Speaking in Vienna after attending the Paris Pact Conference on Combating the Afghan Illicit Opiate Trade on 16 February, Mr Burt underlined the need for a comprehensive and determined international approach. He said:
Tackling the drugs trade remains a key part of our overall efforts in Afghanistan. Now is the time to build on the commitments made at the Istanbul and Bonn Conferences last year to fight the drugs trade. Today’s meeting should result in a better framework for future co-operation which needs to focus on key priorities, including tackling the trade in precursor chemicals, targeting illegal financial flows and reducing demand in the region and worldwide”.
The Paris Pact brings together key countries and organisations, led by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, to co-ordinate action on Afghan counter-narcotics. Today’s meeting was the third ministerial conference since the Pact was formed in 2003. At the conference, Mr Burt welcomed the Russian proposal to hold the meeting, and encouraged regional initiatives. He stressed that the Afghan drugs trade requires a regional solution, noting:
Tackling the drugs trade will take time requiring a long-term and comprehensive approach and will require regional leadership too. The effects of the trade are not limited to Afghanistan, but also extend into the wider region along trafficking routes”.
Mr Burt also pledged continued UK counter-narcotics support, as part of the British Government’s wider work to support long-term peace and stability in Afghanistan. He commented:
As the Prime Minister has said, we are doing all we can to try to help ensure a strong, peaceful and democratic state in Afghanistan, shown in the long-term UK-Afghanistan partnership signed last month with President Karzai. We all want an Afghanistan that is able to maintain its own security and prevent the country from being used as a safe haven for international terrorists. Efforts to tackle the illicit drugs trade remain important for this as it continues to pose a threat to Afghanistan’s stability, undermining security and benefiting the insurgency.
The UK is committed to supporting the Afghan Government’s counter-narcotics work alongside wider efforts to build up the Afghan security forces, develop a viable Afghan state and make progress towards a more inclusive political process. We strongly support the comprehensive approach set out in the Afghan Government’s National Drug Control strategy, which balances law enforcement action with capacity-building and the development of sustainable alternative livelihoods.
Recent UK counter-narcotics support has included building capacity in Afghan counter-narcotics institutions, providing mentoring support to law enforcement bodies, providing development assistance to communities so that they can access alternatives to poppy cultivation and supporting the Afghan Government to work with those in the wider region to fight the trade.
International focus on Afghanistan is moving towards the NATO Summit in Chicago in May which will set out a path for the international community’s support for effective and sustainable Afghan National Security Forces. The Tokyo Conference in July will focus on long-term international development support to the Afghan State.