A high-level meeting of the Six-Plus-Two Group on Afghanistan at United Nations headquarters approved a Regional Action Plan on September 13, outlining concrete steps to stem the flow of drugs from Afghanistan.
The Plan, endorsed by the governments of China, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, the United States, and Uzbekistan, pledges to strengthen national law enforcement in neighboring countries, improve law enforcement cooperation at regional levels, and strengthen criminal justice systems. In Afghanistan itself, the Plan says that participating states "will strongly encourage the factions in Afghanistan to make serious and verifiable efforts to carry out" eradication efforts.
Turkmenistan, the sixth country that shares a border with Afghanistan, declined to endorse the report, stating that it prefers to have its anti-narcotics efforts financed on a bilateral basis, according to Pino Arlacchi, executive director of the UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (UNDCP).
Arlacchi said that drought conditions in Afghanistan had caused a 28 percent drop in raw opium production in the country during 2000. That represents a drop to 3,275 metric tons from a record high production of 4,581 metric tons in 1999. Arlacchi, speaking at a news conference September 14, stressed that more needs to be done in the region to halt the spread of the heroin produced in Afghanistan, much of which ends up in Europe and elsewhere to the West.
"There is a lot more to do, particularly in terms of strengthening border control and law enforcement activities," he told reporters. "In some countries like Tajikistan, that just came out of a civil war, we believe that we have in some ways to start from scratch helping the government to establish specialized drug control agencies. In other countries like Uzbekistan, we need simply to strengthen some already existing, good machinery for narcotics control."
The Six-Plus-Two group first convened in September 1999 at the initiative of the Uzbek government to address the unstable situation in Afghanistan. The group promotes follow-up to the Tashkent Declaration on fundamental principles of peaceful settlement of the conflict in Afghanistan. In February 2000, the group asked the UNDCP to play a facilitative role in reducing the illicit drugs coming out of Afghanistan.
In March, Arlacchi briefed the UN Security Council on his agency's efforts, and he said he hopes to brief the Security Council again soon. Another round of Six-Plus-Two talks was scheduled for September 15. UN Secretary General Kofi Annnan, along with the foreign ministers of the Russia, China, the United States, Iran and Pakistan, were expected to attend.
The Six-Plus-Two Action Plan suggested that the successful implementation of anti-trafficking measures would depend heavily on international aid. "A comprehensive and balanced Regional Action Plan, embodying high-level commitment from the states bordering Afghanistan, should enlist serious and sustained engagement from the major donors," the Plan states.
The UNDCP also announced that Tajik and Russian security agencies, with help from the United Nations, have seized almost 600 kilograms of heroin originating from Afghanistan in the first eight months of this year. That amount is four times the amount seized over the same period in 1999.
"The assistance provided by the United Nations to Tajikistan and to the Russian border guards in the field of drug control gave immediate and excellent results," Arlacchi said, adding that the assistance to Tajikistan was in the form of staff training, and to Russia the UNDCP provided telecommunications equipment.
Todd Diamond is a journalist who covers the United Nations.