Afghan poppy growing requires security law enforcement response – UN official

Antonio Maria Costa, Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, told a press conference in New York that opium cultivation was increasing in the southern provinces of Afghanistan, where the insurgency is intensifying. “What you evidently see there is tangible proof that insurgents are playing a role in forcing, coercing, advising, assisting, promoting farmers’ cultivation of opium.” The UN has been in discussion with the authorities in Afghanistan and other States the importance of improving security. “There is no rule of law in most of the southern parts of Afghanistan; the bullets rule,” he said, citing “a dramatic situation which needs to be confronted.” Action is also necessary to help the poor farmers of Afghanistan, he said. “We need to assist them. We need a greater amount of development assistance. So far, development has been not so generous; certainly not by any standards comparing what has happened to other post-conflict situation.” Mr. Costa also advocated conditioning aid on the behaviour of those receiving it. “Farmers have to be assisted under the condition that they abstain from cultivating opium,” he stressed. Efforts were also needed to prevent theft of aid money. “We are pleading with the Government to undertake stronger measures to reduce corruption, which is a major ingredient – a major lubricant – in the development of the opium industry.” Law enforcement was another crucial part of the solution, he said, noting that the UN had helped Afghanistan to help rehabilitate the court and prison systems. Mr. Costa also stressed the need to reduce consumption of opium. Countries must do more to cut addiction. “We know that when there is a major upsurge in the cultivation and in production, the consequences are greater purity of doses,” he said, warning that death rates were likely to rise. “We may face a situation of crisis… in Paris, London, Madrid, Moscow, Rome and so forth.” The area under opium cultivation in Afghanistan surged 59 per cent to 165,000 hectares in 2006, according to the 2006 UNODC Annual Opium Survey, released earlier this month. The opium harvest was an unprecedented 6,100 tons, an increase of 49 per cent from 2005, making Afghanistan virtually the sole supplier to the world. read more