20 June 2003

UN, Central Asian Governments Launch Projects to Counter Heroin Flow from Afghanistan

VIENNA, 20 June (UN Information Service) -- Five new major drug control projects worth more than US$17 million were launched this week. A senior official of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and high-level representatives of the Governments of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan signed project agreements in Central Asia.  Ms. Sumru Noyan, Director of UNODC's Division for Operations, met with Prime Minister Nikolai Tanayev of Kyrgyzstan, Deputy Prime Minister Saidamir Zukhurov of Tajikistan, General Prosecutor Rashidjon Kadyrov of Uzbekistan, and with leading officials from the Ministries for Foreign Affairs, Interior, and other Government agencies of the above-mentioned countries.

This new assistance package is in line with the 17 June meeting of the Security Council on the drug threat originating from Afghanistan, the recent G8 meeting in Evian, and a Ministerial Conference on Drug Routes from Central Asia to Europe, organized by the French Government in Paris on 21-22 May 2003.  These events all stressed the need both for  stronger, concerted and coordinated action to assist Afghanistan with opium poppy cultivation problems, and for providing support to countries surounding Afghanistan in their efforts to curb illicit drug trafficking, organized crime and terrorism.

The return of massive opium cultivation in Afghanistan in 2002, with an estimated illicit opium production of more than 3,400 tons, or around three quarters of the world's total, has resulted in Central Asia turning into a hotspot for international heroin trafficking.  This is evidenced by increasing multi-ton opiates seizures recorded in this region. Countries like Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan are seeing more trafficking of already-processed heroin, higher heroin purity levels, and more vigilant, aggressive, and better organized illicit trafficking operations, in particular since opium production has moved into the northern provinces of Afghanistan, a region with close and direct routes into Central Asia.  In addition to the region being a prime heroin transit area, mainly to Europe and Russia, Central Asian countries are facing dramatic heroin-abuse increases.  The number of HIV-AIDS infections caused by intravenous injection of opiates has soared, and there are fears that the numbers of infections may further multiply as heroin is widely and easily available.  


The new projects that UNODC and Governments will implement together focus on improved law enforcement measures, better border controls, cooperation between Central Asian enforcement agencies, and with the Afghan law enforcement entities.  In Tajikistan alone, three new projects of more than US$ 10 million, help the Drug Control Agency (DCA), created with  the support of the United Nations in 1999, to lead and coordinate drug enforcement, and provide equipment and training to customs and border control agencies, including the Russian Federal Border Service, in their control of the 1,200 km long Afghan-Tajik border.  Following the success of DCA in Tajikistan, the Government of Kyrgyzstan decided to also create a DCA, for which the UNODC project provides more than US$ 6 million of support.  In Uzbekistan, a new project with the general prosecutor will create a country-wide database for information-sharing and access to cases and legislative data. This assistance to prosecutors network complements an enforcement project of more than US$ 2 million, which started just a month ago in the border area with Afghanistan, in that it should improve cooperation between the enforcement authorities and the judiciary thereby leading  to better prosecution results.

Additional assistance to the region is under consideration and will be the subject of informal consultations on 24 June 2003 in Vienna.

For further information:
Mr. Kemal Kurspahic, UNODC, Spokesperson, tel: 26060-5929
Ms. Sumru Noyan, UNODC, Director, Division for Operations and Analysis, tel: 26060-4266
Ms. Dagmar Thomas, UNODC, Programme Manager for West & Central Asia, tel: 26060-4237