AFGHANISTAN OPIUM BAN AN IMPORTANT STEP IN GLOBAL DRUG CONTROL EFFORTS,
SAYS UN DRUG CONTROL OFFICE
(Reissued as received.)
VIENNA, 17 January (UN Information Service) -- The United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (ODCCP) says the ban on opium poppy cultivation announced this week in Afghanistan represents a very important step in international drug control efforts.
The ban on the production, processing and illicit use, smuggling and trafficking of drugs such as opium and all of its ingredients was announced by the Chairman of the Interim Administration in Afghanistan, Dr. Hamid Karzai, on Wednesday, 16 January, in Kabul.
The ODCCP is working closely with the Interim Administration to ensure drug control remains high on the list of reconstruction priorities in Afghanistan. The Interim Administration needs strong international support to put in place effective law enforcement and drug control mechanisms, as well as in offering Afghan farmers alternative means of livelihood.
As for the opium poppy ban, there are only two-three months to make this ban meaningful and effective for this year. There are reliable indications that opium poppy cultivation has resumed since October 2001 in some areas (such as the southern provinces Uruzgan, Helmand, Nangarhar and Kandahar), following the effective implementation of the Taliban ban on cultivation in 2001, not only because of the breakdown in law and order, but also because the farmers are desperate to find a means of survival following the prolonged drought.
The ODCCP has not been able to monitor these developments closely, as there was no presence on the ground in Afghanistan following the terrorist attacks on the United States on 11 September 2001. Now, the ODCCP is preparing for the annual opium poppy survey in Afghanistan. A pre-assessment study report will be ready by the end of February and the full survey will be completed by September this year.
For the ban to be effective and to ensure that the spring 2002 opium poppy harvest does not reach global drug markets, there is a need for a two-track approach. Firstly, the Interim Administration needs help to establish effective law enforcement capacities and specifically a drug control commission in Kabul
with drug control units in key provinces. At the same time, it needs to provide immediate assistance to Afghan farmers, landholders and sharecroppers as a first step in sustainable alternative development, with commercial agricultural crops replacing opium poppy as the source of farmers' livelihood.
The ODCCP has proposed a strategy for the next two and a half years for drug control efforts in Afghanistan which will be considered at next week's Conference on Reconstruction Assistance to Afghanistan (21-22 January) in Tokyo. The strategy sets out the following priorities on drug control:
-- Establishing drug enforcement capacity within the new police force;
-- Creating a legal framework in compliance with United Nations conventions on drugs, crime and terrorism;
-- Formulating alternative livelihood strategies to opium poppy cultivation;
-- Developing rural credit systems in major poppy growing areas;
-- Formulating countrywide rehabilitation and prevention programmes; and
-- Addressing the drug abuse situation countrywide.
The global importance of the ban on opium poppy cultivation and trafficking in Afghanistan is enormous. In recent years, Afghanistan has been the main source of illicit opium: 70 per cent of global illicit opium production in 2000, and up to 90 per cent of heroin in European drug markets originated from Afghanistan.
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