The top United Nations anti-drug official is set to travel for the first time to Central Asia, where he is scheduled to attend a two-day meeting on sub-regional drug control cooperation.
Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (ODC), will discuss the issue of drug control and rising levels of opiate abuse in the region at the Fourth Annual Meeting on the Memorandum of Understanding on Subregional Drug Control Cooperation (MOU), which will run through 14 December in Ashgabad, Turkmenistan.
The meeting will bring together the five Central Asian states, the Russian Federation and Azerbaijan, along with the ODC and the Aga Khan Development Network, to discuss drug control cooperation in the context of recent geopolitical developments in Afghanistan and the region.
The ODC noted that with the fall of the Taliban regime and the re-opening of the borders with Afghanistan, cross-border contacts between that country and neighbouring Central Asian nations will be significantly increased. All the countries neighbouring Afghanistan have suffered from rising levels of opiate abuse in recent years, with the prevalence rate in Central Asia estimated to be at 0.9 per cent of the population above the age of 15 – or about three times the global average.
The situation has also had a dramatic effect on HIV/AIDS in the region, with data for last year suggesting that 88 per cent of all newly recorded HIV cases were related to IV drug abuse.
The MOU was signed in Tashkent in 1996 between the governments of the five Central Asian states and the ODC. Russia and the Aga Khan Development Network joined the MOU in 1998, followed by Azerbaijan in 2001, expanding the regional framework of drug control cooperation.
The Central Asian region remains one of the major trans-shipment points for the illicit drug trafficking from Afghanistan on the way towards Russia, the Caucasus states and further to Europe, according to the ODC.