16 January 1998

Two New Members Join Forces with Central Asian Republics to Combat Growing Drug Problem

VIENNA, 16 January (UN Information Service) -- During a meeting that concluded today in Almaty, Kazakhstan, on ways to strengthen regional cooperation to combat drug problems, the Russian Federation and the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) joined forces with five Central Asian Republics to address the region?s escalating drug problem.

Prince Amyn Aga Khan, the Representative of His Highness the Aga Khan, signed the 'Memorandum of Understanding' (MOU) on behalf of the Network which is a group of private international development agencies with specific mandates. Since 1993, the Network has been providing humanitarian assistance and long-term development support that today touches Afghanistan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Aiming to deal more effectively with regional drug issues, the Russian Federation and the Aga Khan Development Network joined a 1996 MOU under which the Governments of five Central Asian Republics -- Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, with the assistance of the United Nations International Drug Control Programme, pledged to work cooperatively to address their common problems of production, trafficking and abuse of illicit drugs.

Situated between the world?s largest opium supply sources and the lucrative retail markets in Western Europe, the location of the Central Asian Republics and the Russian Federation have left these countries vulnerable to drug trafficking. Finding themselves more and more in the middle of newly expanding trafficking routes that link Afghan opium producers to East European markets, these countries are experiencing a surge in drug-related crime and violence. Additionally, the increase in drugs passing through their territory has meant an increase in spillage, resulting in greater drug abuse and addiction.

?In the past few years it has become clear that the best response to the rapidly growing drug phenomenon in this region is through coordinated and combined efforts?, said Pino Arlacchi, Under- Secretary-General of the United Nations. More than $2.5 million in UNDCP?s technical assistance projects have been established and are being implemented under the 1996 MOU, particularly projects that strengthen enforcement and interdiction capacities. Since the sudden opening of their borders in 1991, when many of these countries became independent and were forced to defend long borders and address new problems, law enforcement officials from the region have been unable to control the growth in trafficking.

During the meeting, the Foreign Ministers of Kazakhstan, Kirghiztan, Turkmenistan and high government officials of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, and Mr. Arlacchi discussed ongoing subregional projects which included drafting legislation and regulations that would provide a common framework for law enforcement efforts, including the seizure of assets of drug traffickers and efforts to thwart money laundering. The ability to enable enforcement agencies to share information on suspected shipments and to carry out ?controlled deliveries? were also on the agenda.

For further information, contact:
Sandro Tucci, Spokesperson for the UN Office of Drug Control and Crime Prevention
Ph: (43-1) 21345 5629 Fax: (43-1) 21345 5931
AH: (43-1) 504 80 88