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United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime( UNODC) has worked to fight against illicit drug trades, international crime and terrorism since its inception in 1997. The UNODC pursues its goals through three avenues: research and increasing understanding of issues, as the primary global force in crime prevention, criminal justice reform, terrorism prevention, anti-corruption initiatives as well as setting up alternative development programmes.
Addressing the narcotics situation in Afghanistan with special emphasis on Taliban controlled pan Asian drug lines.
Welcome to the UNODC of Sir Mutha Model United Nations – SRMUN. We’re thrilled to serve as your executive board this year and hope to see an active committee rife with constructive debate and discussion.
For two decades, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has been helping make the world safer from drugs, organized crime, corruption and terrorism. We are committed to achieving health, security and justice for all by tackling these threats and promoting peace and sustainable well-being as deterrents to them. Because the scale of these problems is often too great for states to confront alone, UNODC offers practical assistance and encourages transnational approaches to action. We do this in all regions of the world through our global programmes and network of field offices.
The Office is committed to supporting Member States in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at its core. The 2030 Agenda clearly recognizes that the rule of law and fair, effective and humane justice systems, as well as health-oriented responses to drug use, are both enablers for and part of sustainable development.
The background guide will serve as the most fundamental base for your preparation. The Executive Board strongly advises delegates to use this guide only to get a basic idea on the agenda and then to further research on pertinent topics, stances and foreign policies in order to have productive debate and come up with creative solutions for the agenda. The Executive Board looks forward to a productive conference with fun, constructive and engaging debate and hopes to make it an enriching learning experience for all the delegates. On that note, good luck to all the delegates.
The global trade in illicit Afghan opiates has become one of the world's greatest transnational drug and crime threats, with severe consequences for health, governance and security at national, regional and international levels. Illicit Afghan opiates are trafficked to almost every continent in the world, with the exception of South America, and are trafficked along three broad routes: the Balkan route, the northern route and the southern route. Given the severity of the problem, UNODC and the international community have identified the analysis and monitoring of Afghan opiates as a priority. A dedicated project was established in 2008 to help monitor and achieve a better understanding of the global impact of Afghan opiates.
Afghan heroin is trafficked to every region of the world except Latin America. A global network of routes, facilitated by international and domestic crime groups ensures that heroin is trafficked from production countries in South West Asia to global consumer markets. Multiple factors affect traffickers’ choice of routes including risk of detection, geo-political changes, logistical difficulties, topographic considerations and existing relationships between criminal groups.
Three broad trafficking routes have been identified for the movement of Afghan heroin. The “northern route” is the main heroin trafficking corridor linking Afghanistan to Central Asia and the large market of the Russian Federation. An emerging network of trajectories known collectively as the “southern route” travels southward from Afghanistan, either through Pakistan or the Islamic Republic of Iran1 , crosses the Indian Ocean and targets Africa, Europe, and Asia. The third and oldest route is an overland trajectory that crosses the Islamic Republic of Iran, Turkey and South-Eastern Europe to Western and Central Europe and is colloquially known as the “Balkan route”. Africa has traditionally been perceived as a transit region for heroin and other drugs moving to destination markets in Western and Central Europe, but drug trafficking and organized crime increasingly pose a multifaceted challenge to health, the rule of law and development within the continent itself. Additionally, drug traffickers, insurgent groups and terrorists all thrive in parts of Africa where there is minimal legitimate government authority, which in turn poses a wider threat to security and development across the continent. Research is still limited in this area, and although direct links between terrorist groups and opiate traffickers have not yet been identified, it is possible that such relationships may be occurring within Africa, or may develop in future.
Four basic methods for transporting opiates from South West Asia to Africa are highlighted in this background guide: postal trafficking, maritime trafficking by sea (including in cargo and small boats), trafficking by air (in cargo, luggage and hidden on the bodies of couriers) and trafficking by land (including in vehicles through trade crossings and unguarded borders, in luggage and hidden on the body).
Of the four types, data from Africa shows that land trafficking to Africa is not commonly utilized, with exception of Northern Africa, where Egypt in particular, is supplied by land with heroin from Afghanistan as a sub-branch of the Balkan route transiting through the Middle East. Overland transportation is sometimes used within Africa by Eastern African traffickers to transfer shipments to Southern Africa, using private vehicles to transport heroin across borders, in order to reduce interception by border guards. In the Indian Ocean, the Combined Maritime Forces (CMF) are reporting an increased quantity of seized opiates sourced from Afghanistan, likely destined for ports in Eastern Africa, notably in Kenya and Tanzania.
Drug seizure data from the region shows a significant rise in cannabis resin shipments in addition to an increase in the flow of opiates. This suggests that the maritime trafficking of opiates is on the rise, as is suggested by the CMF operations in the area. Maritime trafficking of opiates to Western Africa also occurs, but this appears to be secondary compared to the increasing use of air couriers. Western and Eastern Africa are experiencing tremendous increase in use of air couriers, serving both intra-regional as well as international consumer markets of US and Western/Central Europe. Interceptions of drug shipments by air and mail suggest that these methods have remained popular for Western and Eastern African traffickers. Nigerian and Kenyan airports have played a significant role in large shipments but increased interception has hampered these activities. Although the average quantity seized is small, the sheer number of shipments indicates that the aggregate volumes smuggled using these methods may be large.
With the recent fall of the Afghan government, the Taliban have pushed for a ban on the production of opium as pressure from the international community mounted. In fact, in a televised interview, a Taliban spokesman claimed that if anyone were found to be cultivating these plants or synthesizing its derivatives, the crop would be destroyed and the cultivator would be tried in accordance with the Sharia Law.
Poppy cultivation is a key revenue source for many impoverished farmers in the country which has seen relative peace since the US-led foreign forces withdrew after 20 years of war and occupation. Afghanistan’s opium production – which the United Nations (UN) estimated was worth $1.4bn at its height in 2017 – has increased in recent months, farmers and Taliban members told Reuters news agency. By bringing faster and higher returns than legal crops such as wheat, opium poppy cultivation became for farmers in the country’s southeast a way to survive amid a dire economic situation.
But the Taliban’s war on drugs becomes complicated as the country faces the prospect of economic collapse and imminent humanitarian catastrophe. Sanctions and lack of recognition have made Afghanistan, long an aid-dependent country, ineligible for the financial support from international organizations that accounted for 75% of state spending.
A liquidity crisis has set in. Without foreign funds, government revenues rely on customs and taxation. The illicit opium trade is intertwined with Afghanistan’s economy and its turmoil. Poppy growers are part of an important rural constituency for the Taliban, and mostly rely on the harvest to make ends meet.
During the insurgency years the Taliban profited from the trade by taxing traffickers, a practice applied on a wide variety of industries in the areas under their control. Research by David Mansfield, an expert on the Afghan drug trade, suggests that the group made $20 million in 2020, a small fraction compared to other sources of revenue from tax collection. Publicly it has always denied links to the drug trade.
As per a UN estimate, opium harvesting provided almost 120,000 jobs in Afghanistan in 2019. These volumes act as a cash cow for the Taliban in the form of several kinds of taxes and levies. Ten per cent tax on the harvests of irrigated land used for opium poppy cultivation contributes the lion's share when it comes to revenue from drugs, according to Portal Plus. Reports suggested that the Taliban's total annual income was around 1.5 billion dollars, to which drug trade is estimated to be contributing around 420 million dollars a year, while according to other sources the drug trade accounts for up to 60 percent of the total revenue, reported Portal Plus.
While the drug trade acted as a lifeline for the Taliban during the past twenty years, the ruins it brought to Afghanistan's ordinary citizens cannot be overstated. According to a 2017 study by European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS) reflects upon the extent of illicit drug industry involvement in civilian life. It said that the interwovenness of drug trade within Afghanistan shows its deep anchoring in society and in the lives of civilians.
Approximately one out of ten Afghans are engaged in the drugs business. The employment, however, often results in dependency and debt traps particularly for individuals in rural communities. The effects can be felt in the form of volatile incomes for families and lack of formal alternatives, as per Portal Plus.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said in a recent report that the price of opium has recently surged. According to UNODC findings, income from Afghan opiates amounted to USD 1.8 billion to 2.7 billion in 2021 inside Afghanistan, but much larger profits are made in the illicit drug supply chains outside the country. Increased political uncertainty in Afghanistan since August 2021 is driving up opium prices, which almost doubled in August compared to May.