At Triangular Initiative Ministerial Meeting, UNODC Chief stresses regional cooperation in face of illicit drug threat
18 December 2012 - Speaking at the end of a one-day mission to Tehran, UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov noted the many challenges related to the flow of opiates from Afghanistan, but also highlighted the achievements of the Triangular Initiative, a body working to halt this movement. "The close collaboration between Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan is achieving operational successes. More than eight tons of drugs have been seized in 17 operations planned and coordinated by the Joint Planning Cell, which is one of the key features of the Triangular Initiative," said Mr. Fedotov.
The Triangular Initiative has existed since 2007 and brings together the Islamic Republics of Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan to build good relations and to develop the strategies necessary to interrupt the flow of opiates out of Afghanistan.
As part of his mission, Mr. Fedotov met with the Ministers of counter-narcotics from the three countries in the margins of the Triangular Initiative meeting to discuss issues of interest on drugs and drug control policy.
West and Central Asia confront organized crime threats, corruption, instability, HIV and AIDS and increased drug consumption due to trafficking in opiates. Globally, it is estimated that around 100,000 people die every year due to opiates trafficked from Afghanistan, Myanmar and other smaller producers.
Afghanistan produces around 90 per cent of the world's opiates, and the southern part of the country is the world's largest opium producing region. Based on UNODC's recent Afghan Opium Survey 2012 the net opium cultivation in Afghanistan, after eradication, has increased from 131,000 ha in 2011 to around 153,000 ha in 2012 - an increase of 17 per cent. However, production appears to have declined from 5,800 tons in 2011 to 3,600 tons in 2012 which represents a fall of 38 per cent. Most of Afghanistan's opiates are trafficked through Iran and Pakistan, partly for local consumption, but mostly for shipment to more profitable markets.
In one of the keynote speeches at the Sixth Triangular Initiative Ministerial meeting, Mr. Fedotov called for joint patrols and operations as a regular practice. He said these operations should also be based on the real-time exchange of information and intelligence between the three countries. According to the Executive Director. there also needs to be a strengthening of drug control maritime cooperation between Pakistan and Iran, as well as other regional players.
"I cannot overemphasize the importance of a maritime response to illicit drugs and crime. The criminals are using the seas around Western Asia to their advantage and we must coordinate to increase the risk of their detection, said Mr. Fedotov.
But a focus on law enforcement was not enough said Mr. Fedotov: "We must also consider the enormous health implications of drug use in the region. A response to drug demand is a priority. We need to increase exchanges and technical cooperation in the areas of treatment of drug use and control of the spread of HIV and AIDS among drug users."
UNODC operates country programmes for Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, as well as in Central Asian countries. They are part of a strategy strengthened by the launch of a Regional Programme for Afghanistan and Neighbouring Countries in 2011. A Regional Programme for South East Europe was also launched this year to counter the flow of Afghan opium along the so-called Balkans route.