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Top UN anti-crime official reports progress in drug control efforts in Afghanistan

Top UN anti-crime official reports progress in drug control efforts in Afghanistan

Antonio M. Costa
The United Nations is taking a comprehensive approach to halting the cultivation and production of narcotics in Afghanistan, the new Executive Director of the UN Office For Drug Control And Crime Prevention (ODCCP) said today in Vienna.

Speaking at his first press briefing since taking up his duties earlier this month, Antonio Maria Costa said that the were currently 35 projects under development in the country, including those related to helping the Afghan authorities establish a counter-narcotic agency, supporting the development of legislation defining narcotic-related crimes, and establishing border police.

In addition, work was continuing on an opium poppy survey for Afghanistan, using both on-site inspections and – because of security concerns – satellite photographs. At the same time, ODCCP had initiated a comprehensive study of the economics of narcotic dependence in Afghanistan, Mr. Costa noted, pointing out that while only 2.5 per cent of Afghanistan’s land was used for opium cultivation, opium was the country’s largest single export item.

He stressed that understanding the economics of the dependency on opium cultivation was key to trying to undermine narcotics trade. The UN was developing a microcredit initiative to offer farmers an alternative to opium cultivation. Plans were also being developed for demand reduction campaigns to help Afghan drug addicts.

Asked about the status of the opium eradication effort in Afghanistan, Mr. Costa said there had been some evidence of progress, pointing out that the Afghan authorities had demonstrated a strong commitment to wiping out poppy crops.

Mr. Costa, who heads the UN Office in Vienna, also previewed a two-day Terrorism Symposium set to open in the Austrian capital on 3 June. He emphasized that the meeting would serve to shed light on the international community's response to this threat and would create a new momentum in the fight against the menace by generating novel ideas and proposals. For its part, ODCCP was prepared make its own contribution to the effort through its Terrorism Prevention Branch, Mr. Costa said.