Ghada Waly

Director-General/Executive Director


United Nations Security Council briefing on the situation in Afghanistan

  25 June 2020

Distinguished members of the Council,


Ladies and gentlemen,

It is indeed an honour to join you today, and I thank the Presidency of France for this opportunity to brief the Security Council.

Je suis reconnaissante pour cette importante opportunité de partager avec vous les activités de l’Office des Nations Unies contre la drogue et le crime contribuant à la stabilité dans notre pays partenaire, l’Afghanistan.

COVID-19 has laid bare the fragility of our systems and institutions everywhere in the world, exposing stark disparities in social protection.

For Afghanistan, the pandemic, coming on top of conflict, hunger, drought and flood, is a burden too terrible to bear.

Illicit drugs threaten to further compound these challenges.

Here in Vienna I launched the 2020 UNODC World Drug Report earlier today. The findings are sobering.

Afghanistan remains the world’s biggest producer in opium, and production remains at record levels.

Despite significant decreases in cultivation, which dropped by 38% to 163,000 hectares last year, production at 6,400 tons remained roughly at the same level in view of high opium yields.

The evidence so far suggests that opium poppy cultivation and drug trafficking have continued unabated despite COVID-19 and related travel restrictions.

Labour shortfalls observed at the start of the harvest in the western and southern provinces were quickly addressed with women living in poppy-growing households engaged to lance the opium poppy crop.

The farmers compelled by poverty to grow opium poppy have seen their precarious incomes decline further, as the farm-gate value of opium production plunged, for the second consecutive year, by 33%.

The 33% decrease follows a similar drop in opium prices, which are at the lowest level since systematic monitoring began, reflecting abundant supply.

The illicit opiate economy is expected to continue fuelling instability and insurgency, and funding terrorist groups.

The availability of trafficked weapons, which supports the drug trade and terrorism in the country and sub-region, is making matters much worse.

One in three households in Afghanistan have been affected by drug use and up to 850,000 women are estimated to use drugs.

At the same time, the availability of evidence-based drug use prevention remains limited.

There are 107 drug treatment centres in the country, including nine for women and children, with limited capacity for outpatient and outreach programmes, or for longer-term recovery support.

Due to funding shortages and the conclusion of a UNODC project, five of the nine treatment centres for women and children, in five provinces, were forced to close this year.

This is extremely concerning as amphetamine-type stimulants have emerged as a serious problem.

While opium and opioids remain the most frequently used substances, use of methamphetamine is now being reported from nearly all provinces.

Large-scale manufacturing of methamphetamine is emerging in Afghanistan. Seizures in and outside the country also confirm the scale of this new threat.

Only four grams of methamphetamine were seized in Afghanistan in 2008, while in 2019 total seizures reached 1.25 tons.

Distinguished members of the Council,

The challenges I have briefly outlined are immense, and it will take the political will of Afghanistan, cooperation with its neighbours and the support of the international community to find lasting solutions.

I would like to acknowledge the efforts of Afghan law enforcement authorities to contain the trafficking threat, including through the Mobile Detection Teams and Precursor Control Units created with UNODC support.

UNODC also helped to establish Airport Interdiction Units, which supported a controlled delivery operation resulting in the seizure of seven kilograms of heroin.

A follow-up investigation in India led to the seizure of 300 kilograms of heroin.

Similar successes have been achieved through the Port Control Units established under the UNODC-WCO Global Container Control Programme.

This demonstrates how a small seizure can trigger bigger operational successes, if the advanced investigative techniques that UNODC promotes can be deployed.

The question for the future remains: how we can scale up such success stories, and have a real impact.

The same holds true for UNODC alternative development initiatives, which we are pursuing in 66 of 407 districts.

In the last two years, we have helped to create over 18,000 new jobs, including 7,600 for women, and nearly 2,000 hectares of agricultural land have been brought under licit cultivation.

Nevertheless, these efforts to create sustainable licit incomes face serious constraints as many opium growing areas remain outside government influence.

The COVID-19 crisis has heightened the many risks and vulnerabilities, and could further drive illicit opium poppy cultivation if we cannot take urgent action.

First and foremost, we need to ensure that counter-narcotics policies are situated in broader development and security strategies; that such action is sustainably resourced by donors and reinforced by regional cooperation; and that it is tailored to meet emerging threats.

UNODC stands ready to expand alternative development initiatives as the security situation and resources allow, and I would like to highlight the contribution alternative development can make to putting women and girls at the centre of the COVID-19 response and recovery efforts, as called for in the report of the Secretary-General.

Our Office is ready to step up the integrated support we offer to Afghanistan to prevent and tackle drug trafficking and related organized crime and corruption, including to address illicit firearms, money laundering and financing of terrorism.

I also appeal to the international community for increased support to help Afghanistan provide evidence-based prevention, treatment and other services for drug use and related diseases, in line with global commitments.

Political will and donor support in Afghanistan must be matched with renewed investment in regional cooperation.

UNODC supports several regional initiatives and mechanisms, and urges Afghanistan and its neighbours to make best use of them to strengthen regional action.

I hope we can rely on the support of the distinguished Security Council members to help us reinvigorate regional cooperation.

Finally, in scaling up and sustaining assistance to Afghanistan to address both supply and demand, our action must be tailored to address the emerging threat of synthetic drugs, which poses new dangers to the country, the region and the world at large.


I would like to thank President Ashraf Ghani for his attention to the importance of counter-narcotics for the future of Afghanistan, and I welcome the President’s decision to establish and personally chair the High Commission for Counter Narcotics and Intoxicants.

I offer UNODC’s full support through our integrated country, regional and inter-regional approach, and I urge the authorities to ensure that counter-narcotic operations will continue throughout the peace process, and in this way will contribute to a durable peace.

UNODC stands with the people of Afghanistan, and I am committed to working with all our partners to forge new paths of cooperation to help Afghanistan to build back better.

Thank you.