Secretary-General Zhang Ming,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you all for attending this event on strengthening cooperation between UNODC and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in the fight against drugs.
I hope that you have had fruitful discussions.
Building and strengthening partnerships is a cornerstone of UNODC’s corporate strategy. And the SCO is a key regional partner for us.
I hope today’s event provided an important opportunity to assess responses to common challenges and discuss strategic priorities.
I thank the SCO Chair, the Republic of India, for co-organizing this meeting.
The SCO’s Member States collectively account for more than three billion people, with young people representing about half that number.
A coordinated regional response to drugs is vital to protect the health, safety and development of this generation and those that follow.
The illicit drug trade feeds instability and undermines development.
It fuels organized crime and human trafficking, and in some contexts it can provide a source of financing for terrorist groups.
And we must not forget the human impact. Drugs have a devastating effect on the lives of individuals, of families and of communities.
The impact is often harshest on the most vulnerable.
Women suffer from unequal access to treatment and services.
Young people are using more drugs than previous generations, while their awareness of drugs’ harms erodes.
UNODC cooperates with national, regional and international partners to strengthen national capacities and promote regional cooperation in tackling drugs.
So our collaboration with the SCO is very important.
A key focus of our shared concern is Afghanistan.
Opium cultivation and the criminal economy connected to it, as well as new challenges from synthetic drugs and the darknet, affect Afghanistan’s security and development, with spillover effects in the wider region and beyond.
According to UNODC’s November 2022 Afghan Opium Survey, opium cultivation increased by 32 percent last year, to 233,000 hectares.
This is the third-largest area under cultivation in Afghanistan since monitoring began in 1994.
Meanwhile, the price of Afghan opium increased by almost 250 percent from 2021 to 2022.
This translates into big business for drug traffickers, with Afghan opiates supplying some 80 percent of users worldwide.
UNODC estimates that the value of the opiate trade through the northern route ranges from 1.1 billion to 2.1 billion dollars.
And the flow of heroin along the Western Balkan route is estimated to generate 28 billion dollars annually.
In response to the evolving situation in Afghanistan, UNODC has adopted a coordinated, multi-pronged approach that is grounded in international cooperation.
Our Strategic Stability Grid focuses on targeted actions that strengthen regional cooperation to address illicit drugs and other transnational threats.
Last year we conducted nine training sessions within this framework for SCO Member States that boosted the capacities of more than 120 counter-narcotics law enforcement officers in Central Asia and Pakistan.
UNODC also provides expertise and capacity-building support to networks that help prevent illicit flows of drugs and criminal finance.
Two important players in the SCO space are the regional Judicial Cooperation Network, and the Inter-Regional Network of Customs Authorities and Port Control Units.
We also work with platforms like the Central Asian Regional Information and Coordination Centre, CARICC, which partners with the SCO’s Regional Antiterrorist Structure.
More resources are needed for research, data collection and trend analysis, which can make policies and operational responses more effective.
The new UNODC Information Center in Tashkent, which will open in May, will make an important contribution by providing integrated and impartial monitoring of the drugs and crime situation in the region.
Today’s world is wracked by war, economic crisis, climate change, widespread human displacement and other massive challenges.
In this context, we must ensure that the fight against illicit drugs is not overshadowed, and that it is addressed in a comprehensive, integrated and balanced approach.
I would like to thank our regional and international partners and donors for their continued engagement and support.
I would also like to acknowledge the People’s Republic of China as the host of the SCO Secretariat.
International cooperation in the fight against drugs is more important than ever.
As we go forward, we will work towards closer collaboration between UNODC and the SCO and its Member States.