UN/Afghanistan: Hopes for Stability, Alternative Development and Economic Recovery Will Not Contain the Opium Renaissance 6/27/03

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statement and information from the International Antiprohibitionist League, http://www.antiprohibitionist.org

On June 17, the United Nations Security Council held a special debate on Afghanistan, with most of the discussion focusing on the production of opium used for heroin, according to Marco Perduca, UN Representative for the Transnational Radical Party and executive director of the International Antiprohibitionist League (IAL). Among the speakers was Dr. Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.

Perduca issued the following statement commenting on Costa's proposals:

Marco Perduca, in Mérida
In the report presented by the Special envoy of the Secretary General to Afghanistan and by Dr. Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, there is a grim picture of what Afghanistan has become after the "liberation" from the Taliban. Despite international attention and presence in the country (the UK fighting drugs, Germans taking care of police and security, Italians building the justice system and the US fighting terrorists), reconstruction, economic regeneration and prosperity are not in sight. Law enforcement is almost impossible outside the capital, and warlords are often chosen to act as local guarantor of stability.

And of course drugs are back on the map.

Mr. Costa, who in the past had delivered more optimistic statements on the issue, has today emphasized a series of measures [he claims] should be implemented in order to eradicate the evil crop that is again increasing and finally allow Afghani people to live a normal life. From alternative development, to micro-credit, from supply reduction to demand reduction abroad (80% of the heroin that reaches Europe is produced in Afghanistan) as well as tightened control of the borders are on UNODC's wish list. Nothing new.

In 1998, [Costa's predecessor] Pino Arlacchi wanted to make Afghanistan the example of how to reduce drugs through a series of measures stemming from a "zero tolerance approach" to the problem. Costa, who chaired the 46th session of the Commission on Narcotics last April, where the international community reaffirmed its prohibitionist credo, is trying to promote programs that resemble more those of the World Bank than those that an agency dedicated to the control of drugs should take into consideration.

Arlacchi's obsession with eradicating crops in Afghanistan went as far as striking deals with the Taliban, while Costa's managerial style is running the risk to put the emphasis on all the aspects related to drugs and the possible (perfect) theoretical ways to address those issues and not to the cause of all those problems. Costa's economical background should help him understand what the added value of drugs is: Prohibition.

Perduca also reported that Costa's office found "a steady downward trend" in opium cultivation in Laos and Myanmar, 22% less land under opium cultivation since 2002 and 60% since 1996, but failed to draw the connection with the resulting (or causative) increase of opium cultivation in Afghanistan. Perduca charged that UNODC "had constructed a method of work to answer difficult questions with very easy answers."

Visit http://www.antiprohibitionist.org for further information and to read IAL's in-depth report on the use and misuse of cultivation numbers in the UN's world drug reporting.

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Issue #293, 6/27/03

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