. The consolidated first biennial report of the Executive Director on the implementation of the outcome of the special session provides an overview of Governments= efforts to meet the objectives and target dates set out in the action plans. 39% of those responding to the questionnaire completed the part on alternative development. This good response rate demonstrated that alternative development is still high on the agenda of the Member States. The report revealed that considerable efforts are being made world wide to eliminate illicit cultivation.

    The report also shows that much still needs to be done. The fulfilment of what is a shared responsibility requires permanent dialogue about the choice of programmes addressing the elimination of illicit crop cultivation. It also requires a steady exchange of information on how policy is being framed. The potential of alternative development is far from being exhausted. The task before us must now be to improve our strategies and expand our commitment.

    There is now enough evidence to conclude that alternative development, adapted to local conditions and carried out with the participation of the population, can remove the economic reliance on an illegal crop. There are more and more cases where, over time, farmers have greatly improved their way of life, although it would be incorrect to give the credit for this to alternative development projects alone.

    However, we also face problems:

    • recurrence of production in zones where illicit cultivation had been eliminated,
    • emergence of illicit cultivation in neighbouring zones, or
    • opportunistic expansion of production in new areas.

    Solutions to these problems are related to the issue of sustainability and are largely determined by external political, financial and organisational factors. We need to discuss the limitations to the effectiveness of alternative development and the role of external factors. Most importantly, however, we should identify what is needed to move forward.

    We need to look at the potential of alternative development on the basis of technical expertise. There is now only a handful of countries where opium poppy or the coca bush are cultivated illicitly. But funds available for alternative development are limited. Therefore, mainstreaming the drug control
    element in development programmes is essential. To achieve this we need to identify lessons learned and good practices and to compare approaches and experiences gained in various regions.

    It is important to create a network of alternative development experts and to make expertise available to all states that are confronted with illicit drug crop cultivation. UNDCP supports and contributes to such exchange of experiences and lessons learned. For example, through the recently organised Regional Expert Meeting on Alternative Development in Peru and the International Conference on Alternative Development in Germany, which was co-organized with the German Government and GTZ.

    It is recognized that alternative development alone will not solve all the drug problems. We need to reinforce the consensus reached at the 1998 special session on the need for a balanced approach. We need to tackle all aspects of the problem simultaneously. We see this need clearly in Afghanistan and should apply the same principles globally. The requirements are the same everywhere:

    • a comprehensive legal and judicial framework
    • law enforcement measures - to include money laundering and all forms of transnational organized crime
    • demand reduction
    • mainstreaming drug control in development assistance and
    • illicit crop monitoring where applicable.

    In the area of demand reduction, coordination among all actors is also the key. Work is continuing to put into practice the measures envisaged in the Action Plan for the Implementation of the Declaration on the Guiding Principles of Demand Reduction. UNDCP works with a number of partners in the UN system to this end. However, in order for the UN to speak with one voice and for coordinated action to take place, it is necessary for the governing bodies of other agencies to take drug abuse prevention on board. To this end, I would ask you, Distinguished Delegates, to ensure coordination and advocacy at the national level.

    Another important development which I would like to bring to your attention at the outset, is the new Strategy for Africa. The basis for this Strategy is national and universal ownership, that is the acceptance of all parties, from African governments to international organizations and donors, of their shared responsibility.

    Later today, you will be addressing questions surrounding preparations for the Ministerial Segment of the Commission to be held next year. 2003 marks the first target date set out in the Political Declaration and therefore constitutes an important time to take stock of progress made since 1998. You will need to agree this week on the theme, content and organization of the meeting. I look forward to the outcome of your discussions and wish to assure you of the continued support of the Secretariat in this regard.

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