Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence - Sixth Report


Memorandum from the Regional Bureau for Central Asia, UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention

  Afghanistan is at present the largest single producer of illicit opiates in the world, accounting for more than 50 per cent of the world's supply. In 1997, the country produced approximately 2,800 tonnes of raw opium, or 280 tonnes of heroin equivalent. While the 1998 harvest was somewhat smaller owing to climatic conditions, it was, at approximately 2,100 tonnes of raw opium, still very significant. Information has been obtained by ODCCP that the 1999 yield will, weather permitting, exceed that of 1997 since farmers have been given significantly more seed for planting. It is reliably estimated that 80 per cent of the heroin available in Europe is of Afghan origin.

  Three Central Asian states share borders with Afghanistan: Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The International Narcotics Control Board, in its Annual Report for 1998, has estimated that up to 65 per cent of Afghanistan's exported production of opiates (or more than 100 tonnes of heroin equivalent) transits through Central Asia on its way to markets in Russia, Western Europe and North America. Given Tajikistan's relative instability, difficult terrain, lack of effective law enforcement and border control measures, and parlous economy, it may well be that anywhere from 50 to 80 tonnes of heroin equivalent enter Tajikistan from Afghanistan. It is estimated that up to 40 tonnes of heroin equivalent pass through Turkmenistan[4]. Uzbekistan, having a rather limited border with Afghanistan (less than 100 km), nevertheless serves as a trafficking hub, there being seven known trafficking routes to Uzbekistan from Tajikistan and two known trafficking routes from Turkmenistan.

  Trafficking of illicit drugs destined to western European countries from Afghanistan through Central Asia poses an increasingly attractive alternative for drug smugglers. This attraction is growing in part because new transportation links are being established and border crossings opened along the extensive external borders of Central Asian states: (i) a new road is being built from Pakistan to Tajikistan via the Wahan Corridor; (ii) a rail connection has been constructed between Turkmenistan and Iran, and a sea link exists with the Caucasus via the Caspian Sea; and (iii) the frequency of international flights between the region and western Europe has increased significantly. Moreover, recent free-trade agreements (CIS, Central Asian and WTO) have reduced the degree to which consignments are checked.

  Central Asian Governments have, in large part, not been able to stem the flow of illicit drugs across their borders for the following reasons:

    —  The relative newness of the drug trafficking problem (the border with Afghanistan during the Soviet period was secure) and a corresponding absence of effective strategies;

    —  Inefficient law enforcement per se (low salaries, corruption, inadequate equipment, poor organization);

    —  Topography, including permeable borders with Afghanistan (Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan); and

    —  A culture of smuggling pre-dating the Soviet regime and bolstered during that regime as a result of import restrictions.

  ODCCP has been involved in the region since 1994. Recognizing the threat posed to the security of Central Asian states and to the region of the consequences of drug trafficking (organized crime, including firearms and explosives smuggling, as well as political, economic and social instability), it has provided legal assistance and catalysed the creation, in each of the Central Asian states, of State Drug Control Commissions.

  It is also now establishing projects in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan aimed at improving border controls along the difficult Afghan frontier. As a second line of defence, ODCCP intends to improve inter-state border controls within Central Asia, including airports, seaports and customs posts, and to strengthen intelligence exchange and co-operation among the Central Asian states and Western countries. As Tajikistan poses a particular problem, ODCCP is launching a special programme to assist in the creation, on the basis of the existing Tajik State Drug Control Commission, of a Drug Enforcement Agency with wide-reaching law enforcement powers. As the manufacture from opium of heroin requires the use of acetic anhydride, ODCCP is also launching a regional project to control the movement of precursor chemicals in Central Asia. Lastly, but not unimportantly, excellent work is in progress at the Institute of Genetics in Tashkent to determine the efficacy and safety of a biological control method for eradicating the opium poppy.

  The proposed ODCCP/UNDCP programme for the next biennium is given below[5].

TitleProposed budget
(US $)
KAZ - Master Plan for Drug Control and Crime Prevention   5,000,000Funds being sought; Master Plan elaboration completed

KYR - Strengthening of Drug Control Infrastructures
500,000Funds being sought

TAJ - Institution Building
1,400,000Signed (funds to be transferred to TAJ Drug Control Agency)

TAJ - Border Control Programme
6,400,000Signed in April

TAJ - Drug Control Agency
8,500,000 Protocol signed in May; partially funded ($3 million)

TUK - Strengthening of Drug Control Infrastructures
1,000,000Funds being sought

TUK - Border Control
5,000,000 Assessment in progress

UZB - Strengthening of Drug Control Infrastructures
500,000Funds being sought

UZB - Border Control
1,500,000 Assessment in May

REG - Central Asia/CIS Border Control
9,000,000Needs assessment in summer; funds being sought

REG - Demand reduction
2,500,000 Funds being sought

REG - Strengthening of Investigative Capacity and Analysis in Central Asia
2,500,000Funds being sought; programme co-ordinator recruited

REG - Mapping of Illegal Cultivation (UZB and TUK)
500,000UZB agreement received

REG Precursor Control in Central Asia
5,000,000$1,000,000 available for first phase; remaining funds being sought; project document ready

  The Government of the United Kingdom has assisted ODCCP through (i) the provision of expertise and information to ODCCP, (ii) political advocacy for stronger drug control measures and greater international co-operation, (iii) the direct supply of much needed drug testing and rummage kits to law enforcement authorities, and (iv) the financing of various ODCCP projects, including US $3.4 million for ongoing activities and US $1.25 million for pipeline activities.

May 1999

4   Turkmenistan law enforcement officials seized two tonnes of heroin late in 1997. Utilizing a law enforcement efficiency coefficient of 5 per cent (typical of Western services for interdictions as against total estimated illicit traffic), a minimum annual trafficking volume of 40 tonnes can be extrapolated. Indeed, this figure may be considerably higher since Turkmen law enforcement authorities are not operating in auspicious circumstances. Back

5   Figures correct as of May 1999. Back

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Prepared 27 July 1999