Press Briefing on Eradication of Illicit Crops in Afghanistan and Colombia
UNIS Vienna today organized a press briefing on the eradication of illicit crops in Afghanistan and Colombia at the Vienna International Centre. Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), General Mohammad Daud, Deputy Minister of Interior (in charge of counter-narcotics operations), Afghanistan, and General Luis Alberto Gómez Heredia, Director, Anti-Narcotic Police, Colombia, addressed the media. The briefing was chaired and moderated by Nasra Hassan, Director UNIS and Spokesperson UNODC.
Mr. Costa opened the proceedings by introducing the Generals. He briefly discussed the efforts made by Afghanistan and Colombia towards tackling the illicit drug situation in their countries.
General Daud described the problems faced by Afghanistan in tackling opium poppy cultivation. He said that the country had seen tremendous progress over the past few years, specifically referring to the elections held recently in the country. He also affirmed President Hamid Karzais commitment towards fighting the scourge of drugs.
General Gómez stated that Colombia was committed to continue its fight in eradicating illicit crops, with the support of the international community. He said that the area under cultivation had decreased by almost 60 per cent over a four-year period.
The briefing was followed by a question and answer session.
To a question posed to both General Daud and General Gómez, on what their respective governments could offer farmers to encourage them to shift away from the cultivation of illicit crops, General Daud said that his Government had initiated alternative livelihood services to help farmers shift to licit crops. General Gómez said that the Colombian Government had a development plan where farmers who make a commitment to eradicate illicit cultivation receive financial support. He said that the number of families taking part in these programmes had doubled, and hoped that the trend would continue.
In response to a question on how much of the government budget was allocated to alternative development, General Gómez said that the commitment and budgetary support of his Government was very high. General Daud said that his Government had budgeted USD 300 million. Mr. Costa said that the question was not only about numbers -- it was about a long process that began with convincing farmers not to grow illicit crops, to providing them export options for licit products. He said that it was a process that needed the support of the international community.
General Gómez responded to a query on Colombias fight against corruption, saying that the country was training its officials, especially in the field of law enforcement. He said that ministries were required to report on their financial dealings and that the information was open to the public. General Daud said that along with fighting narcotics, fighting corruption was Afghanistans priority. He pointed out that Afghanistan lacked an international standard banking system.
Mr. Costa emphasized the importance of cutting the demand side of narcotics, since if not enough was done on this side, neither Colombia nor Afghanistan could successfully choke off production.
The briefing was well attended by 20 media representatives from leading international news agencies (ANSA, Reuters, Associated Press, Bloomberg News), Austrian newspapers (Kurier), radio (Croatian Radio), besides representatives from permanent missions in Vienna.
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