Letter from the Senlis Council
I write further to the Committee's Report titled
Foreign Policy Aspects of the War against Terrorism, published
on 2 July 2006, HC573, Session 2005-06, which makes reference
to The Senlis Council's Afghan opium licensing proposal for the
production of essential medicines (pp. 136-7, pars 381 and 382).
In response to the Government's stated position on this proposal,
I would like to bring some clarification to three important aspects
of opium licensing, which may be of interest to the Committee
members: the legal basis, the possibility for an effective integrated
local control system, and the export route for an Afghan brand
of humanitarian morphine.
A SOLID LEGAL
There is a clear basis in Afghan domestic law
for the establishment of an opium licensing system in Afghanistan.
The 2005 Afghan Counter Narcotics Law contains extensive provisions
for the licensed cultivation of opium poppy (Chapter II, Art 5-6;
Chapter III, Art 7-14). Tomorrow, without requiring any authorisation
or notification, Afghanistan could start producing opium under
a strict licensing system for its own domestic use or for the
domestic manufacture of morphine or codeine.
This is the case regardless of whether the morphine or codeine
is produced for domestic use or export. The implementation
of such a scheme is now dependent solely on political will within
and outside Afghanistan.
Effective nationwide control would be crucial
for a fully-functional poppy licensing system, but much doubt
remains over the ability of the Afghan government to exercise
such controlparticularly outside Kabul. Comprehensive field
research in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar, conducted
for the Senlis Council in late 2005early 2006, has confirmed
the existence of strong social control structures such as the
shura and the jirga; it is these native structures
which would need to be mobilised to create an effective integrated
opium licensing control system.
By maximising the aptitude of existing control structures at the
community level and empowering rural communities, the proposed
integrated system of control and governance for opium licensing
would prevent diversion and strengthen a sense of local ownership.
A series of pilot schemes would underline the
huge potential for effective mobilisation of local, informal governance
structures and display how such mobilisation could contribute
to a successful opium licensing control system. The Network of
European Foundations, the Senlis Council's Donor Group, has allocated
a special reserve budget for the launch and maintenance of pilot
projects throughout Afghanistan.
Illicit opium is at the nexus of the reconstruction
crisis in Afghanistan. However, it can also be used to manufacture
widely-needed essential pain-killers. Hence, Afghan opium represents
an interesting opportunityan Afghan brand of humanitarian
morphine could provide the export route for opium produced under
license, and could supply morphine-based medicines to countries
which face an acute shortage of essential painkillers. This would
be possible under a preferential trade agreement, similar to the
one already existing between the US and two traditional licensed
opium suppliers, Turkey and India. This new preferential trade
agreement would allow Afghan morphine to enter new markets with
untapped pain relief (80% of the world population has little or
no access to painkillers). By endorsing an Afghan morphine brand,
the international community could signal its strong political
will and commitment to finding an effective and pragmatic resolution
to the illegal opium crisis in Afghanistan.
As recent events in Afghanistan have shown,
bridging security and development is a daunting challenge facing
the Karzai government. Opium licensing could be part of this wider
effort, since it addresses many pertinent security and development
issues: it addresses the problem at the root of the illicit opium
economy; it allows the rule of law to reach rural communities
reliant on opium like in Helmand; and it gives a working alternative
to the impasse of poppy crop eradication. Overall, opium licensing
could send a strong, positive signal to poor rural communities
that their circumstances and needs are taken into account by the
Karzai government and the international community, thus creating
better conditions for British troops on the ground.
I would be delighted to exchange views on our
proposed opium licensing scheme and discuss how it could make
a positive contribution to the reconstruction effort in Afghanistan.
3 July 2006
1 The United Nations Convention Regime, Professor
Brice de Ruyver & Laurens Van Puyenbroeck, Institute for International
Research on Criminal Policy, Ghent University, p 379-438 in Feasibility
Study on Opium Licensing in Afghanistan, The Senlis Council,
Kabul/London September 2005. Back
Field Report on Integrated Social Control in Kama District, Eastern
Afghanistan: Implications for the Licensed Cultivation of Poppy,
Dr Ali Wardak, The Senlis Council, Kabul, April 2006. Back