23 January 2006

United Nations Counter-Narcotics Chief Visits Kabul to Discuss Trends and Policies for 2006

VIENNA, 23 January (UN Information Service) -- During a mission to Afghanistan, from 19 to 21 January 2006, the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Antonio Maria Costa, met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Government officials, representatives of coalition countries, the ISAF-NATO Commander and heads of United Nations agencies.

The discussions focused on (i) the trends and potential risks related to drug cultivation in 2006; (ii) progress made in the criminal justice system and (iii) the forthcoming international conference in London. The overarching objective of the mission was to review ways and means to implement the "Building on Success" compact agreed between Afghanistan and the international community.

Mr. Costa complimented President Karzai for the progress made into 2005 in institution building, relating to all areas of governance, but particularly in fighting drugs. "2005 demonstrated that strong counter narcotics policy has a positive impact on cultivation, that declined by one fifth", said the Executive Director. But, referring to the magnitude and gravity of the problem, he added, "unless strong measures are taken in the course of 2006, we risk witnessing a reversal". The Executive Director discussed with the Government the newly adopted National Drug Control Strategy, with a view to accelerating implementation. "Counter-narcotics in Afghanistan has to focus on both short and long term measures. In the immediate future, policy will have to concentrate on law enforcement, including eradication of opium fields. But sustainable success can only be accomplished with the instruments of development, namely providing farmers with the conditions to earn an honest income, alternative to drugs", said Mr. Costa.

In this connection, the UNODC Executive Director noted that counter-narcotics was high on the political agenda of all relevant parties, the Government as well as the international community. This is reflected in the Afghanistan Compact, which identifies three priority areas, and places counter-narcotics as the key cross-cutting theme. "UNODC urges participants to the London meeting to support concretely the Government's counter-narcotics policy, helping farmers to opt out of opium, but also arrest international traffickers and seize their assets", said Mr. Costa.

Mr. Costa underlined that in 2006, the country was facing the risk of migration of opium cultures to border areas affected by security threats, as well a general increase in cultivation. UNODC is completing its winter opium assessment survey in Afghanistan.


For further information, contact:

 Elisabeth Bayer, UNODC, Kabul
Tel: (+93)-79-9129286
Email: elisabeth.bayer@unodc.org