31 October 2007
New Measures Against the Afghan Opium Tsunami
VIENNA, 31 October (UN Information Service) - Senior international counter-narcotics officials are meeting in Kabul 31 October - 1 November to improve efforts to stop the flow of deadly drugs out of Afghanistan. The meeting, organized by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), is held in the framework of the Paris Pact - an initiative launched in 2003 to promote coordinated measures to counter narco-trafficking in and from Afghanistan.
Afghanistan had a record harvest of 8,200 tons of opium in 2007, a 34 per cent increase in production over 2006. The total opium export is valued at US dollars 4 billion in Afghanistan, an increase of 29 per cent over 2006. The opium economy is now equivalent to more than half (53 per cent) of the country's licit gross domestic product (GDP).
This deadly export gains value at every border crossing, because of the risks associated with smuggling. By the time the heroin hits the streets of Moscow, London or Paris, the Afghan opium export could be worth up to 100 times more. For Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of UNODC, "while opium brings some revenue to Afghanistan, over 90 per cent of profits are made by international criminal gangs and terrorists networks".
At the Kabul meeting the world will be invited to do much more against this threat. To begin with, only a fraction of Afghanistan's opiates is being seized worldwide (24 per cent, against 48 per cent of the Colombian cocaine seized). In Central Asia the interdiction rate is less than 4 per cent, mostly in Tajikistan. Since 2005, new heroin routes have emerged via Pakistan and via Central Asia to China and India. "If border control is not improved Afghanistan's neighbours will be hit by a tsunami of the most deadly drug", warned Mr. Costa.
"Afghan drugs pose a major threat to public health everywhere, because of higher deaths from overdoses, and to the security of Afghanistan's neighbours, because of drug money flowing into the funding of terrorism", Mr. Costa stated recently, addressing the heads of state of the CIS countries (Commonwealth of Independent States). "CIS countries are under attack and not ready as yet to protect themselves". To help, UNODC has promoted the establishment of a Central Asia Regional Information Centre and has brokered a Trilateral Initiative to improve counter-narcotics cooperation among Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan.
At the Kabul meeting, experts from North America, Central Asia, the European Union, CIS countries, Iran, Pakistan, Interpol, NATO and the World Customs Organization (WCO) will critically review the regional and international efforts to contain the Afghan opiates threat. New initiatives will be considered, focused on border security and trans-border cooperation, on the smuggling of precursor chemicals into Afghanistan, and on the threat posed by opium trafficking into China.
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