UN-backed anti-drug centre opens in Central Asia to curb flow of Afghan heroin

9 December 2009
Heroin seized by law officials [File Photo]

A United Nations-backed intelligence sharing centre for Central Asian countries on the front line of the battle against drug trafficking from Afghanistan opened in Kazakhstan today, just a day after Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council called for greater global cooperation in the war on narcotics.

Drug trafficking through Central Asia “poses a threat to security by enriching and empowering criminal groups and anti-government forces, it undermines development by creating instability and widening corruption, and it poses a risk to health by spreading drug addiction and HIV,” Mr. Ban said in a message delivered by his Special Representative Miroslav Jenca in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city.

“This trans-national problem requires a regional solution,” he added of the Central Asia Regional Information and Coordination Centre (CARICC), a UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) project bringing together the five Central Asian States – Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan – as well as Russia and Azerbaijan.

According to UNODC estimates, 75 to 80 tons of heroin are trafficked annually from Afghanistan, producer of some 90 per cent of the world’s supply, to Russia via Central Asia, of which only around 5 per cent is seized in the region.

“CARICC will facilitate the exchange of intelligence to identify and disrupt trafficking networks, strengthen regional criminal justice capacity, and build security and confidence among neighbours,” Mr. Ban said.

Kazakhstan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Kairat Umarov called CARICC “a concrete achievement of our common efforts,” which he hoped would quickly lead to a significant decrease of drug trafficking though the region and “a reduction of the drug threat in general.”

Counter-narcotics partnerships in Central Asia has been strengthened over the past few years among Member States of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Sub-regional Drug Control Cooperation, which includes the five countries of Central Asia, Russia, Azerbaijan, UNODC and the Aga Khan Development Network.

UNODC Deputy Executive Director Francis Maertens hailed CARICC as “one of the major achievements of the MoU states, of which we can all be proud,” noting that Central Asia benefits from UNODC’s largest regional anti-drug and crime portfolio – $78 million a year and rising.

At a meeting of the Security Council yesterday Mr. Ban warned that drug trafficking is fuelling brutal insurgencies in Afghanistan, Colombia, and Myanmar, spreading violence in West Africa, Central Asia, Central America and the Caribbean and threatening to reverse UN peacebuilding efforts in Afghanistan, Haiti, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Sierra Leone and elsewhere.

“So far, cooperation between governments is lagging behind cooperation between organized crime networks,” he warned.


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