This is the full report of the opium survey of Afghanistan that the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime made public in September 2006. There was considerable alarm when it was announced that opium cultivation in Afghanistan rose to 165,000 hectares in 2006, a 59% increase over 2005. This 6,100 tons of opium gives Afghanistan the dubious distinction of having nearly a monopoly of the world heroin market.
Major traffickers, warlords and insurgents are reaping the profits of this bumper crop to spread instability, infiltrate public institutions, and enrich themselves. Afghanistan is moving from narcoeconomy to narco-state.
While criminals prosper, the rest of society suffers. In Afghanistan, opium is choking development and democratization. The rule of the bullet and the bribe exists where there is no rule of law.
In countries neighbouring Afghanistan, there is a serious risk of a worsening HIV/AIDS epidemic spreading through intravenous heroin injection. Downstream, in traditional Western European markets, health officials should brace for a rise in the number of deaths from drug overdoses as this year's bumper opium crop will lead to higher-purity doses of heroin. I have written to health officials and mayors, warning them of the dangers. More should be done - particularly in rich countries - to improve drug prevention and treatment.
I suspect that in years to come this opium survey will be regarded as a key document in mapping the fate of Afghanistan. Either it will demonstrate the peak of Afghanistan's opium problem, or the tipping point at which the country descended into chaos. In the months ahead we must redouble our efforts to ensure that it is the former and not the latter.
Antonio Maria Costa
(pdf* format - 7 MB)