Drug trafficking tops agenda during Azerbaijan visit

Photo: (C) United Nations Cartographic Section17 October 2011 - The Executive Director of UNODC, Yury Fedotov, and the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Ilham Heydar oglu Aliyev, met this week to discuss several core issues during a visit by the Executive Director to the country's capital, Baku. President Aliyev and Mr. Fedotov covered areas including drug control, demand reduction, organized crime and efforts to combat money-laundering during a visit that coincided with the country's hosting of an international conference on the fight against illicit traffic in narcotic drugs.

Speaking about the meeting with President Aliyev, the Executive Director noted the work of Azerbaijan in relation to drug control in that country, from both a local and a regional perspective: "I welcome the Government's efforts in prioritizing drug control. There is a strong link between organized crime and illicit drugs and the need for regional cooperation is more important than ever. Only by dealing with these issues as a collective and not on their own can we see the difference."

Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev (front right) with World Customs Organization Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya (back left) and UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov (front left)Since establishing a presence in the country in 2007, UNODC has cooperated closely with Azerbaijani officials on a number of fronts.

Action to counter drug trafficking remains one of the key collaborative efforts of Azerbaijan and UNODC. Azerbaijan and other countries in the region are used as transit countries for the smuggling of heroin from Afghanistan to Europe, as a result of which increasingly advanced surveillance is needed. Earlier this year, Azerbaijan began participating in the joint UNODC-World Customs Organization Container Control Programme, the aim of which is to develop a network of border control cooperation units at various land and sea ports to stem the flow of drugs, precursors and other illegal goods.

The formation of the Central Asian Regional Information and Coordination Centre (CARICC) is an example of the specific steps being taken to enhance regional efforts to fight drug trafficking. CARICC, initiated by UNODC, brings together law enforcement agencies from Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and the Russian Federation and facilitates cross-border information-sharing and enhanced coordination and implementation of counter-narcotic operational activities.

The tackling of corruption, which is often linked with drug trafficking, is an important component of the work of UNODC. Referring to that issue in relation to Azerbaijan, Mr. Fedotov noted the commitment of authorities to combating corruption and their support for the United Nations Convention against Corruption. Recent measures, such as the establishment of the Anti-Corruption Department within the Prosecutor-General's Office of Azerbaijan, are welcome in dealing with that scourge.

While in Baku, the Executive Director also made a welcoming address at the International Conference on the Fight against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs in which he spoke of the pain and misery caused by the global trade in illicit drugs. Recognizing the challenges of tackling the threat caused by that trade, Mr. Fedotov noted three crucial steps that need to be taken: first, further acknowledgment is needed that tackling the drug trade is not the responsibility of only a handful of countries, but rather a joint problem requiring the collective action of the international community; second, while drug-related crimes are often local in nature, the solutions must be global, particularly given the nature of drug trafficking, which is at the centre of a shifting web of transnational organized crime; and lastly, the causal connections between drug trafficking and insecurity must be taken into account, specifically with regard to the production and trafficking of drugs, which undermine security and promote corruption, crime, terrorism and instability.

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