The head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) met today with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to discuss how to increase cooperation between the agency and the country in the global fight against the production and trade of illicit drugs.
At the meeting UNODC’s Executive Director Yury Fedotov thanked Mr. Ahmadinejad “for his country’s excellent cooperation with UNODC,” according to a press release issued by the agency.
“Iran has the world’s highest rate of seizures of opium and heroin and is contributing effectively to various regional mechanisms,” Mr. Fedotov said. “I am happy to be here with the President to discuss ways to enhance cooperation, increase technical dialogue with the international community and promote active participation in the forthcoming UNODC Regional Programme for Afghanistan and Neighbouring Countries.”
The pending programme is aimed at increasing anti-narcotics capacity through coordinated training across the region, helping countries with prevention and treatment of addiction, and increasing quality data to enable evidence-based interventions in law enforcement, criminal justice and drug demand reduction, UNODC said.
Iran accounts for the highest rate of opium seizures (89 per cent) in the world, as well as heroin and morphine (41 per cent), according to the UNODC World Drug Report 2011. Much of the seizures occur in the 1,000-kilometre border Iran shares with either Afghanistan or Pakistan. In the past three decades some 3,700 police officers have been killed in counter-narcotics operations with tens of thousands injured.
“Iran is facing grave threats – mostly alone – losing many of its law enforcement personnel and even more people to a tragic epidemic,” Mr. Fedotov said. “There is an urgent humanitarian imperative. There is too much at stake for Iran, the region and the international community as a whole.”
Mr. Fedotov, who earlier visited a drop-in drug treatment clinic, praised Iran’s efforts to treat drug users and former drug users.
“We know that treatment programmes spare society the most devastating ills – crime, the spread of HIV and hepatitis, and rejection by family and society,” he said. “Clinical evidence shows that drug prevention, treatment and care are effective in helping drug abusers kick their habit, curb the spread of HIV/AIDS and improve people’s lives. People can fulfil their potential and become productive members of society.”
With 1.2 million drug-dependent users, Iran has one of the most severe addiction problems in the world, according to UNODC. Opiate addiction is equivalent to 2.26 per cent of the population aged 15-64 years. More than one fifth of the addicts are injecting drug users.
The Iranian Government has been recognized as one of the pioneering countries in the region for offering opium substitution therapies, as well as running free HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment centres for drug users, UNODC said.