Statement to the UN Security Council on Afghanistan
I welcome today's initiative of the Security Council to discuss Afghanistan, and I am pleased to be here to provide a briefing together with my dear colleague Jan Kubis.
Afghanistan's challenges are formidable. The 2014 transition is likely to create considerable political and security uncertainty, which must be addressed.
At this crucial moment, Afghanistan needs continued international support. If its economic development declines, and international aid is reduced, along with business confidence, the reliance on the illicit economy will further increase.
Over the last decade, drug cultivation and production have been the most profitable illicit and criminal business activities in Afghanistan.
At UNODC, we estimate that, the global opium market is worth some 68 billion US dollars, and 80 per cent of the world's opium and heroin are produced in Afghanistan. The narcotics trade may be worth between 10 to 15 per cent of the country's GDP.
In 2013, the area under poppy cultivation reached an historical high of 209 thousand hectares. Opium production increased by 50 per cent, compared to 2012, rising to 5.5 thousand tons.
Afghanistan remains at the centre of a multi-billion dollar illicit business that impacts on security, the rule of law, health, as well as sustainable development. And this is being driven not only by global consumption, but also by domestic speculation and corruption.
The link between the lack of security and opium cultivation is also evident. 90 per cent of total opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan takes place in the Southern and Western provinces, the most insecure areas, where anti-government elements and drug traders are extremely active.
Money laundering is hindering proper tax collection, and creates an under-resourced government bereft of the financial means to confront illicit drugs.
This is true on both the supply side and the demand side, where the country has the highest rate of opium addiction in the world.
Unfortunately, these problems have not been concretely reflected in the Kabul and Tokyo processes. As a result, counter-narcotics efforts were not given a high priority by national and international stakeholders.
However, it would be unfair to say that nothing has been done to confront this challenge. Here are just a few facts and figures on the most recent developments.
Notwithstanding the election period and security concerns, the Afghan counter-narcotics police have continued with the eradication of opium crop in 12 provinces; although the figure of 1,600 hectares eradicated from the beginning of the season to 2 June is down on previous years.
In the period January to December last year, Afghan counter-narcotic police undertook the following:
- 440 operations resulting in 383 arrests.
- Dismantled two heroin laboratories; and
- Seized 2.8 tons of opiates and 13.8 tons of precursor chemicals.
UNODC's role is to provide support and assistance to the relevant Afghan counter-narcotic authorities, and to encourage them to do more.
We are also building effective international cooperation and partnerships through networks such as the Regional Programme for Afghanistan and Neighbouring Countries, the Triangular Initiative, that brings together Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan, and the AKT Group with the participation of Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, while working closely with many regional organisations.
Ministerial review meetings have been held recently between the members of the AKT group, and the Triangular Initiative, as well as the Steering Committee of the Regional Programme, to further strengthen cooperation on countering illicit drugs and border management among countries in West and Central Asia.
The Triangular Initiative, in particular, has already produced concrete results in terms of several tons of Afghan drugs seized, but even more importantly, it has made possible for these three countries to engage in constructive cooperation at the operational level.
UNODC is continuing to support law enforcement operations in the region through new initiatives, such as the Criminal Assets Southern Hub (CASH), the Southern Trafficking Operational Plan (STOP), and the Maritime Regional Security Initiative (MARES).
Furthermore, UNODC is promoting drug control cooperation at the interregional level to assist countries in countering transnational organised crime and drug trafficking rings involved in the Afghan opiates trade.
In this context, we are supporting the linkages between counter-narcotic intelligence sharing centres such as the Joint Planning Cell, under the Triangular Initiative, and other regional centres, including CARICC, GCIC-CCD and SELEC.
To cement this process, last year, UNODC launched its "networking the networks" initiative.
This initiative brings together regional centres to enhance criminal intelligence, and to collaborate in operations along the main trafficking routes used for shipping drugs and precursors to and from Afghanistan.
But, despite the work of the international community, much more needs to be done.
Afghanistan needs a meaningful action plan that has a long term development, peace and security approach.
One that is coupled with an effective drug control effort able to balance its different components of supply and demand reduction and alternative development.
One that mainstreams action against drug lords and criminality into work promoting sustainable economic and social development.
A more comprehensive approach is needed. There are three key areas:
First, reducing the vulnerability of citizens to the illicit economy through improvements to the quality of their lives; including in the areas of health care, education and job creation.
Alternative development is an essential tool in these efforts and can help farmers to permanently move away from illicit crop farming. But, this will only succeed if we also provide licit markets for the substitution crops and improve upon existing infrastructure.
Second, removing the opportunities of criminals by focusing on good governance, the rule of law, and anti-money laundering and anti-corruption activities.
These issues were a fundamental element of the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework (TMAF).
There remains a strong need to turn the words of the framework into firm action, so that we can eliminate corruption in Afghan society, and its institutions, and sever the flow of money from this crime.
Third, generating the political will that can introduce a long-term engagement that binds together the UN family, as well as international and national stakeholders.
The 2016 UNGASS could also help at the international level by reviewing the achievements and challenges in countering the world drug problem, including in Afghanistan.
We must remember development and economic growth must go together with resolute action in addressing drug trafficking networks and transnational organised crime in Afghanistan, across the region and at the interregional level.
UNODC will continue its work to help Afghanistan engage with its neighbours, and in doing so, promote regional, and interregional cooperation in an integrated, comprehensive response to illicit drugs.