Please allow me to congratulate you, and all members of the Bureau on your election. Let me assure you of my delegation’s full support and cooperation throughout the work of this committee.
I would also like to express my appreciation to the Secretary-General and the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) for their comprehensive reports and the ongoing technical support provided by UNODC for our efforts to combat the threat of narcotics and narcotics-related crime in Afghanistan.
Years of conflict and violence, and the rule of the Taliban have severely damaged the basic physical and economic infrastructures of Afghanistan and have taken the country from a state of peaceful development into a cycle of conflict, fueled by international terrorism.
Among the many devastating effects of decades of war and insecurity, increased poppy cultivation carries the largest societal, political and economic consequences. These threaten to endanger our efforts to rebuild a stable and democratic Afghanistan with a legitimate economy.
Today, Afghans suffer from the dual menace of terrorism and drugs. The deep-rooted nexus between terrorism and the trafficking of illicit narcotic drugs poses a serious threat to stabilization efforts. Terrorist groups in our region are financed in part by the profits from illegal drug activity. At the same time this is the insecurity caused by terrorism that instigates the continuation of the illegal trafficking and cultivation of narcotics.
The ever-present threat posed by the international narcotics trade is a real challenge that we all face equally. For our part, Afghanistan is solemnly committed to continuing to combating production as well as reducing consumption and demand of illegal narcotics.
Afghan farmers have been coerced into using the country’s valuable land for the cultivation of poppy crops; however, they only receive a fraction of a percentage from the sale of their crops while 97% of the profits flow out beyond our borders and into the hands of transnational mafias. The illicit drug industry converts our precious agricultural land into a catalyst for fueling war and violence rather than the vital resource it should be for feeding our people, all while lining the pockets of traffickers and helping the global terror and crime networks.
Narcotics have also had a deep societal impact in many countries, draining our communities of economic and human resources through addiction. It is evident that illicit drugs have no value to a strong and sovereign Afghanistan and that it is in the best interest of the future of the country and the entire international community to do what is necessary to succeed in the counter narcotics’ fight.
We continue our call for cooperative regional and international efforts, including the establishment of the recently planned Afghanistan, Russia, Pakistan and Tajikistan Strategic Counter Narcotics Centre in Kabul, along with the opportunities, such as today, to discuss this issue constructively with the international community. We highlight, however, that greater collaboration is required to tackle this issue rather than continuing to point the fingers of blame at the Afghan farmer, overemphasizing the production aspect of the problem, and underestimating the main danger that stems from trafficking.
Despite prevailing, formidable challenges, Afghanistan continues to make progress in its fight against narcotics. With reinvigorated efforts throughout the last few years, we have succeeded in dramatically decreasing poppy cultivation. As a result the number of poppy-free provinces has increased from 6 to 20. According to the recent report of the Secretary-General on the Situation in Afghanistan, there was a 65% increase in the eradication of poppy fields in 2011, compared with 2010. Furthermore, in the first half of 2011, large quantities of chemical precursors, which had been smuggled into the country, were seized and the smugglers, including foreign nationals attempting to smuggle narcotics from Afghanistan were arrested.
These achievements have not come about without a cost. Hundreds of Afghan police officers have sacrificed their lives in the eradication of poppy fields. Compared with 2010, this year we have experienced a fourfold increase in security-related incidents during eradication operations. There is a strong link between insecurity and poppy cultivation in Afghanistan. The UNODC report acknowledges that almost 98% of production takes place in provinces that continue to see the highest levels of insecurity.
In addition to concerted international and regional efforts, sustainable progress in addressing the problem of narcotics in Afghanistan will require strengthening the Afghan security forces’ capacity and providing alternative livelihoods for Afghan farmers. We have already seen the relapse of some poppy-free provinces and our hard-won gains are at risk without the continued partnerships of the international community to address our shared responsibility to this trans-boundary, multifaceted issue.
Before I conclude, let me reiterate the commitment of the people and Government of Afghanistan in the fight against narcotics. We look forward to working with our regional and international partners to address this ongoing threat as quickly as possible.
I thank you.