Illicit drugs pose ‘critical challenge’ for Afghanistan, says UN-backed report
9 November 2013 – Despite some progress in restraining cultivation, trafficking and use of illicit drugs in Afghanistan, it still remains a “critical challenge” for the country, which is the largest producer and cultivator of opium in the world, according to a new report prepared with support of the United Nations drug and crime agency.
“The evidence shows that the cultivation, trafficking and use of illicit substances remains one of the most critical challenges facing Afghanistan resulting in significant negative social, economic, health and political impacts on the country,” said the Afghanistan Drug Report 2012, released today in the Afghan capital, Kabul.
“The need to strengthen and scale up counter narcotics policies and interventions is more pressing today than ever before especially in view of the political transition facing Afghanistan in the near future,” the report added.
The 189-page report was prepared by the Afghan Ministry of Counter-Narcotics (MCN) with support from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Deputy Minister for Counter-Narcotics, Haroon Rashid Sherzad, and the UNODC’s Deputy Country Representative, Ashita Mittal, launched the report amidst a news conference.
According to the UNODC’s 2013 World Drug Report, released in June, Afghanistan retained its position as the lead producer and cultivator of opium globally, accounting for 74 per cent of the world’s illicit opium production in 2012.
The MCN report highlights key achievements in the development of institutional and policy frameworks in response to illicit drugs, while calling for “greater strategic efforts” and investments to consolidate gains made to date and effectively tackle the challenge of illicit drugs in Afghanistan.
In terms of law enforcement efforts, the report notes that significant progress has been observed in the number of seizure cases for most illicit substances.
It said between March 2009 and March 2010, and March 2012 and March 2013, seizures of heroin increased by over 250 per cent, opium by over 212 per cent, hashish by 328 per cent, morphine by 89 per cent and alcohol by 1,900 per cent.
The UNODC’s Deputy Country Representative, Ashita Mittal (right), addresses a news conference in the Afghan capital, Kabul, on 9 November 2013. Photo: Eric Kanalstein / UNAMA
“Public awareness campaigns, eradication and alternative livelihoods support which have had impacts on poppy cultivation,” the report stated. “The total number of incoming cases at the Criminal Justice Task Force (CJTF) increased by 48.8 per cent between March 2009-March 2010 and March 2012-March 2013.”
Addressing today’s news conference, Mr. Sherzad said a bulk of the poppy cultivation took place in western and southern provinces of the country, with only four southern provinces – Helmand, Uruzgan, Farah and Kandahar – accounting for about 72 per cent of the entire poppy cultivation.
He also highlighted the government’s efforts to boost its capacity for treatment and rehabilitation services for growing number of drug addicts. He added that only about 21,000 of an estimated one million Afghan drug addicts have been reached by these services.
Mr. Sherzad told the news conference that “unprecedented achievements” were made in law enforcement by arresting over 3,000 drug traffickers so far.
“Eight of these drug traffickers were running big businesses in Afghanistan and also had contacts with the terrorists and their networks,” he added.
In her comments, Ms. Mittal of the UNODC said the report’s findings provided essential guidance for strengthening response against illicit drugs in Afghanistan.
“Afghanistan remains the world’s top producer of opium; it now faces a huge challenge of drug use amongst its adult population but has limited treatment capacity,” said Ms. Mittal.
“The law enforcement and criminal justice responses continue to face critical challenges, despite the increase in seizures in recent years.”
She emphasized the critical importance to ensure that the gains made are sustained and the narcotics problems were not exacerbated as Afghanistan is passing through both political and security transitions.
“Support for and investments in counter-narcotics efforts should be scaled up especially given the linkages between illicit drugs and overall development, governance, stability and security in Afghanistan,” said Ms. Mittal, calling for consolidated regional cooperation for more effective responses.