28 February 2017 - The value of opiates trafficked out of Afghanistan is "staggering", UNODC Executive Director, Yury Fedotov, told an audience at a high-level conference in Tehran, on 27 February.
Taking the Balkans route as an example, the illicit proceeds of trafficked Afghan opiates amounts to $28 billion said the UNODC Chief. This figure exceeded not just the gross domestic product of Afghanistan, but it was also only one of the three main trafficking routes flowing out of the country. Mr. Fedotov told the audience that a UNODC report on opium grown in Afghanistan published in 2016 showed that poppy cultivation had increased by 10 per cent to 201,000 hectares. Production, driven by the high opium yield, had risen also by 43 per cent to 4,800 tonnes.
UNODC was responding, Mr. Fedotov said, by working with regional and international partners to build greater cooperation against transnational organized crime and terrorism threats, as well as refining regional drug control coordination. Known as the "One UNODC Concerted Approach for Europe, West and Central Asia", activities included efforts under the Regional Programme for Afghanistan and Neighbouring Countries, and South Eastern Europe, the Programme for Central Asia, and the Country Programmes for Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan.
Underpinning these activities were a number of other integrated initiatives. One such programme, the Triangular Initiative, brought together Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan to share information and good practices on law enforcement, and to conduct joint operations against the traffickers founded on the intelligence of a Tehran-based Joint Planning Cell. Mr. Fedotov said UNODC was planning to complement these activities by setting up a regional anti-money laundering network in Tehran to counter regional terrorism financing.
Another important activity within the "One UNODC approach" is the Networking the Networks initiative to build bridges between law enforcement bodies along the major opiate trafficking routes. Organizations involved in this process included: the Central Asian Regional Information and Coordination Centre (CARICC) , the Joint Planning Cell and the Doha-based Gulf Criminal Information Centre for Combatting Drugs, among others.
The broad range of UNODC's activities in the region, Mr. Fedotov said, were undertaken to also support the outcome document of last April's UN General Assembly Special Session on the world drug problem (UNGASS 2016). He stressed that last October's Brussel's Conference on Afghanistan had also reinforced the need to focus on illicit drugs, crime, corruption and terrorism in the region. But, Mr. Fedotov said, "high level political commitment and pledges must be backed by the required support, including financial resources."
Mr. Fedotov was speaking at the Tehran International Conference on Cooperation against Illicit Drugs and related Organized Crime, which brought together Ministers, ambassadors, experts and others from Central Asia and beyond to discuss drugs and crime.
At the end of the conference, organizers issued conclusions commending UNODC and recognizing that "Afghanistan and the transit countries in the region continue to face multifaceted challenges, and reaffirm[ing] the continuing need for cooperation and support, including the provision of technical assistance to, inter alia, enhance their capacities to effectively address and counter the drug problem".
Commenting on the conclusions, Mr. Fedotov said, "The Conference's conclusions are useful inputs for the forthcoming 60th Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs and the ongoing post-UNGASS 2016 implementation efforts." As part of his overall mission to Tehran, the UNODC Executive Director also met with Mohammad Javad Zarif, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, Minister of Interior and Secretary General of Drug Control Headquarters.