27 September 2005
UNODC Calls Afghan Heroin a Growing Threat Across Europe
UNODC Executive Director Commends Government of Lithuania for Regional Cooperation
VIENNA, 27 September (UN Information Service) -- Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is in Lithuania to open a Government-hosted Forum on "Drug Control in the Baltic Region: New Challenges". The Forum, held in Vilnius, Lithuania, focuses on drug control, HIV/AIDS prevention, and organized crime. The Forum will be attended by Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Mykolas Brazauskas; Chairman of the Seimas, Artūras Paulauskas, and other high-ranking Lithuanian authorities, as well as by representatives from neighbouring states and European counter-narcotics institutions.
"The Baltic region, as well as the Nordic countries and Eastern Europe, remain targets for heroin traffickers," said Mr. Costa. "And Afghan heroin wreaks significant collateral damage -- organized crime, HIV/AIDS, human trafficking and corruption. Regional cooperation is key to countering these threats, and this Forum, hosted by the Lithuanian Government, is a giant step in the right direction."
Afghan heroin is a growing problem across Europe with the number of heroin addicts and HIV/AIDS victims increasing rapidly. Heroin is trafficked across the northern border of Afghanistan into Central Asia, through Russia to Belarus, where it crosses the border into Lithuania. Mr. Costa underlined international judicial cooperation as a remedy, and commended Lithuania for initiatives that already reach across its borders and Government jurisdictions.
Regarding Afghanistan, Mr. Costa has called for a combination of responses: the extradition of major traffickers; strikes against clandestine labs; the removal of corrupt officials from office; a zero-tolerance policy toward the involvement of drug lords in processing or trafficking drugs, and a commitment by farmers to refrain from poppy cultivation as a condition for development assistance.
While in Lithuania, Mr. Costa will also attend meetings with various NGOs, including the Missing Persons' Families Support Centre, a group that focuses on crime prevention. In 2002, the Missing Persons' Families Support Centre was a recipient of the United Nations Vienna Civil Society Award.
"NGOs are essential to the fight against illicit drugs, as well as the spread of HIV/AIDS, and other diseases transmitted by intravenous drug use. In Lithuania, civil society is reaching out to addicts and people living with HIV/AIDS. Factor in the support and assistance of the Lithuanian Government, and what you have is a powerful fusion of private and public outreach. The problems we face are too big for any one player, working alone, to resolve," said the UNODC Executive Director.
Mr. Costa continued: "Regional cooperation between the Baltic States, the Nordic countries and Eastern Europe also has to be bolstered by support and resources from the European Union. Most of the heroin coming out of Afghanistan is destined for Europe, and the EU has a stake in this fight."
To read more about the international initiatives in the field of anti-human trafficking activities, or to learn more about efforts to stem illegal narcotics and organized crime, please refer to the UNODC website: http://www.unodc.org/.
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