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International forum Drug Production in Afghanistan: A Challenge to the International Community

June 9, 2010, Moscow

Addressing the international forum Drug Production in Afghanistan: A Challenge to the International Community, which opened today in Moscow, Dmitry Medvedev said that he has approved the Russia’s National Drug Control Strategy to 2020.

The international forum brings together the heads of drug control and law enforcement agencies from various countries, prominent Russian and foreign experts, and representatives of international organisations, including the UN, CSTO, NATO, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. The forum’s main focus is stepping up efforts to combat drug trafficking coming from Afghanistan.

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President OF RUSSIA DMITRY MEDVEDEV: I think this forum that has opened today has great importance not just for Russia, in view of its geographic location, but for practically all countries. This forum’s subject is the drugs threat. We can see the scale of this problem today from the fact that global opiate production has doubled over the last decade. Nowadays, sadly, it is Afghanistan that is the world’s biggest producer of opiates. This problem is not just about the fact that Afghanistan is producing narcotics, which is a bad thing for Afghanistan itself as a country, of course. But this problem has already crossed all possible borders, and this is clearly something that you will discuss today. This problem now extends not just to Russia and its neighbours, but is also having a considerable impact in Europe, the United States and Canada too.

It is therefore our common task to prevent the globalisation of this criminal trade. Practice shows that failure to effectively tackle the drugs trade fuels other problems, above all the terrible scourge that is terrorism, causing great harm in general to our development, to humanity’s development.

We also need to recognise that in recent years young people have become the target of the drugs threat. Specialists estimate that over the last eight years the world has lost almost a million young people, people under the age of 35, through the use of heroin from Afghanistan. These figures have already been quoted, but it is worth repeating them.

We consider drug addiction one of the biggest and most serious threats to our country’s development and our people’s health. To fight this threat we have drawn up the National Drug Control Strategy through to 2020, and I approved this document today by executive order. I think it is essential that not only the state, which has a duty to resolve this problem, get involved in these efforts, but that we make use of the possibilities civil society offers too. In some ways, civil society could perhaps be even more effective than the state at addressing this problem.

Fighting this scourge on the global scale requires not just combating drug trafficking, but also addressing the social factors that give rise to it in the first place, things such as poverty, inequality and corruption. A combination of weak economic development and weak state institutions results in a phenomenon that a number of experts have dubbed the ‘narcostate’.

We realise that Afghanistan’s own resources alone are not enough to be able to vanquish these problems or at least buck the trend. Various international and regional organisations such as the UN, NATO, and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation are already contributing their efforts to this work. Tomorrow I will go to Tashkent, where we will discuss the SCO’s development. Our colleagues from Afghanistan, including the President of Afghanistan, have also been invited to the SCO meetings. We will discuss the drugs issue, of course. We discuss it every time we meet, and unfortunately, it never loses its relevance.

But all of these esteemed organisations’ efforts have not yet produced the desired results. The responsibility for developing a common policy in this area lies with the international community as a whole and not with individual countries, no matter what their weight in the world and what resources they possess. It is clear that neither Afghanistan, nor Russia, nor the United States can deal with this problem alone. This is a collective task. We must make sure too that this issue is not politicised in any way. Countries cannot be divided into those classified as posing a drug threat to the whole world, and those we will leave alone for now, waiting to see what happens. All countries producing drugs, especially hard drugs, pose a threat to the planet. And so political games around what is without any exaggeration a common global problem are simply unacceptable as they undermine our common international efforts and weaken our entire anti-drugs coalition. 

I think that all of you here today realise this. Countries’ leaders, in my view, should keep this position in mind when making their day-to-day political decisions. We will achieve nothing if we do not work together. This is one of the most complex problems humanity faces as it is, but as I say, we cannot divide countries by degree of the threat they pose. We cannot close our eyes to problems in one part of the world, in Afghanistan, say, while talking about the need to fight the drugs threat in other parts of the world. This is inconsistent and ultimately unacceptable. 

This is thus the agenda uniting us today, and I hope that we will achieve success in this regard.

I wish this international forum success. I hope that the recommendations you draft will help all countries, above all Afghanistan, and be put to use in future work. In setting our own domestic priorities and policy in this most complex of areas we will also base ourselves on the proposals that this and other international forums and groups put forward.

I wish all of you successful work.

All the best.

June 9, 2010, Moscow