Paris Pact: Stopping the flow of opium from Afghanistan

31 October 2007 - Senior international counter-narcotics officials recently met in Kabul to improve efforts to stem the supply of deadly drugs out of Afghanistan. The meeting was organized by UNODC and held in the framework of the Paris Pact; an initiative launched in 2003 to promote coordinated measures to counter narco-trafficking in and from Afghanistan.

At the Kabul meeting, experts from North America, Central Asia, the European Union, CIS countries, Iran, Pakistan, Interpol, NATO and the World Customs Organization reviewed the regional and international efforts to contain the Afghan opiates threat.

Afghanistan had a record harvest of 8,200 tons of opium in 2007, a 34 per cent increase in production over 2006. The total opium export is valued at $4 billion in Afghanistan, an increase of 29 per cent over 2006. The opium economy is now equivalent to more than half (53 per cent) of the country's licit gross domestic product (GDP).

This deadly export gains value at every border crossing, because of the risks associated with smuggling. By the time the heroin hits the streets of Moscow, London or Paris, the Afghan opium export could be worth up to 100 times more. For Antonio Maria Costa, executive head of UNODC, "while opium brings some revenue to Afghanistan, over 90 per cent of profits are made by international criminal gangs and terrorists networks".

At the Kabul meeting the world will be invited to do much more against this threat. To begin with, only a fraction of Afghanistan's opiates is being seized worldwide (24 per cent, against 48 per cent of the Colombian cocaine seized). In Central Asia the interdiction rate is less than 4 per cent, mostly in Tajikistan. Since 2005, new heroin routes have emerged via Pakistan and via Central Asia to China and India. "If border control is not improved Afghanistan's neighbors will be hit by a tsunami of the most deadly drug", warned Mr. Costa.

To improve planning and avoid duplication of work among countries, UNODC has developed the Automated Donor Assistance Mechanism (ADAM), an online tool that holds information on nearly 900 counter-narcotics projects in Asia and Europe. Fostering data collection and analysis in West and Central Asia is a priority for the Paris Pact, as is increasing the number of partners using ADAM.