21 May 2004
United Nations Counter-Narcotics Chief Visits Central Asia, Urges Greater Regional Co-operation against Drugs, Crime and Terrorism
VIENNA, 21 May (UN Information Service) -- Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), will pay an official visit to Central Asia from 24 to 29 May. During his visit to Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan, Mr. Costa will meet with heads of state and senior government officials to review the drug control and crime prevention situation in the region.
Central Asia occupies a very special place in international efforts against the uncivil forces of our time: drug traffickers, organized crime groups and terrorists alike. The United Nations is especially concerned that the heroin trafficking from Afghanistan is causing growing drug abuse in the region, with a dramatic escalation of the HIV/AIDS threat. I urge the countries of Central Asia to engage in much greater regional cooperation to prevent further damage, Mr. Costa said.
After visiting Tashkent in Uzbekistan and meeting with senior government officials there on 24-25 May, Mr. Costa will travel on to Bishkek to participate -- at the invitation of President Askar Akayev -- in the 26 May launch of the Drug Control Agency of the Kyrgyz Republic. The day after in Dushanbe, Mr. Costa will attend the celebration of the fifth anniversary of the Drug Control Agency in Tajikistan, established with the support of UNODC. In Dushanbe, Mr. Costa will also participate in an assistance coordination meeting on 28 May and then visit the border regions.
The establishment of the Drug Control Agency in Tajikistan is a milestone in the history of drug control in the region. Over the past five years, Tajikistan has become one of the leading countries in the world in opiates interceptions. In 2003, the country reported seizures of 2.3 tonnes of opium and 5.6 tonnes of heroin. The lessons learned and the impressive results achieved in Tajikistan provide a model for similar achievements in Kyrgyzstan, Mr. Costa said.
In meetings with the Central Asian heads of states and other senior officials, Mr. Costa will present the work of UNODC in Afghanistan, because the opium poppy cultivation there has enormous impact on the region. He will also discuss the outcome of the recent Paris Pact Round Table Meeting on drug trafficking routes held on 27 and 28 April 2004 in Tashkent; UNODCs programming priorities in the region; and developments with regard to controls along the border between Afghanistan and the Central Asian states. Issues related to terrorism and transnational organized crime will also be on the agenda. In addition, Mr. Costa will take this opportunity to promote the ratification and implementation of the new United Nations Convention against Corruption by Central Asian governments.
UNODC drug reduction and crime prevention assistance priorities for Central Asia are focused on strengthening border controls in Central Asian countries neighbouring Afghanistan; promoting cross border cooperation, including operational coordination at national, regional and international levels; and improving drugs and crime prevention mechanisms. UNODC in Central Asia also provides legal advisory services and precursor control support. In the area of demand reduction, UNODC is launching several new regional projects, which will enhance government capacities in monitoring and evaluation, promoting best practices in prevention, treatment and rehabilitation, supporting the diversified services for various target groups and establishing an Addiction Research and Training Institute for Central Asia (ARTICA). The total budget for proposed and ongoing UNODC projects is more than US$ 35 million.
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