Tuesday 26 June marked the Thematic Debate of the 66th Session of the UN General Assembly entitled “Drugs and Crime as a Threat to Development” on the occasion of the UN International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. The objective of the Thematic Debate is to increase the coordination of international efforts to more effectively combat narcotics trafficking and its pernicious effects on development. H.E. Zarar Ahmad Moqbel, Minister of Counter Narcotic of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, delivered remarks on the current state of the fight against narcotics at the Thematic Debate and the UNODC briefing hosted the next day on 27 June.
The opening session included introductory remarks by H.E. Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, H.E. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, President of the United Nations General Assembly, and Mr. Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. Secretary-General Ban explained that drug cultivation, production, and trafficking undermine development, peace and security, and public health, as well as the education of the youth population. The Sectary-General stressed the need for an anti-narcotics effort that is comprehensive and draws from an interdisciplinary perspective. Many speakers emphasized that drugs and organized crime must be combated on all fronts, ranging from decreasing demand in developed countries to providing equally lucrative alternative livelihoods to poor, rural farmers who constitute the vast majority of the population that cultivates poppy.
In his remarks, Minister Moqbel highlighted the commitment and progress that has been made in the fight against narcotics in Afghanistan. In the last five years, poppy cultivation in Afghanistan has been decreased by 2,000 hectares, and poppy has been seized at a growing rate by the authorities. These efforts are indicative of improvements in Afghan law enforcement, one that has led to a 24% increase in the arrest of suspects of drug trafficking.
Minister Moqbel stressed the importance of multilateralism in the fight against narcotics. He also highlighted the link between narcotics and terrorism, noting that narcotics trafficking is the most significant source of funding for terrorism. He explained that a counter-trafficking program is also a counter-terrorism program, and therefore suggested that regional and international actors must work together to confront this problem on all levels.
In the morning interactive panel discussion, speakers focused on the mainstreaming of drug control into development initiatives. The speakers expressed a strong consensus on many points, including the need to decrease demand and increase the efforts to help recovered drug addicts reintegrate into society.
The afternoon interactive panel discussion sought to identify ways to integrate crime prevention in development initiatives. The panelists emphasized the vital link between crime prevention with the strength of the rule of law. Speakers touched upon themes that were common threads throughout the day: the need for increased coordination and international cooperation, the need for more capacity building efforts for poor populations, and improving states’ capacities to fight organized crime.
On Wednesday, 27 June, UNODC hosted a briefing on the drugs and organized crime situations in Afghanistan and Tajikistan. Speakers included Minister Moqbel and H.E. Rustam Nazarov, Director-General of Tajikistan’s Counter-Narcotics Agency, who gave a presentation on the state of counter-narcotics efforts in Tajikistan. Mr. Yuri Fedotov and H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin, Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations, introduced Minister Moqbel, who gave a presentation on the state of counter-narcotics efforts in Afghanistan. Minister Moqbel highlighted the progress made by Afghanistan in decreasing the rate of poppy cultivation. National law enforcement has been much more successful and aggressive in its fight against narcotics, and their achievements have been notable. In spite of these successes and the decreased presence of poppy cultivation and narcotics production in Afghanistan, Minister Moqbel noted the continued challenges that lie ahead for Afghanistan, including the economic development that is necessary to provide poppy cultivators with alternative livelihoods.