Central Asia

The situation

Afghanistan has dominated the worldwide opium market for more than a decade. In 2009, the total quantity of opium produced in that country was 6,900 metric tons, accounting for 90 per cent of global supply. Afghan heroin feeds a global market worth some $55 billion annually, and most of the profits of the trade are made outside Afghanistan. Afghanistan and its neighbours are affected by trafficking as the drugs are moved to their key destination markets of Western Europe and the Russian Federation. About a third of the heroin produced in Afghanistan is transported to Europe via the Balkan route, while a quarter is trafficked north to Central Asia and the Russian Federation along the northern route. Afghan heroin is also increasingly meeting a rapidly growing share of Asian demand. Approximately 15-20 metric tons are estimated to be trafficked to China, while a further 35 metric tons are trafficked to other South and South-East Asian countries. Some 35 metric tons are thought to be shipped to Africa, while the remainder supplies markets in other parts of Asia, North America and Oceania.

The northern and Balkan heroin routes

Northern and Balkan heroin routes

Source: UNODC World Drug Report 2010

Regional focus

UNODC response to illicit drug trafficking within the framework of the Regional Programme for Afghanistan and Neighbouring Countries

The Regional Programme for Afghanistan and Neighbouring Countries covers UNODC support to anti drug trafficking efforts in the countries of Central Asia. The boom of opium production in Afghanistan echoes loudly through the political and social fabric of the region.

Trafficking of opiates occurs along diverse trajectories with a vast array of methods but transport by road continues to be the most frequent for large quantities. Every year, approximately 375 tons of heroin flow from Afghanistan to the rest of the world and Southern Afghanistan acts as the primary heroin manufacture and export point towards Iran and Pakistan. Approximately 160 tons of heroin was trafficked through Pakistan in 2009, putting an estimated $650 million in the pockets of drug traffickers. 115 tons of heroin was estimated trafficked into Iran towards Turkey and Western Europe. The other path from Afghanistan is the northern route which carried an estimated 90 tons of heroin on different paths through the Central Asian States to the Russian Federation and beyond. Reports also indicate a growing importance of these northward trafficking routes for Afghan opiates flowing into China.

Besides opiates, reports show a growing prevalence of cannabis production in Central Asia. The hashish trade has grown in recent years, and total production today may rival that of Europe's traditional supplier, Morocco. All of Afghanistan's neighbours are reporting increases in cannabis seizures, and cannabis production has been reported in 20 of Afghanistan's 33 provinces. With entrenched smuggling networks, widespread insecurity and a drug-based economy, Afghanistan is ideally placed to become a major player in the global hashish market.

The Regional Programme for Afghanistan and Neighbouring Countries will provide a platform under which the shared responsibility between the countries in the region (Afghanistan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan) and the international community can be strategically planned and implemented as recommended by several Commission on Narcotic Drugs and UN Security Council resolutions.

The Regional Programme aims to target drug trafficking related threats via a number of goals which, in general, aim to increase the capacity of the countries of the region in combating drug trafficking. Goals of the Regional Programme include increasing border controls and information sharing amongst the countries of the region. By initiating frameworks and fora for cooperation, these countries can improve their ability to monitor their respective borders, as well as share vital information which will mutually support border control efforts. The Regional Programme also seeks to increase use of evidence-based, joint investigations, as well as the use of forensic evidence. In particular, the Regional Programme will include promulgating regional standards and standard operating procedures in order to encourage improvements in national capacities and facilitate more effective international cooperation.

UNODC response to illicit drug trafficking, regional initiatives in Central Asia

The Paris Pact Initiative (PPI) represents a determined attempt by the international community to tackle the threat posed by the illicit production of opium in Afghanistan, in a spirit of partnership and cooperation. In May 2003, at a Ministerial Conference on Drug Routes from Central Asia to Europe, hosted in Paris by the French Government, more than 55 Countries and international organisations subscribed to the principle of shared responsibility in the fight against opiates trafficking from Afghanistan. UNODC launched the Paris Pact Initiative Phase I, in September 2004. This first phase was principally a regional coordination programme for countries affected by Afghan heroin trafficking, and concentrated principally on strengthening border controls, continuing to develop regional cooperation, and on activities within the field of Counter Narcotics Enforcement (CNE) including legal reform and institutional frameworks.

The Triangular Initiative (TI) was established in direct response to the Paris Pact Expert Round Table recommendations, which called for greater cooperation in the field of counter-narcotics. The Triangular Initiative aims to enhance cross-border cooperation in the field of counter-narcotics enforcement among Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. The TI has been a major stimulus in drawing together Ministers and senior officials from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran to discuss and agree upon measures to improve cross-border cooperation in countering narcotics trafficking and the smuggling of precursor chemicals, to and from Afghanistan.

The Rainbow Strategy (RS) is an umbrella framework to facilitate the implementation of priority actions identified at the Paris Pact Expert Round Tables. This strategy consists of several operational plans. Each plan addresses key targets, allowing for constructive engagement with prime regional actors, facilitating and supplementing interventions from national governments and other Paris Pact partners.

The Central Asian Regional and Information Coordination Centre (CARICC) aims to facilitate information and intelligence exchange and analysis, and to assist in the coordination of operational activities of the various law enforcement agencies in the region including police, drug control agencies, customs, border guards and special services and thereby improve effectiveness in countering drug trafficking. The centre started limited operation in November 2007 within its pilot phase. CARICC has coordinated operations on precursors control (TARCET I, II), and will coordinate operation TARCET III, which is scheduled for 2011. CARICC also coordinated a number of bilateral and multilateral operations between the member states and CARICC partners which resulted in dismantling the drug trafficking channels, seizures of drugs and arrests of the drug dealers.

UNODC response to illicit drug trafficking, Country Programmes in Central Asia

Promoting the Rule of Law and Public Health in Pakistan (2010-2014) contains responses to drug trafficking, including activities to enhance legislative regimes, increase knowledge and capacity of drug enforcement officials and improve interdiction capabilities, related both to drugs and precursor chemicals.

Technical Cooperation on Drugs and Crime in the Islamic Republic of Iran (2011-2014) seeks to support the Islamic Republic of Iran in combating its many drug-related challenges. In particular, drug trafficking decreases security, destabilizes the region and brings untold public health costs. In particular, the Regional Programme aims to decrease drug trafficking via more effective and efficient border controls, communication and interdiction efforts. The Programme also establishes a framework to support the Islamic Republic of Iran with decreasing drug demand and controlling the spread and treating HIV/AIDS.

The Integrated Country Programme for Afghanistan is currently being designed and drafted. UNODC plans on finalizing this draft and beginning implementation, in concert with the Afghanistan Government, in 2011.

In response to the request of the President of Kyrgyzstan made to the UNODC in September 2011, UNODC is formulating an integrated programme of assistance to support the efforts of Kyrgyzstan in reviving the criminal justice capacities to prevent and combat drug trafficking, corruption and organized crime. UNODC is also launching a project to support the newly established State Service on Drug Control in Kyrgyzstan on 25 April 2011, which will become an important component of the integrated programme of assistance for Kyrgyzstan.

Go to UNODC Central Asia website

Go to UNODC Afghanistan website