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Focus on Afghanistan Drug Trading & Processing: World Bank

Counter-Narcotics Law Enforcement Efforts in Afghanistan Need to Focus on Higher-End Actors of the Drug Industry: World Bank

Counter-Narcotics Law Enforcement Efforts in Afghanistan Need to Focus on Higher-End Actors of the Drug Industry: World Bank

Focus on Higher-End Actors

Counter-Narcotics Law Enforcement Efforts in Afghanistan Need to Focus on Higher-End Actors of the Drug Industry: World Bank

Strong enforcement efforts against actors at the higher end of the drug industry in Afghanistan will be critical to curtail opium production, a World Bank Afghanistan expert said today.

William Byrd, World Bank Economist and co-editor of a 2006 report on Afghanistan's drug industry, said it is vital to focus counter-narcotics efforts on trading and processing activities and the actors who actually run the drug industry rather than the many farmers who are involved at the lower-end.

The recently released Afghanistan Opium Survey 2007 by the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC) said opium cultivation increased by 17 percent from 2006, and production went up by 34 percent. The report noted that Afghanistan now produces 93 percent of the global illicit opiates.

Byrd said opium cultivation has spread particularly in insecure provinces, where government presence is weak, drug-related corruption is rampant, and where there’s a lack of rule of law.


Listen to Analysis of the Afghanistan Opium Survey 2007

William Byrd, World Bank Economist, analyzes the UNODC Opium Survey 2007. Listen to the interview:

- According to the latest report from UNODC, Afghanistan has had another year of record high opium cultivation. What are the main reasons for this? (0:46s) mp3 audio

- The report says opium cultivation is no longer associated with poverty. In fact, the large opium-producing provinces in the south are the richest and most fertile. How do you explain this trend? (1m:32s) mp3 audio

- In your view, what are the most important steps that can be taken to curtail opium cultivation? (1m:02s) mp3 audio

- The number of opium-free provinces more than doubled, from 6 last year to 13 in 2007. Does this mean the counter-narcotics strategies in these provinces have been successful? (0:59s) mp3 audio

- What impact, and at what scale, does corruption have on counter-narcotics efforts? (0:57s) mp3 audio


Dependence on opium cultivation is associated with poverty

Byrd said that for many poor farmers and wage laborers there are no alternatives to opium cultivation. “Dependence on opium cultivation is very much associated with poverty.

Those who are actually cultivating opium on a sharecropping basis or who have very small plots of land tend not to be very rich. We have to be careful to distinguish who is cultivating the land and who owns it. Not surprisingly, it is the landowners who get most of the returns on opium at the farm level, while drug traders and their sponsors reap the lion’s share overall.”

Byrd said rural development programs will be critical to create alternative livelihoods for poor farmers. “The country also needs to develop labor intensive agriculture exports of high-value added which really will be the alternative to opium. But it has to be recognized that this will take time.”

The UNODC report said the number of opium-free provinces more than doubled, from 6 last year to 13 in 2007. While Byrd said this is an important development, he cautions against looking at a single year’s trend. “Take the example of Nangarhar where production went down by 95 percent two years ago and it is now restored close to previous levels.”


Corruption distorts and undermines counter-narcotics efforts

Byrd said a containment strategy needs to be put in place. “Efforts should not only be focused on the big opium producing provinces. We also need to make sure that new and marginal areas don’t get sucked into the opium economy.”

Last year’s World Bank/UNODC report on Afghanistan's drug industry said corruption in the eradication process has had severe negative side-effects. Wealthier opium producers pay bribes to avoid having their crops eradicated, greatly reducing the effectiveness of counter-narcotics measures.

Byrd said corruption seriously distorts and undermines the counter-narcotics effort. “As a result of corruption in implementation, the effects of counter-narcotics measures are most felt by the poor. This is problematic not only from a development and anti-poverty perspective but it also reduces the credibility of the anti-narcotics efforts.”


Additional Resources

- Afghanistan's Drug Industry: Structure, Functioning, Dynamics, and Implications for Counter-Narcotics Policy; The sheer size and illicit nature of the opium economy mean that it infiltrates and seriously affects Afghanistan's economy, state, society, and politics.
- World Bank Program in Afghanistan: Website maintained by the World Bank Office in Kabul, a launching pad to all information on World Bank activities in the country (strategy, projects, publications, etc.)
- Analysis and Research on Afghanistan: Compilation of all the World Bank's publications on Afghanistan, with 'search' options and links to analysis and research on other South Asian countries.

- South Asia: Development Data
A wide range of social and economic measures on South Asia, including links to the World Bank's most important online development databases. (Read More »)

- South Asia: Analysis and Research
Compilation of all the World Bank's publications on South Asia, with 'search' options and links to analysis and research on other South Asian countries. (Read More »)

- World Bank Program in South Asia
Launching pad to all information on World Bank activities in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.(Read More »)




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