Ladies and gentlemen,
It is a pleasure to be part of this important Conference and I would like to thank the OSCE for the invitation extended to me and my delegation and for the opportunity to speak on a very important topic, “how to break connection between drugs and youth”.
I hope that our deliberations in this Conference will help us increase the effectiveness of our measures at all levels to address the spread of drug use among young people.
Before sharing my views on the topic, let me present an overview of drug control situation in Afghanistan. Last year, we witnessed an increase in poppy cultivation which reached 224,000 hectares showing 7% increase compared to previous years. UNODC reports show that during the last few years Afghanistan produced an average of 4900 tons of opium. Two-thirds of this production are processed into heroin and morphine and are consumed in Europe and U.S. markets. Precursors are key to processing Afghan opiates into heroin and morphine. 1300 tons of precursor chemicals annually is needed in this cycle of production. Afghanistan and neighboring countries are not allowed to produce these chemical substances, and this is indicative of the fact that they are coming from outside the region. Over thousands of tons of such chemicals enter Afghanistan through our neighboring countries. Afghanistan does not need these chemicals for any legal purpose and this has been already reported to the International Narcotics Control Board.
Tragically, Afghanistan has witnessed an alarming rate of addiction over the past few years. Recent surveys show that approximately 2.9 to 3.6 million Afghans could test positive for one or more drugs and 1.0 to 1.2 million of them are children. Of this total, approximately 1.9 to 2.4 million adults and 90000 to 110000 children could be drug users. Nearly one-third (31%) of all households tested positive for one or more drugs. The rural house hold rate is more than three times higher: 39% rural compared to 11% urban.
Approximately 13% of adults tested positive for one to more drugs. The rate for rural adults almost two times higher: 15 % rural compared to 8% urban. About 16% of men and 10% of women tested positive. Drug use among rural men is almost two times higher: 18% of rural men compared 11% for urban men. Drug use among rural women is almost three times higher: 11% rural women compared to 4% of urban women. Approximately 9% of Afghan children tested positive for one or more drug. The percentage for rural children who tested positive is almost six times higher: 11% rural compared to 2% urban.
As in other parts of the world, Afghan youth have been the most vulnerable group to drug use. Unemployment, low literacy rates, deterioration of family relationships, lack of awareness, previous conflicts and associated migration and displacement are among the root causes of drug use among youth in Afghanistan. Youth are also involved in cultivation, production and trafficking of drugs in the country which are linked to several other factors such as high demand in the global market; insecurity and insurgency; poverty; unemployment and lack of alternative livelihoods. The UNODC Survey 2014 shows that 95 percent of poppy cultivation takes place in nine insecure provinces. Moreover, reports show that the lion’s share of profits from poppy cultivation and drug traffickingare skimmed off by the Taliban and regional and international drug and terrorist networks.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The Government of Afghanistan remains committed to the elimination of the opium economy in the country. Counter narcotics remains a cross-cutting issue under our national development agenda and considerable efforts have been made in areas such as legislation, institutional building and policy development aimed at improving the capacity of the Government to counter this multi-dimensional menace in the country. The Ministry of Counter Narcotics of Afghanistan as a policy making body is leading and coordinating all counter narcotics efforts in the country andis making every effort to eliminate the opium economy in the country including through the development and implementation of new programs and initiatives and the revision of the current laws and strategies under an integrated approach.
Special attention has been given to vulnerable groups such as women, youth and children and focused efforts are being made to address the challenges that youth are facing in Afghanistan in almost all sectors. Our public information campaigns include mini-theater shows, village level awareness programs, media messaging, interviews, symposiums, media outreach and many more outreach efforts.
Despite the efforts and achievements, the road ahead of us is difficult and challenging. Among the challenges that need to be addressed, I can refer to the following:
- Insufficient resource allocation to implement programs of alternative livelihood in Afghanistan.
- Ineffective alternative livelihood programs in some cases.
- Lack of easy access of Afghan licit products to regional and international markets.
- Diversion of precursors from licit use in regional and neighboring countries to illicit use in drug production in Afghanistan.
- Shortage of cooperation and exchange of information at the regional level including on controlled delivery.
- Insufficient resources in the area of addiction treatment and lack of capacity in the area of prevention including awareness raising.
In my view, success in countering narcotics in general and addressing the spread of drugs among young people in particular depends on balanced, integrated and long-term efforts in both supply and demand sides and in this context, due attention needs to be given to the following elements:
- Drug trade is linked with terrorism in my country and in the region and we should address this growing link under a holistic approach.
- Along with law enforcement efforts, in the long run we need to focus on the root causes of illicit drug cultivation including poverty, unemployment, and lack of alternative livelihood.
- The drivers of drug business at regional and international levels need to be addressed with a special focus on its financial aspect.
- Intensified efforts are needed to combat trafficking in precursors and to reduce demand for heroin in the world.
- The link between cultivation and demand is drug trafficking, so efforts must be concentrated on traffickers who are earning enormous profits.
- Greater regional cooperation and coordination is needed including in the area of information sharing in order to more effectively counter narcotics.
- More resources are needed to address the root causes of drug use among young people as well as to strengthen preventive measures including awareness raising among young people.
- There is a great potential in civil society institutions in helping with preventive measures. We should make best use of this potential and strengthen cooperation between the governmental agencies and civil society institutions.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let us ensure that the gains we achieved this far became entrenched, and let us produce new ideas and new mechanisms to nourish our partnership and enhance our efforts to tackle the menace of narcotics.
The National Unity Government of Afghanistan remains committed to the elimination of opium economy. In few weeks, the new Counter Narcotics Strategy of Afghanistan and the new Drug Control Action Plan will be shared with the international community which will set the priorities and the implementation plans for the years to come. While we are grateful for the support that has been provided by the international community to our counter narcotics efforts in the past 14 years including by the OSCE participating states and partners for cooperation, I hope that we will witness even greater support to the implementation of our new counter narcotics strategy and the relevant action plan in the years to come.