Afghanistan, the world’s largest opium producer, is already a “narco-economy” and risks becoming a “narco-state,” with drug production its largest employer, the top United Nations drugs and crime fighter warned today.
UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa called for a wide range of international action to curb production, trafficking, demand and accompanying corruption, terming the reduction of heroin demand “the mother of all drug control challenges.”
“Afghanistan has already become a narco-economy in the sense that drugs are now Afghanistan’s largest employer, income generator, source of capital, export and foreign investment,” UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa told a ministerial conference in Moscow on drug trafficking routes from the country.
“It has become a narco-society in the sense that many Afghans are now hooked on the drug money and now it risks becoming a narco-state,” he added. “Pyramids of protection now connect the upper world of the Afghan establishment to the underworld of Afghan mafias.”
Over 50 countries, including all members of the G8 group of wealthy industrialized nations, were represented at the conference together with senior representatives of international organizations.
Mr. Costa said heroin trafficking followed the paths of least resistance from Afghanistan, through some of Europe’s and Central Asia’s most unstable regions, on to lucrative Western markets. “Afghanistan’s heroin causes addiction, spreads HIV, provides revenue for organized crime and funds terrorism,” he warned.
He called for adoption of a Moscow Agenda to intensify efforts to tackle supply, trafficking and demand, suggesting that poverty eradication should go hand in hand with illicit crop eradication.
He also encouraged participants to support an agenda that would prosecute and extradite at least 10 of the most serious drug traffickers, purge at least 100 corrupt officials, and complete the disarmament, demobilization and re-integration of militias and warlords.
Efforts must be intensified to block trafficking routes, improve border control, and interdict the import of chemical precursors which are necessary for producing heroin, he said.
Affected countries should establish and meet verifiable targets in reducing corruption, money laundering and bad governance.
“Counter-narcotic work alone will not solve the heroin trafficking problem,” he added, urging states to establish verifiable heroin demand reduction targets “to help (Afghan) President (Hamid) Karzai deliver on his commitment to put an end to the supply of opium in his country.”