Senlis Council (Security & Development Policy Group) calls for NATO action on soaring opium production.
The United Nations has no choice but to legalize Afghanistan’s poppy crop after its latest study documented “frightening” new levels of opium production, the Canadian-led Senlis Council think-tank and the Liberal opposition say.
Afghanistan’s status as the world’s leading supplier of the key ingredient of heroin remained unchallenged as opium production soared 34 per cent in the last year, according to the latest annual audit by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, released yesterday.
The UN agency also called for more active NATO military involvement to eradicate the illicit opium trade.
However, Senlis and its Canadian leader, Norine MacDonald, as well as Liberal defence critic Denis Coderre, called on Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Canada’s western allies to reconsider legalizing poppy production so money now funnelled into the illicit narcotics trade can be spent on the production of pain-relieving medicines that provide legitimate sources of income for Afghan farmers.
They say this latest UN report is a dramatic example of the failure of the $600 million the U.S. has pumped into eradication efforts in Afghanistan.
The UN opposes the legalization of the poppy trade as generally unworkable and against the Islamic principles of the western-backed government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
Though illicit poppy cultivation has risen steadily in the six years since western forces deposed the Taliban, yesterday’s UN report was the first to draw a direct link between the opium trade and the anti-western insurgency that Canada and its NATO allies continue to battle in southern Afghanistan.
“Since drugs are funding insurgency, Afghanistan’s military and its allies have a vested interest in destroying heroin labs, closing opium markets and bringing traffickers to justice. Tacit acceptance of opium trafficking is undermining stabilization efforts,” said Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the UN drug agency.
For the most part, the 37,000 troops from the 26 NATO countries and its 11 allied countries are reluctant to take part in direct counter-narcotic efforts.
Mr. Coderre reiterated his party’s support for the Senlis proposal. He said past eradication efforts have simply not worked and that in the short term there is little financial incentive for farmers to grow legal crops.
“This is the only way for farmers to get bread on the table,” said Mr. Coderre. “The reality is, if you eradicate, the farmers are against you and they become allies to the Taliban. I would suggest, like Senlis Council proposes, a supply management strategy.”
Yesterday’s UN report showed that Afghanistan opium now accounts for 93 per cent of the world’s heroin trade (up from 92 per cent), and that its poppy farmers are now more productive than all the coca farmers of Colombia, Peru and Bolivia combined, who form the backbone of the global cocaine trade.
…this post forwarded by Windsor Humanist, Alexander Hodgins, after an August 28, 2007 article by Mike Blanchfield in The Ottawa Citizen