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H.E. Minister Azimi and Deputy Minister Ahmadi attend high level meetings in Vienna

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Vienna, 18.12.2015

H.E. Mrs. Salamat Azimi, Minister of Counter Narcotics of Afghanistan, along with Deputy Minister Baz Mohammad Ahmadi of the Ministry of Interior of Afghanistan and the delegation, attended several keys meetings in Vienna from December 14 – 18, 2015. On Monday, December 14, H.E. Minister Azimi and the delegation participated in the High-Level Meeting of Partners for Afghanistan and Neighboring Countries. The meeting was aimed at presenting strategic directives on counter narcotics efforts in Afghanistan and neighboring countries as well as perspectives from the region and international partners on how to further coordinate and strengthen such efforts in the future. Minister Azimi as co-chair of the meeting, delivered an opening statement focusing on the new National Drug Action Plan of Afghanistan. Other co-chairs were Mr. Yury Fedotov, UNODC Executive Director, and Mr. Nicholas Haysom, UN Special Representative of the Secretary General for Afghanistan and Head of UNAMA. H.E. Minister Azimi also had a short statement at the Closing Session of the High-level Meeting which was moderated by Mr. Hassan Soroosh, Counselor of the Permanent Mission of Afghanistan in Vienna. Another member of the delegation, Ms. Fareshta Sakhi, Director General of Border Affairs and Security Cooperation of MOFA read out the Concluding Statement on behalf of the co-chairs.

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From December 15 – 16, the delegation of Afghanistan attended the Paris Pact 12th Policy Consultative Group Meeting where H.E. Minister Azimi delivered an opening statement which included an overview of the efforts and achievements made in counter narcotics as well as the challenges that Afghanistan is facing in this area. Deputy Minister Ahmadi delivered a closing statement on the second and final day of the Paris Pact meeting on December 16 and provided a detailed overview of law enforcement measures related to counter narcotics and highlighted a number of key achievements and challenges along with concrete operational recommendations. Mr. Humayoun Faizzad, Director General of Provincial Affairs at the Ministry of Counter Narcotics of Afghanistan also had a presentation on the new National Drug Action Plan of Afghanistan.

During the course of the week, bilateral meetings were held between the delegation of Afghanistan and the delegations of Germany, Iran, Turkey and the United States of America, where the prospects of counter narcotics efforts in Afghanistan including under the new Action Plan as well as ways to support these efforts at all bilateral, regional and international levels was discussed. The delegation also had a brief meeting with the chair of the UNGASS Board discussing the preparatory process as well as topics to be discussed during the Special Session in 2016.

The delegation of Afghanistan also met with the UNODC Executive Director where the new Country Program for Afghanistan was signed. The visit was concluded with a meeting between the delegation of Afghanistan and the OSCE Secretary General Ambassador Zannier as an opportunity to discuss the prospect of the OSCE-Afghanistan partnership.

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Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai Attends the 22nd Meeting of the OSCE Ministerial Council in Belgrade

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Belgrade, 04.12.2015

Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Hekmat Khalil Karzai, attended the 22nd Meeting of the OSCE Ministerial Council in Belgrade from 3-4 December 2015. In his statement at the plenary, Deputy Minister Karzai shared an overview of the ongoing efforts and processes in Afghanistan as well as the Afghan perspective of the security challenges facing the country and the wider OSCE region. Deputy Minister Karzai highlighted the relevance of the OSCE’s vision and goals in today’s security environment. His statement also included an overview of Afghanistan’s regional cooperation agenda under the Heart of Asia Process and RECCA as well as Afghanistan’s engagement with the OSCE, focusing on areas of cooperation that can be further expanded in the future. Deputy Minister Karzai also had a statement at the Meeting of the OSCE Troika with the OSCE Asian Partners and shared the Afghan perspective of ways to strengthen partnership between the OSCE and the Asia Partners for Cooperation.  In this context, he highlighted the importance of greater cooperation and coordination between the OSCE and the two Afghanistan-focused regional cooperation frameworks: the Istanbul-Heart of Asian Process and RECCA. During his two-day visit to Belgrade, Deputy Minister Karzai also had bilateral meetings with the heads of delegation of Norway, Thailand, Moldova, Mongolia, the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Foreign Minister and First Deputy Prime Minister of Serbia, where they discussed the prospects of bilateral relations and the need for exploring new areas of cooperation at a bilateral level. Also discussed during these meetings was the need for enhanced regional and international cooperation in addressing transnational security threats. Deputy Minister Karzai also had a meeting with the OSCE Secretary General and discussed with him various aspects of the OSCE’s engagement with Afghanistan and ways to expand the present partnership between the two parties. Deputy Minister Karzai expressed hope that engagement with Afghanistan will remain a key priority of the OSCE’s agenda in the coming years.

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Minister of Counter Narcotics, Minister Azimi, Meets with Women of the Afghan Community

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Vienna, 17.09.2015

On Saturday, September 12, H.E. Minister Azimi met with women of the Afghan community in Vienna at a reception hosted by H.E. Ambassador Erfani in his residence. At the outset, H.E. Ambassador Erfani welcomed H.E. Minister Aimi and the group of 60 women and emphasized the importance of the empowerment of women in Afghanistan as vital for a prosperous and democratic Afghanistan. Ambassador Erfani introduced Minister Azimi to the intelligent, educated and committed women of the Afghan community based in Vienna and briefed the women gathered on the programs and activities of Minister Azimi during her time in Vienna. Minister Azimi’s programme included visiting Vienna in order to attend and speak at the Organization for Security Cooperation in Europe Conference on Illicit Drugs Among Young People as well as attending a briefing at the VIC where she made a presentation on the ongoing situation in the country. During both meetings, Minister Azimi reaffirmed the commitment of the government of Afghanistan in the fight against drugs.

During her reception with women from the Afghan community, Minister Azimi briefed the participants on the situation in the country for women and children, as well as addicted women and children. Minister Azimi expressed her commitment on behalf of the National Unity Government of Afghanistan to work Afghan people residing in Europe, including on issues relating to further developing rights for women, children in particular those women and children struggling with addiction. She took questions from the women on the rights for women, children, and addicts and entered into an open discussion of how Afghan women abroad can contribute to the well-being of women and children in Afghanistan, particularly those struggling with addiction.

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H.E. Minister Azimi, Minister of Counter Narcotics, Addresses OSCE Conference on Illicit Drugs among Young People

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Vienna, 10.09.2015

Today as part of the two day conference hosted by the OSCE on the “Enhancement of Mechanisms to Cope with Increasing Spread of Illicit Drugs amongst Young People”, H.E. Minister Azimi delivered a speech giving an overview of the drug control situation in Afghanistan. She noted that poppy cultivation had increased by 7% compared with previous years. Tragically, Afghanistan also witnessed an alarming increase in the rate of addiction in its people with recent surveys showing approximately 2.9 to 3.6 million Afghans could test positive for one or more drugs and 1.0 to 1.2 million of these people are children. Minister Azimi noted several challenges for Afghanistan in dealing with the drug problem, including: ineffective alternative livelihood programs and insufficient resources in the area of addiction treatment.

Success in countering narcotics will be gained through addressing the growing link between drug trade and terrorism and focusing on the root causes of illicit drug cultivation including poverty, unemployment, and lack of alternative livelihood. Minister Azimi also noted that The drivers of drug business at regional and international levels need to be addressed with a special focus on its financial aspect in combination with intensified efforts to combat trafficking in precursors. Overall success in Afghanistan, the region and the world will only come about with increased cooperation and coordination in counter narcotic efforts through information sharing. Minister Azimi further noted that 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. She sees a a great potential in civil society institutions in helping with preventive measures.

Minister Azimi concluded noting that, “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.” Further to this, she noted that, “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.”

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The Minister of Counter Narcotics of Afghanistan, H.E. Minister Azimi, Addresses UNGASS on World Drug Problem

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Vienna, 10.09.2015

Today, the Minister of Counter Narcotics Afghanistan, H.E. Minister Azimi, addressed for a second time the UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the World Drug Problem. In her address, she presented an overview of the counter narcotics efforts in Afghanistan, the emerging challenges and trends as well as the initiatives being undertaken in Afghanistan under the new counter narcotics strategy.

Minister Azimi noted the progress made by Afghanistan in cooperation with the international partners over the past 14 years but despite this progress, illicit narcotics continue to inflict a great deal of damage to Afghan society, the broader region and the world. Minister Azimi elaborated that the first challenge in counter narcotics is that organized crime groups continue to strengthen in the region and abroad including the trafficking of drugs and drug precursors to Afghanistan. She called for improved border security and continued cooperation and support from the international community. A second, challenge is the alarming increase in those addicted to drugs in Afghanistan in recent years. Minister Azimi noted that there are three million addicts in the country with 9% being children and 11% women. She called for integrated efforts in both prevention and treatment to address this tragic phenomenon. The third challenge to be faced is that those farmers involved in poppy cultivation must do so for their livelihood, yet receive only 4% of the 61$ billion illicit drug business. Minister Azimi called for provision of sustainable livelihoods which must be a part of the broader economic development agenda.

In her conclusion, Minister Azimi noted, “The National Unity Government of Afghanistan remains committed to the elimination of opium economy. The new Counter Narcotics Strategy of Afghanistan and the relevant action plan will soon be shared with the international community which will set the priorities and the implementation plans for the years to come… While we are committed to the implementation of such programs and initiatives, we will need continued long-term and demand-driven support to our counter narcotics efforts in the years to come. Our international partners have already provided considerable support including through UNODC, for which we are grateful.”


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H.E. Ambassador Efani Welcomes H.E. Minister Azimi to the UN General Assembly on World Drug Problem

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Vienna, 10.09.2015

H.E. Ambassador Erfani, in his role as Vice-Chair of the Board tasked by the Counter Narcotics Division with the preparations for the UN General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem in 2016, welcomed the Minister of Counter Narcotics of Afghanistan, H.E. Minister Azimi. He noted that UNGASS on the World Drug Problem in 2016 is crucial for shaping collective efforts in light of new challenges, trends and realities toward accomplishing counter narcotic targets.

Ambassador Erfani thanked the international community for their continued support towards Afghanistan and noted that while Afghanistan has come far in the last 14 years, challenges remain and support is still needed. He noted that Minister Azimi would speak on the main challenges still faced by Afghanistan in terms of illicit narcotics as well as the commitments and programs Afghanistan has for the next three years to address the challenges of drugs. After Minister Azimi’s speech, Ambassador Erfani chaired comments from the delegates present and thank them for their continued interest and support for Afghanistan and for their commitment in the truly global fight against narcotics.

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Statement by H.E. Salamat Azimi, Minister of Counter Narcotics of Afghanistan Special UNGASS Event

Vienna, 10.09.2015

H.E. Ambassador Erfani,

Mr. Aldo Lale-Demoz, Director of the Division for Operations at UNODC,

Madam Jo Dedeyne-Amann, Secretary to the Governing Bodies,

Distinguished delegations,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to have the opportunity for the second time to address an UNGASSSpecial Event to discuss issues of high priority in addressing the world drug problem and to present an overview of our counter narcotics efforts in Afghanistan, the emerging challenges and trends as well as the initiatives that we are undertaking under our new counter narcotics strategy.

I would like to thank the Commission for Narcotic Drugs and the Board tasked with UNGASS Preparations for the invitation extended to me and for the opportunity to speak in today’s meeting.

The United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem in 2016 will be crucial to shape our collective efforts in light of the new challenges, trends and realities toward accomplishing our counter narcotics targets as set out in the Political Declaration and Plan of Action of 2009.

I commend the leading and facilitating role played by the Commission and the Board throughout the preparatory process over the past few months. We also highly value the efforts being made by the Permanent Missions in Vienna under this important process.

The Government of Afghanistan is committed to actively contributing to the preparatory process and we are glad to see that Afghanistan has the opportunity to serve as the First-Vice Chair of the Board in run up to the Special Session in April 2016. In this context, we strongly support broader collaboration, based on the principle of shared responsibility, among all member states, relevant UN bodies, international and regional organizations, and civil society organizations, to address to world drug problem.

Distinguished delegations,

Ladies and gentlemen,

 Afghanistan, together with our international partners, has come a long way over the past 14 years with considerable achievements in all political, economic and social areas including in building the foundations of a democratic system and important national institutions in all sectors. The Afghan National Security Forces have been able to take full responsibility for providing security across the country and efforts have been underway in the past few years to further improve their capacity in addressing security challenges in the country including those associated with the menace of narcotics.

Counter narcotics has remained 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 development and implementation of new programs and initiatives and the revision of the current laws and strategies under an integrated approach. Despite the efforts and achievements, however, illicit narcotics continues to inflict a great deal of damage to our society as well as to the region and the wider world.

Firstly, organized crime groups are continuously strengthening their networks in our region and beyond. Their activities include not only drug trafficking but also trafficking inchemical precursors to Afghanistan and border areas for heroin production. Theopium economyprovides funding for the terrorist activities. Additionally, a demand-driven marketaccelerates the increase of drug cultivation in Afghanistan and the region.In this context, we believe that the growing link between terrorism and narcotics needs to be addressed under a holistic approach and political commitment at all national, regional and international levels needs to be strengthened. We need to discuss ways to increase operational capacity at both national and regional levels to address trafficking of drugs and precursors as well as to address the new trends including the growing link between narcotics and terrorism and the increasing reliance of traffickers on the sea routes particularly across the southern route. Furthermore, a special attention needs to be given to address the financial aspect of drug trafficking. All countries need to improve border security and management and make full use of facilities and technologies to identify and eliminate safe havens of drug traffickers and organized criminal groups.

Secondly, many countries including Afghanistan have been witnessing an alarming rate of increase in the number of addicts over the past few years .In Afghanistan, tragically, there are three million addicts in the country, among them 9% children and 11% women. We believe that integrated efforts in both prevention and treatment areas need to be made to address this tragic phenomenon and greater financial support needs to be provided to the most affected countries.

Thirdly,many farmers who are involved in poppy cultivation in Afghanistan do so for their livelihood and they only gain 4% from this 61$ billion illicit business.The lion’s share of profitsare skimmed off by the Taliban and regional and international drug networks. As we have long argued, it is with the provision of sustainable alternative livelihood that we can counter the appeal of poppy cultivation in Afghanistan and other countries. As successful experiences in various countries show, it requires endurance and well-funded investments to provide alternative livelihood to the farmers and to liberate them from the clutches of the drug and terrorist networks. Experiences also show that in order to increase the effectiveness of alternative livelihood programs we need to incorporate them into the broader economic development agenda and that such programs need to be complemented with infrastructure development and access to national, regional and international markets.

Distinguished delegations,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The National Unity Government of Afghanistan remains committed to the elimination of opium economy. The new Counter Narcotics Strategy of Afghanistan and the relevant action plan will soon be shared with the international community which will set the priorities and the implementation plans for the years to come. In my presentation at the Special Event to commemorate the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking on June 26, 2015 in Vienna, I introduced our major ongoing efforts as well as the outline of our new programs and initiatives. While we are committed to the implementation of such programs and initiatives, we will need continued long-term and demand-driven support to our counter narcotics efforts in the years to come. Our international partners have already provided considerable support including through UNODC, for which we are grateful.

Let us seize the remaining months until UNGASS 2016 with a view to facilitate open and frank discussion about our responsibilities and targets, and on how to meet them based on the principle of shared responsibility.

I look forward to be part of this important session in 2016.

Thank you

 

Speech by H.E Salamat Azimi, Minister of Counter Narcotics of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan at the OSCE Conference 10-11 September 2015

Vienna, 10.09.2015

Excellencies,

Distinguished participants,

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.

Distinguished participants,

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.

Distinguished participants,

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.

Thank you,