Ms. Monsebian, Dr. Me, excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
Please allow me to thank UNODC for the invitation to be a part of this important event on the occasion of the launch of Afghanistan’s Opium Survey 2015. Countering opium cultivation, drug trafficking, and consumption have been a serious challenge for the Government of Afghanistan and the international community during the past decade. Government and international efforts at eradication and crop substitution have been going on in the past few years, but numerous challenges remain in tackling the menace of opium cultivation, eradication, and addiction. With the fresh initiatives of the National Unity Government of Afghanistan, going on over the past year, and our increased poppy eradication efforts, we have already seen significant reduction in poppy cultivation, opium production, and casualty rates during poppy eradication campaign. We are looking forward to the results and findings from the UNODC Afghanistan Opium Survey 2015.
The Afghanistan Opium Survey, implemented annually by the Ministry of Counter Narcotics of Afghanistan in collaboration with UNODC, is significant as it provides a detailed picture of the outcome of the current year’s opium season and with data from previous years, enables the identification of trends in the evolution of the illicit drug problem. The survey team collects and analyses information on the location and extent of opium cultivation, potential opium production, and the socio-economic situation in rural areas. Survey data can be useful in policy development and planning how to tackle the illicit crops. We hope that with the methodological rigor and analytical expertise of UNODC, along with the support and collaboration of our Ministry of Counter-Narcotics will ensure transparency in the 2015 Afghanistan Opium Survey and provide additional credibility to the results.
More than three decades of conflict, war, and violence, originating from foreign aggression and meddling, have severely damaged the physical and economic infrastructure of Afghanistan and have been an impediment to the development process. The link between insecurity and opium cultivation in the country is obvious; according to the 2014 UNODC report, the bulk of opium poppy cultivation – 89% – was concentrated in nine provinces in the southern and western regions of Afghanistan, which includes insecure provinces in the country. Drug production and trafficking have been significant sources of asset generation for the Taliban. The connection between criminality and terrorism is fueling the drug trade as various international terrorist groups, sent to our country, benefit from the illicit drug trade. The problem of narcotics doesn’t only pose a security threat for the country and the world at large, but also seriously impacts our social fabric by undermining Afghanistan’s development, stability, and rule of law.
The scourge of drug addiction and dependency, particularly among the most vulnerable population in Afghanistan, remains a major challenge for us and has increasingly threatened the health and stability of our people, especially youth, and drained communities of economic and human resources. The 2014 UNODC report on the impact of drug use on users and their families in Afghanistan presents the devastating impacts of drug addiction in Afghan society. Grinding poverty, lack of viable employment opportunities, and ongoing conflict in parts of the country has significant effect on drug usage. The consumption of heroin and other opiates in Afghanistan doubled between 2005 and 2009. Its adverse effects are felt across the society; according to a recent survey, 11 per cent of the Afghan population uses drugs, one of the highest drug use rates in the world.
The Government of Afghanistan has drafted the Afghanistan’s National Drug Action Plan which is a culmination of the efforts by the new government to address opium production and trafficking, corruption and economic crime. The plan integrates alternative development, eradication, interdiction, and drug treatment and prevention programs into a broad effort by the government to further good governance, economic development, security, and stability. We can assure our friends and regional countries that we have the necessary political will and resolve to put this plan into action very soon.
Despite the efforts by the government and international partners like UNODC to counter the drug issue, it must be noted that the drug economy in Afghanistan is part of a multi-billion dollar business that links cultivators, traffickers and consumers and is a major financier for the Taliban and other extremist groups, who are the main profiteers of this illegal trade. Last year, the value of the opiate economy in Afghanistan amounted to US $2.84 billion, accounting for about 13 per cent of the national GDP, according to UNODC reports. A comprehensive counter-narcotic strategy should focus not only on poverty and insurgency but also on tackling the menace of black market economy. The drug economy in Afghanistan is integrated in the global economy, fuelled by global demands and this issue remains a common and shared responsibility that should be addressed through effective and increased international cooperation.
The global narcotics problem demands an integrated, multidisciplinary, mutually reinforcing, balanced and comprehensive approach to supply and demand reduction strategies. Hence increased cooperation between Afghanistan, its neighbors and international partners is essential for an effective drug eradication strategy, by taking into consideration existing challenges and regional realities. With the support and cooperation from the international community, we can make a difference and protect future generations from the menace narcotics pose to healthy and productive societies.
Before I end, let me thank the Governments of Germany, Norway, and US for funding this very important study. We look forward to the UNODC 2015 Afghanistan Opium Survey. Thank you.