UN Director Antonio Maria Costa and Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner discuss Afghanistan Opium Crisis
BRUSSELS, 12 September (UNODC)- The Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Antonio Maria Costa, and the European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, today in Brussels exchanged views and information on the worrying situation with regard to drugs cultivation in Afghanistan. The Afghan Minister for Counter-Narcotics, Habibullah Quaderi, also participated in the meeting.
UN Executive Director Costa said "Steps to eradicate opium poppy must go hand in hand with steps to eradicate poverty. In a land as poor as Afghanistan, farmers need sustainable, legal forms of income to resist the temptation to grow opium."
Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner said: "The European Commission is the biggest contributor in the fight against poppy cultivation, and in particular, to the creation of alternative livelihoods. We can point to some real success stories. Where governance, security and development have improved, cultivation has dropped.. But clearly, this year's overall increase in cultivation is disappointing. We all face an incredibly difficult task but one too important to abandon, and the Commission is determined to continue its efforts."
At the meeting Mr. Costa presented the UNODC's Afghanistan Opium Survey 2006 which is being officially launched in Brussels today. "This report is not pleasant reading", said the UN drugs chief.
The UN report presents causes and effects of a "staggering" 59% increase in opium cultivation that has led to a bumper crop of 6,100 tons of opium in 2006. It also outlines a number of political, strategic and health measures required in response and the need for more development assistance.
The EU has made counter narcotics a priority of its assistance for Afghanistan over the last years, in particular in the East and North-East. It is encouraging that in provinces like Nangarhar and neighbouring regions the countries poppy cultivation now stands at negligible levels due to the delivery of a range of rural development programmes as an alternative to the poppy economy.
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