I have just returned from my first field mission, which included meetings in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Abu Dhabi and Tajikistan, and which primarily focused on the threat from drugs originating in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan and its neighbours have to be considered frontline states defending not only themselves but all of us from drug trafficking. To be more effective, they must form a real front. UNODC is doing everything it can to encourage regional counter-narcotics cooperation.
Pakistan & the Triangular Initiative Ministerial Meeting
In Islamabad, I attended a very productive ministerial meeting of the Triangular Initiative, which fosters intelligence sharing and joint counter-narcotics operations among Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan. This initiative has helped to forge an impressive level of cooperation among the three countries on vital issues such as border security and regional cooperation to stop drug trafficking.
They adopted not only a Ministerial Declaration, but also a list of recommendations and a real plan of action that provides for exchange of data and information, intelligence sharing and other kinds of cooperation in sensitive areas. The Joint Planning Cell established in Tehran will now start working since all three countries have appointed liaison officers. UNODC is a facilitator of the Triangular Initiative, we have played a key role in establishing and supporting the Initiative.
In Islamabad, I also met with President Asif Zardari and a number of senior Pakistani officials. Four months ago, in a demonstration of its commitment to confronting the drug problem, Pakistan launched with UNODC a drug control master plan and a new Country Programme that will significantly increase international support for Pakistan's efforts to stop illicit drug trafficking; enhance its criminal justice system; strengthen drug demand reduction and HIV/AIDS programmes. Both President Zardari and President Karzai in Afghanistan spoke about the spillover of drug consumption in their countries, which used to be known for drug production, but now are also victims of drugs.
In Pakistan, UNODC is also helping to rebuild police stations and related infrastructure destroyed by the floods.
In Kabul, I met with President Karzai, other senior Afghan officials, the leadership of UNAMA and NATO/ISAF, and I took part in the meeting of the ambassadors of the Silk Road Group and other key ambassadors. UNODC is committed to continue supporting the Afghan authorities to confront the problems of drugs, promoting effective, integrated strategies to counter drug trafficking, organized crime, corruption and other challenges.
In Afghanistan I also met with people whose lives have been directly affected by the illicit drug trade, including patients in a drug treatment centre in Kabul, and inmates in an Afghan women's prison, who are raising their children in captivity. By the way, many of them have been convicted for taking part in illicit drug trafficking. Drugs are ruining lives in Afghanistan as well as in neighbouring countries, women and children are most vulnerable. Drug users are affected by a disease-addiction-and instead of punishment, what they need is treatment, care and social integration. They should not be stigmatized, repressed or further marginalized, but rather should be supported. I admire the high quality of the work of UNODC staff in Afghanistan and Pakistan to help these victims of the illicit drug trade.
I had the privilege to pay a short working visit to Abu Dhabi, where I met with several Government officials. What came out of our discussions was that the relationship between the United Arab Emirates and UNODC is expanding. Abu Dhabi's leadership has expressed their interest in furthering the emerging partnership between their country and UNODC, particularly in areas such as preventing drug trafficking and drug abuse, human trafficking, and corruption.
I was very pleased to have the opportunity to visit the Central Asian Regional Information and Coordination Centre (CARICC) in Almaty. CARICC helps to identify and disrupt transnational trafficking networks, strengthen regional criminal justice capacity and enhance security and confidence among the States of the region. I was also pleased to note the mutual interest between CARICC and the Triangular Initiative to establish contacts and cooperation.
Since its official opening one year ago, CARICC has already had many successes. It has disrupted more than 20 trafficking channels, resulting in the seizure of more than 200 kg of heroin. CARICC also helps to coordinate regional initiatives such as Operation TARCET against precursor chemicals.
Precursors are another important area for UNODC. Afghanistan is not producing these chemicals, they are being imported illegally. They need to enhance border control for precursors. This would help to reduce heroin production in Afghanistan.
But CARICC has the potential to do much more. UNODC would like it to play a more active role in the intelligence-led approach to tackling drug trafficking. We would also like CARICC to cooperate closely with other regional counter-narcotic initiatives. Working together with CARICC would help us to increase the ability of countries in the region to confront the illicit drug trade.
In Tajikistan, I had the privilege to meet with President Emomalii Rahmon and the heads of the national Drug Control Agency and the Ministry of Interior. The Drug Control Agency was established with very active support from UNODC. It started from scratch, from zero, but now it's fully equipped and fully operational. UNODC has been working in close partnership with the Government of Tajikistan and the Drug Control Agency for more than a decade. Tajikistan has achieved good results in the face of a huge flow of illicit drugs, but the drug control challenge remains daunting. I traveled to the Tajik-Afghan border and I saw the new equipment that helps with border control to prevent smuggling of drugs, and I crossed the border to meet General Daud and officials of Afghanistan's Konduz Province. I could see for myself the close cooperation between Tajik and Afghan authorities in this region.
UNODC seeks to work with all countries that want to stop the flow of Afghan opium. Addressing Afghan opium and insecurity will help the entire region, with ripple effects that spread much farther. But this is a shared responsibility. International cooperation is the only effective solution to the Afghan drug problem and its international impact.