ISLAMABAD, 26 February 2007 (UNODC) - The head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Antonio Maria Costa, has proposed an action plan to improve border security between Afghanistan and its neighbours Pakistan and Iran.
"At the moment drug traffickers cooperate better than the regional governments," he said during a visit to Pakistan. While roughly a quarter of all opium and heroin produced in 2005 was seized - up from 10 percent in 1990 - this was still well below the global interception rate for cocaine.
Mr Costa stressed that Afghanistan needed to do more to control its sovereign territory, but added: "There are two sides to every border and Afghanistan's neighbours have a vested interest in stopping the flow of drugs, laundered money and chemical precursors." He noted that, during a recent visit to Iran, he had been impressed by the steps taken to prevent drug traffickers from entering that country.
Afghanistan's 5,800-km long border is difficult to guard because of high mountains and desert terrain. Some sections are well protected while others, particularly in the South, are extremely porous, allowing drug traffickers, smugglers and insurgents to operate with impunity.
The Baluchistan region, straddling the borders of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran, is particularly vulnerable to illicit activity.
The plan outlined by the UNODC Executive Director would include parallel and joint border patrols, joint training exercises, setting up border liaison offices and introducing compatible radio communications systems. At sea borders and high-volume freight crossings, special attention would be devoted to container security and the interception of chemical precursors needed to produce heroin.
During a visit to Islamabad from 24 to 26 February, Mr Costa outlined his plan to Pakistan's Ministers of the Interior and Anti-Narcotics and invited them to a meeting in Vienna on 1 March with their Iranian and Afghan counterparts.
"Joint activities and better information sharing are badly needed to fight drug trafficking and build security and confidence in this part of the world," he said. "This is a regional problem that requires a regional solution with the support of all those who have a stake in controlling drugs and preventing instability. This is a shared responsibility."