VIENNA, 17 March 2006 - The Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Antonio Maria Costa, called on Friday for firm international support for the government of Afghanistan in its efforts to eradicate opium cultivation.
Addressing the closing session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), he said Afghanistan had to take the lead but it needed help from its own neighbours as well as from countries of demand.
"Afghanistan needs adequate criminal justice, honest governance, robust law enforcement and effective border management," Mr Costa said. "But above all, Afghanistan needs development. Only six percent of households have electricity, so of course people succumb to the temptation to get richer fast by growing opium."
The UNODC head urged the Afghan Government to put pressure on governors - particularly in the south of the country - to live up to their commitment to reduce opium supply.
"Farmers should comply with national laws, like everybody else. Member states have unanimously ratified the international drug conventions, so the ban on drug crops has to be respected," he said.
"But eradication needs to be complemented by measures to promote development and governance. I noted the broad consensus that we need to reduce poverty as a way of reducing illicit crops in the long term."
The Commission on Narcotic Drugs is the central policy-making body within the United Nations system dealing with illicit drugs. It is also the governing body for the work of UNODC in the drugs field.
The 49 th Session of the CND, which began on Monday, adopted resolutions on issues ranging from alternative development projects to help poor farmers give up drug cultivation, tighter controls on precursor chemicals used to make synthetic drugs and strengthening international cooperation in drug law enforcement,
The UNODC Executive Director said the drug pandemic that began in the 1960s had been contained, but more attention needed to be paid to cannabis and to amphetamine-type stimulants.
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