Ladies and Gentlemen,
The drug trade degrades individuals and destabilizes nations.
It is a threat to the well-being and development of Afghanistan and its neighbours.
Afghanistan suffers from one of the highest rates of opiate consumption and drug addiction in the world. The country faces an HIV epidemic among the country’s injecting drug users.
We have a common duty to the people of Afghanistan and those everywhere whose lives are darkened with despair due to the menace of the drugs trade.
We must help them walk into the light of a world free of illicit drugs and drug trafficking.
This Third Ministerial Conference of the Paris Pact can point the way.
I thank the government of Austria for hosting this meeting.
Let me also thank France and the Russian Federation for their longstanding support and vision in seeing the need for an initiative that would lend international assistance in the area of drug trafficking.
The presence of so many delegations signals the importance the international community places on this issue.
I would also like to acknowledge Jan Kubis, my Special Representative for Afghanistan, as well as his predecessor, Staffan de Mistura, who is here today as the head of the Italian delegation.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The UN-supported Paris Pact is an important global partnership in the fight against opiates trafficked from Afghanistan and along established trafficking routes.
It provides a valuable international forum and mechanisms for promoting cross-border cooperation and finding long-term solutions to these problems.
Our journey to the Hofburg today began in 2003, when 55 countries and international organizations agreed on the principle of shared responsibility in the fight against opium and heroin trafficking from Afghanistan.
In recent months there have been further milestones, including the Istanbul and Bonn international conferences.
These meetings have helped create a growing sense of political commitment.
The Istanbul conference, in particular, was an important development, with its focus on confidence-building measures between the countries of Central Asia on counter narcotics, trafficking of illegal goods, and supporting improved border control.
I encourage the countries of Central Asia to develop concrete joint projects as a contribution to the forthcoming Kabul ministerial meeting in June 2012.
Time is not on our side.
UNODC’s Afghan Opium Survey 2011 tells us that poppy cultivation has increased by 7 per cent; and opium production has increased by 61 per cent in the past year.
Export earnings from Afghan opiates may be worth as much as $2.4 billion dollars.
We cannot expect stability when 15 per cent of Afghanistan’s Gross Domestic Product comes from the drugs trade.
We cannot speak of sustainable development when opium production is the only viable economic activity in the country.
This situation cannot continue.
We must stand with Afghanistan in this fight.
As we move closer to the withdrawal of the International Security Assistance Force in 2014, the international community will increasingly look to the United Nations to shoulder greater responsibilities.
Together with our local, regional and international partners, we must assume this role.
Above all, the Afghan Government must prioritize the issue of narcotics.
The Helmand Food Zone is a good example of government effort and commitment. But more can be done.
Law enforcement agencies must work harder on eradicating crops, eliminating laboratories, keeping precursors from entering the country, and inhibiting drug trafficking.
The United Nations Regional Programme for Afghanistan and Neighbouring Countries has an important role to play, including as a platform for UNODC and other partners, within and beyond the UN system.
The work of the Regional Programme is tailored to national needs, and is carefully calibrated to ensure a balance between activities – both on the supply and demand sides.
Reducing supply is only half the story. There can be no real success without reducing demand.
The fight against the drugs trade goes to the heart of UN efforts in Afghanistan, in the region and, indeed, around the world to make a meaningful difference for people affected by this pervasive crime.
Drug trafficking and transnational organized crime undermine the health of fragile states, weaken the rule of law, and hinder our attempts to meet the Millennium Development Goals.
Fighting the drugs trade is essential to our work to reduce poverty and raise standards of human well-being.
It is central to helping countries in transition.
And it is imperative for building safer democracies and ensuring that people can live in a safer and more secure world.
The people of Afghanistan have endured decades of instability.
They yearn for peace, progress and prosperity.
Let us, together, commit to relieve them of the burden of the illegal trade in drugs.