Statement by H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations
At the Third Committee debate on Agenda Item 100: International Drug Control
Since this is the first time my Delegation is taking the floor, I would like to congratulate you on your election to the chairmanship of this committee and the able leadership you have demonstrated since the beginning of our work. I would also like to assure you of the full dedication of my Delegation throughout your chairmanship and during the work of this committee.
Let me also extend my appreciation to Mr. Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) for his insightful presentation and the continuous assistance UNODC is providing Afghanistan in addressing problems of production and trafficking of drugs.
Allow me to begin by reiterating that the Government of Afghanistan is strongly committed to preventing the cultivation and smuggling of narcotic drugs. The drug problem still poses a great challenge to the long term security, development and effective governance of Afghanistan. It also represents a significant risk to the stability of the entire region and beyond.
Since last year when we gathered to discuss the international drug control item before this committee, Afghanistan has made major progress in combating drugs. As a result of our efforts in fighting narcotics as well as in implementing Afghanistan’s National Drug Control Strategy, we are witnessing a significant decrease in the cultivation and production of opium in Afghanistan.
The Afghanistan Opium Survey released in August 2008 reported a 19 per cent decrease in opium cultivation to 157, 000 hectares, compared to the record harvest of 193, 000 in 2007 and also reported that opium production has dropped by 6 per cent from 8,200 tons to 7, 700 tons.
We have come a long way since 2006, when only 6 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces were opium free. According to the report, the number of opium free provinces in Afghanistan has increased by almost 50 per cent since last year, from 13 to 18, making 50% of the country virtually poppy free. The most impressive result is in Nangarhar province which was Afghanistan’s second highest opium producing province in 2007 and is opium free today.
In view of these achievements, we would like to emphasize that this trend is the result of continuous efforts undertaken by the Government of Afghanistan to fight narcotics through a combination of law enforcement and economic measures as well as strong leadership demonstrated by local governors to discourage farmers from planting opium through campaigns against its cultivation, peer pressure, and the promotion of alternative development.
Today, it is imperative to consolidate recent gains by including local authorities and other important local players such as elders, shuras and religious leaders to raise awareness of and to advocate for viable alternatives to opium.
The production and trafficking of illegal drugs presents a major threat to the security of our country and is directly linked to the financing of terrorist and illegal activities. The distinct geographical overlap between regions of opium production and insecurity demonstrates the inextricable link between drugs and terrorist activities. In fact, 98 per cent of the opium is grown in just seven provinces in the south west of Afghanistan – Helmand, Kandahar, Uruzgan, Farah, Nimroz, Daykundi and Zabul – where the Taliban and Al Qaida attempt to continue their campaign of terror.
We would like to stress the need to intensify our efforts in breaking the link between opium production and terrorism in order to create a stable, prosperous and democratic Afghanistan.
Lack of security, extreme poverty, and pressure from traffickers and local criminal groups are the main causes of expansion of poppy cultivation. H.E. President Karzai in his statement to the 63rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly stated that, and I quote: “Keys to sustaining our success will be ensuring alternative livelihoods for our farmers, greater investment in law enforcement and interdiction and above all, addressing the far greater dimensions of the world’s drug trade that lie outside Afghanistan, such as reduction of demand in foreign markets and stricter border control.”
In this regard, I would like to underline the urgent need for the international community to provide coordinated practical assistance and other resources to ensure the successful implementation of our National Drug Control Strategy especially in the following areas:
Ø drug law enforcement measures
Ø alternative livelihood programmes with a focus on poverty alleviation
Ø regional cooperation initiatives
We would like to take this opportunity to particularly emphasize the need to channel financial resources allocated to counter narcotics efforts in Afghanistan through the Afghan Counter Narcotics Trust Fund.
The impact of rising global food prices combined with drought has significantly increased domestic food prices and created a food crisis in Afghanistan. However, it has made wheat an attractive, licit alternative to opium. The gross income ratio of opium to wheat (per hectare) in 2007 was 10:1 and this year it decreased to 3:1. Nevertheless, as Antonio Maria Costa recently justly warned, “Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world, and the latest food crisis has made farmers even more vulnerable. Opium is a seasonal plant. It may be gone today, but back again tomorrow.” The creation of alternative livelihood is a vital factor in sustaining the voluntary lower cultivation of opium.
Although the global demand for illicit drugs does not appear to be increasing, there are still 25 million drug users in the world. In this context, we would like to emphasize a crucial point that has also been expressed in the report of the Secretary General A/63/111 and reaffirmed during the work of the fifty-first session of the Commission on Narcotics Drugs this year. The world drug problem is a common and shared responsibility that requires an integrated, balanced and sustainable approach through national and international measures. It also necessitates a balanced approach between demand reduction and supply reduction, bearing in mind that successful supply reduction efforts in drug producing regions had been partially offset by the continued demand for drugs in all parts of the world. We would like to remind this esteemed committee that our counter-narcotic efforts are more likely to succeed if supported by demand reduction in drug consuming countries.
On June 11, 2008, the Security Council Members adopted resolution S/ RES/1817 calling on States to bolster cooperation in counter drug trade matters which undermine the security and development of Afghanistan. This resolution also included recommendations for strengthening the monitoring of international trade in chemical precursors and for preventing attempts to divert the substances from licit international trade for illicit use in Afghanistan. In this regard we stress the need to stop the diversion and smuggling of precursor chemicals that could be used in Afghanistan to process heroin.
Afghanistan is a landlocked country. Traffickers transport drug consignments from Afghanistan through our neighboring countries and other transit states to European markets. Strong enforcement measures for the control of borders, and mutual cooperation among judicial and law enforcement authorities in these countries would contribute significantly to the fight against narcotics. In fact, increased intelligence sharing and joint operations in 2008 have resulted in major seizures of acetic anhydride in Afghanistan, in neighboring countries, and en route to the region. Preventing these chemicals from reaching Afghanistan will make heroin production a much riskier and more costly business.
In this regard, we would like to underscore the need to implement the trilateral agreement signed by Afghanistan, the Islamic Republic of Iran and Pakistan in June 2007, which committed the countries to carry out more joint border operations and increase information sharing.
Finally Mr. Chairman,
We are grateful to the International Community as a whole and especially UNODC for their invaluable support to the Government of Afghanistan’s counter narcotics efforts. We would also like to take this opportunity to thank our neighboring countries for their cooperation in fighting drug production and trafficking in the region. We wish to remind our friendly neighboring countries to take into consideration the latest UNODC publications that include, the World Drug Report 2008 and the Afghanistan Opium Survey 2008 as well as the UN Secretary General’s report A/63/11, before they make any assessment regarding Afghanistan’ narcotics challenge. As I previously mentioned Afghanistan is making significant progress that has led to a considerable decrease in opium cultivation and production. I firmly believe that these achievements should be
acknowledged and supported in a concerted way by our regional partners. Afghanistan is cognizant that this progress can be reversed if we do not sustain our attention and intensify our joint efforts to make our region free from the scourge of drugs.
Thank you Mr. Chairman.