Director General/Executive Director
Remarks at the Briefing to Member States on the Launch of the Regional Programme for Afghanistan and Neighbouring Countries
Excellencies, Honoured Guests, Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today is a critical moment in the fight against illicit drugs cultivated and produced in Afghanistan.
Despite a decade of international efforts and initiatives, the problems of drugs and crime in the country remain a clear threat at the global level.
The cultivation and production of opium in Afghanistan has also hit the countries of West and Central Asia hardest. As a result of drug trafficking, these countries face high addiction rates, cross-border criminality, and corruption.
To meet these challenges, UNODC has developed a Regional Programme for Afghanistan and Neighbouring Countries (2011-2014) that we are launching today.
The Regional Programme provides a strategic framework for UNODC's country programmes and provides a coherent field response to drug trafficking, as well as closer co-operation among regional and international actors.
Today's Declaration of Intent represents a strong affirmation from Afghanistan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan to combat narcotics in the spirit of cooperation and mutual trust.
I am particularly pleased that the Declaration urges the signatories to enhance the activities and operations of Central Asian Regional Information and Coordination Centre-CARICC-and the Joint Planning Cell of the Triangular Initiative by sharing drug related operational information and conducting effective information-led coordinated operations.
UNODC will continue to work closely with other regional and subregional organisations and formats actively involved in issues of stability and development in this part of the world, as well as with UNAMA, and other UN partners.
These synergies are vital if the Regional Programme is to be seen as a key link in the chain of initiatives designed to interdict Afghan narcotics along the main supply routes.
These are welcome developments, especially when placed within the context of the desire among signatories to enhance legal cooperation and to harmonize legislative frameworks.
The Regional Programme is much more than a Declaration of Intent, it is a delivery mechanism for practical actions that will help alleviate the suffering and misery caused by the cultivation and production of drugs in Afghanistan.
The Regional Programme will be implemented through 4 Sub-programmes corresponding to themes identified in consultation with the governments of the region.
Our work will, therefore, be founded on activities that have a country focus and which are tailored to national needs.
One of the key roles played by the Regional Programme is to facilitate the development of cooperation to address financial flows, and in doing so, minimize the profits made by criminal networks.
The Regional Programme aims to strengthen such cooperation, through the facilitation of joint training operations, the establishment of a regional asset recovery network, and the promotion of Financial Intelligence Units cooperation in the region.
Guided and coordinated by UNODC team based in Kabul, the Regional Programme will neither replace nor overlap ongoing projects at the country level.
Instead, it has been developed to supplement such activities and make them more result oriented.
All of these activities are necessary because poppy cultivation in Afghanistan has increased this year by 7 per cent. In the same period, the amount of opium produced increased by 61 per cent.
This situation cannot last forever, and we are beginning to run out of time. As we move ever closer to 2014, and the disengagement of the International Security Assistance Force-ISAF-the international community will look to the United Nations to take on additional responsibilities in supporting Afghanistan.
Throughout this period UNODC's role is clear. We will work hard to bring counter-narcotics and the rule of law back to where it belongs: at the very heart of the policy debate on Afghanistan's future.
The launch of the Regional Programme forms part of a wider political process. At the Paris Pact Ministerial meeting in Vienna on 16 February next year, I hope I will be able to report on the first achievements of the Regional Programme.
This is vital because the Regional Programme can enhance the Paris Pact's impact by bridging the divide between its own recommendations and the implementation of activities on the ground.
I would also like to add that the first Steering Committee meeting, which includes members of the Regional Programme, donor parties and UNODC, will be held before the CND meeting at the end of March. Until then, technical meetings at the field level will define work plans and priorities.
The Regional Program is a force for good in the region, which is at the disposal of the international community to help citizens achieve peace, security and justice.
I would like to thank the Permanent Missions contributions in preparing the launch of the Regional Programme including facilitating UNODC staff missions to the capitals, participating at UNODC briefings and consultations, and finalizing the Regional Programme documents.
Finally, I urge the international community to lend their wholehearted political and financial support to the Regional Programme.