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Ban calls for concerted efforts to combat scourge of illicit drugs in Afghanistan

Poppy field in Afghanistan.
Poppy field in Afghanistan.

Ban calls for concerted efforts to combat scourge of illicit drugs in Afghanistan

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called for concerted efforts to help Afghanistan extricate itself from the scourge of drug production, use and trafficking, noting that the country’s stability remains at stake with an estimated 15 per cent of its income accruing from trade in illicit drugs.

“We have a common duty to the people of Afghanistan and those everywhere whose lives are darkened with despair due to the menace of the drugs trade,” Mr. Ban told the 3rd Ministerial Conference of the Paris Pact Partners on Combating the Afghan Illicit Opiate Trade, held in Vienna.

“We must help them walk into the light of a world free of illicit drugs and drug trafficking,” he said.

The Secretary-General pointed out that with the approaching withdrawal of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in 2014, the international community will increasingly look to the United Nations to shoulder greater responsibilities to enhance stability and foster sustainable development in Afghanistan.

“Together with our local, regional and international partners, we must assume this role. Above all, the Afghan Government must prioritize the issue of narcotics,” he said.

The country’s law enforcement agencies must work harder on eradicating narcotics crops, eliminate drug laboratories, keep precursors from entering the country, and inhibit drug trafficking, he added.

The UN Regional Programme for Afghanistan and Neighbouring Countries also has an important role to play, including as a platform for the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and other partners.

Mr. Ban, however, noted that “reducing supply is only half the story,” adding that “there can be no real success without reducing demand.”

“The fight against the drugs trade goes to the heart of UN efforts in Afghanistan, in the region and, indeed, around the world to make a meaningful difference for people affected by this pervasive crime,” he said, noting that drug trafficking and transnational organized crime undermine the health of fragile States, weaken the rule of law, and hinder attempts to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

According to UNODC’s Afghan Opium Survey last year, poppy cultivation increased by seven per cent, while opium production increased by 61 per cent over the past year. Export earnings from Afghan opiates may be worth as much as $2.4 billion.

“We cannot speak of sustainable development when opium production is the only viable economic activity in the country,” said Mr. Ban. “We must stand with Afghanistan in this fight.”