1 June 2005

UNODC Executive Director Says Rule of Law Prerequisite to Opium Elimination in Afghanistan

VIENNA, 1 June (UN Information Service) -- Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) today met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai to discuss recent reports on opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan and progress being made in reducing it. Mr. Costa, who also met with Minister of Counter Narcotics, Habibullah Qaderi, Minister of Interior, Ali Ahmad Jalali, and with Deputy Minister of Interior for Counter Narcotic Affairs, General Mohammad Daud, focused on progress made by farmers who have voluntarily abstained from drug cultivation, and the support offered by village elders and provincial authorities.

“Farmers are the weakest links in the chain. Poverty renders them vulnerable and therefore their plea for a better life has to be addressed,” said Mr. Costa. “Eradication can be counterproductive to a fledgling democracy if there are no economic alternatives available to farmers.”

Recent reports that eradication efforts in Afghanistan are insufficient is one of the reasons the Executive Director of UNODC chose to visit Kabul at this time. Mr. Costa is also in the region to offer support and kudos to UN personnel for the excellent work they have done in arduous circumstances.

“The UN staff in Afghanistan represent the most dedicated and committed in our organization,” said Mr. Costa. “They are here to assist farmers struggling to break free of a drug economy. They believe in the future of this new democracy, and they are playing a key role in helping ordinary men and women in the transition from poppies to legitimate prosperity. UNODC staff are working under security threats and they deserve our appreciation.”

Mr. Costa specifically stressed the need to focus on the larger problem of crime and corruption in Afghanistan, the “universe in which drug cultivation and trafficking play a significant and dangerous role.” UNODC is the custodian of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the United Nations Convention against Corruption; both Conventions stress the need for Member States to assist developing nations in the reinstitution of the rule of law and in building strong criminal justice systems. “Farmers are driven by poverty, traffickers are driven by greed,” Mr. Costa said. Therefore, UNODC has encouraged Afghan authorities to focus on the destruction of clandestine laboratories, the arrests and extradition of major traffickers, the training of the judiciary, and the removal of corrupt officials, which Mr. Costa calls “necessary prerequisites to opium elimination.””

According to UNODC, alternative livelihood programmes must operate hand-in-hand with large-scale rural development programmes in an effort to eliminate poppy cultivation. These programmes cannot progress, however, until security is guaranteed in Afghanistan, and Mr. Costa invited the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to play a more prominent role in this regard. “The Afghan society is a prisoner of a past where every warlord is still a law onto himself and many officials are corrupt” says Mr. Costa. “In addition to eradicating drug crops, the Afghan government has to impose the rule of law.”   


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