UN top envoy for Afghanistan urges Afghans to take lead on poppy elimination

25 Mar 2009

UN top envoy for Afghanistan urges Afghans to take lead on poppy elimination

KABUL - The Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Afghanistan, Kai Eide, has urged a gathering of Afghan cabinet ministers and governors to continue efforts against poppy cultivation and praised provinces which are poppy-free.

Speaking at a workshop on sustainable poppy elimination, organized by the Independent Directorate of Local Governance and the Ministry of Counter Narcotics, Mr. Eide said progress had been made with the support of the international community.

But he noted that Afghanistan still produces “the largest illegal crop on earth today.”

“This paradox is no longer tolerable. If we are not careful, it can and will break the nation-building process and the partnership Afghanistan has forged with the world. It is unreasonable to expect the international community to maintain or increase its support unless Afghans take the lead in ending this contradiction,” he added.

Addressing eight governors and other delegates at the conference, including the ministers of Counter Narcotics and Interior, Mr. Eide noted that 18 provinces were free of poppy cultivation in 2008 but that it was of “deep concern” that 16 other provinces continued to cultivate a product “that is a principal engine of conflict, criminality and social breakdown here and around the world.”

Mr. Eide stressed that better governance and the extension of state authority with law enforcement and eradication efforts were the key to a successful poppy elimination campaign along with “competent and determined governance.”

Mr. Eide who heads the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), pledged to ensure adequate resources were available. “By standing together against poppy cultivation and opium and heroin trafficking, we promote almost every goal of the Afghanistan National Development Strategy – from anti-corruption and rule of law to agriculture and health, peace and stability,” he added.

In August last year the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported that opium cultivation in Afghanistan went down by a fifth in 2008 as compared to 2007, attributing the decrease to good local leadership coupled with bad weather.

The Afghanistan Opium Survey 2008 showed a 19 per cent decrease in opium cultivation to 157,000 hectares, down from a record harvest of 193,000 in 2007.

The survey also found that 18 of the country’s 34 provinces are now opium-free – up from 13 last year. In addition, cultivation now takes place “almost exclusively” in provinces affected by insurgency.

Some 98 per cent of Afghanistan’s opium is grown in seven provinces in the southwest of the country – Helmand, Kandahar, Uruzgan, Farah, Nimroz, Daikundi and Zabul. Helmand alone accounted for two thirds of the national total. In 2007 Nangarhar, was the country’s second highest opium-producing province and in 2008 the province was opium-free.

Website: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)