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UN observes International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking

UN observes International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking

Antonio M. Costa
Drawing attention to the efforts to rebuild Afghanistan as a democratic and well-governed country, the United Nations main anti-drug agency today said such measures provided an opportunity to make "significant progress" in substantially reducing the supply of opiates in the narcotics market.

"The challenge today is to break the vicious circle which made Afghanistan the world's biggest producer of illicit opium," the head of the UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (ODCCP), Antonio Maria Costa, said on the launch of "Global Illicit Drug Trends 2002," an annual report which presents estimates of illicit drug production, trafficking and consumption around the world.

The study, published each year in conjunction with the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, offers dramatic evidence of the importance of Afghanistan in world opium production and trafficking. It notes that after a 94 per cent decline in 2001, illicit opium production resumed this year and is expected to reach between 1,900 and 2,700 tons, comparable to levels recorded in the mid-1990s.

During an event in Kabul to observe the International Day, Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Representative, Lakhdar Brahimi, called on Afghanistan to cooperation with the international community in the drive to eradicate drug cultivation in the country. He also stressed that President Hamid Karzai and the Afghan Interim Administration - despite limited means - deserved gratitude and admiration for their efforts to address the country's drug problem.

In his address, Mr. Karzai pledged to restore Afghanistan's reputation by halting its trade in illicit narcotics and underscored that it was in the Afghan national interest to destroy drugs since their cultivation adversely affected good land and the development of other crops.

Meanwhile, on the occasion of the International Day, the ODCCP Executive Director also drew attention to the link between the spread of HIV/AIDS and intravenous drug use. While no efforts or resources should be spared to find a cure, Mr. Costa said, "the best possible response is preventing the spread of new infections and providing relief to those already suffering from HIV/AIDS."

He noted that in places ranging from Brazil, Kazakhstan, Viet Nam, Myanmar and West Africa, the UN Drug Control Programme (UNDCP) was working in close collaboration with the local authorities and other partners to implement drug abuse and HIV/AIDS prevention projects, especially among at-risk teens. UNDCP was also running a global awareness-raising campaign through public service announcements carried by television stations worldwide (