Welcome Message from the Special Advisor to the SRSG on Counter Narcotics and UNODC Regional Representative for Afghanistan and Neighbouring Countries
Welcome to the official website of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Country Office Afghanistan.
UNODC Afghanistan has been operational in the country since 1989. We have been working with different Governments over time and have witnessed successes and failures, with a rapidly worsening situation over the last decade. Some have a pessimistic view on the future of this beautiful country - and the wider region - when it comes to crime, drugs and corruption. We do not.
While our prognosis for the first coming years points towards persistence of the illicit economy and even a too real potential for further deterioration, this cycle can be turned around. The methodology is known and starts with a strong political will, gradually changing the 'rules of the game' and making an end to impunity. The powerbrokers of the illicit economy will have to experience that their business is not any longer tolerated and that the risks incrementally increase, year after year. At the field level the methodology implies community work and social contracts where a 'give and take' allows the farmers and their families to improve their quality of life - a quality which is not determined by financial gain alone - while phasing them out, year after year, of the cultivation of illicit crops.
The international community and wider region do have an essential role to play, according to the principle that 'no country stands alone'. The drug trade thrives due to the cross border mafia. Drug and crime profits made within Afghanistan are gigantic compared to the domestic economy but are only a faction of the massive gains made across its borders. Precursor chemicals are essential to convert opium to heroin but not produced within country and thus to be trafficked from the outside. Putting a lid on these external networks will assist the country in moving forward on the narcotic control.
Discussing external pressures cannot without touching the issue of addiction and the enormous demand existing outside the Afghan borders. It is correct that demand creates supply. If the international community is serious about helping Afghanistan, it should apply better and more efficient demand reduction programs than what we witness today in many countries. Yet one does easily tend to forget that supply also creates demand. Products which were not available in the past become suddenly fashionable and in demand due to their mere supply. Afghanistan and neighbouring countries are illustrative of this phenomenon, with addiction levels having risen over recent years among the highest in the world.
Finally, those who assume that the Ministry of Counter Narcotics will root out the drug problems are as mistaken as suggesting that the High Office for Oversight and Anti Corruption is the sole solution to deal with the rampant corruption. Political will is one crucial element yet 'genuine mainstreaming' a second one. Implementation of efficient policies cannot be left on the shoulders of one or two organizations. Pivotal as these may be to coordinate and set policy, an effective crime and drug control is the responsibility of each and all public departments and the civil society. Providing community support is best done through those already providing these extension services yet adding an element of conditionality to it - 'a give and a take'.
UNODC takes pride in its presence in this country. The complex reality in Afghanistan, with strong ties between the illicit drug economy, weak governance, corruption and a lack of human health and security, requires a comprehensive response - a near mental shift away from a dependency on violence, abuse and injustice. Nobody should be left alone; all of us have a role to play to achieve a better world to our children. The methodology is known. Implementing it will demand much courage and take time.
Special Advisor to the SRSG on Counter Narcotics