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UNIS/CP/464
6 February 2004

United Nations Office Sees “Critical Decisions” for Counter-Narcotic Efforts in Afghanistan

VIENNA, 6 February (UN Information Service) -- Over the past two years, the new Afghan Government has taken important counter-narcotic decisions; President Hamid Karzai has issued a ban on opium cultivation and trafficking; the new Counter Narcotic Directorate has been established; and the National Drug Control Strategy, calling for the elimination of opium production within ten years, has been adopted. Despite these positive developments, a steady increase in opium cultivation has been recorded.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Afghanistan Opium Survey 2003 estimated the production of that year at 3,600 tons, an increase of 6 percent compared to 3,400 tons in 2002. The new 2004 Farmers’ Intentions Survey stresses the risk of a further increase in cultivation this year.

“We face critical decisions. If we don’t start translating counter-narcotics commitment into lower levels of production, we run the risk of opium economy undermining all that has been achieved in creating a democratic new Afghanistan,” Mr. Antonio Maria Costa, the UNODC Executive Director, said before departing Vienna today for the International Conference on Counter-Narcotics in Afghanistan, to be held on 8 and 9 February in Kabul.

Mr. Costa said that close cooperation with the new Afghan Government -- supported by the Governments of the United Kingdom, Germany, United States and Italy -- has resulted in the creation of the country’s first counter-narcotics institutions and the adoption of the first counter-narcotics legislation. “These institutions and laws now need to reach opium growing areas, in order to translate the adopted policies into reality. This needs to be complemented by much better focused effort to replace deeply rooted opium economy with sustainable alternative livelihood for Afghan farmers,” Mr. Costa said.

At the Kabul conference, Mr. Costa will reiterate his call for the international security force in Afghanistan to help interdict narco-trafficking chains and clandestine laboratories. “The fight against terrorism will be more effective if drug trafficking is interrupted. There is a mounting evidence of drug money being used to finance criminal activities, including terrorism. At the same time there needs to be a clear answer to the allegations of some public officials’ involvement in the drug economy,” Mr. Costa stated.

Besides attending the conference, Mr. Costa will meet top Afghan officials as well as international representatives involved in the reconstruction and the counter-narcotic efforts to discuss the policy priorities in this area.

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