Iran pays the biggest price in the fight against drugs: UNODC

TEHRAN, Jul. 25 (MNA) – Representative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to the Islamic Republic of Iran says that Tehran pays the highest price in the battle against drug traffickers.

“Other nations recognize that Iran is not the source country, but a transit country, and Iran pays the biggest price in the fight against drugs,” Alex Fedulov says in an exclusive interview with the Tehran Times.
Below is the full text of the interview.

Q. Could you please tell us about the UNODC?

A. The organization is responsible for assistance to member states of the United Nations to implement or to rectify adherence to UN conventions.

Alex Fedulov confirms that the role of Iran in the fight against drug trafficking is well recognized by the international community.There are five conventions that we support worldwide. There are three unit conventions related to drug control, the conventions 621, 1971 and 1988 that describe second therapy substances, what we call “drugs”.  We aim to fight illicit drug trafficking with the 1988 convention.

When this convention was adopted, the international community agreed to dedicate efforts to stem drug abuse and counter drug trafficking. It was signed on June 26, 1988. Just after the signing of this convention in New York, the day was dedicated to this convention against drug abuse because of negative human aspect of it.
In line with the implementation of all three conventions, the UN works with a political declaration and plan of action. This is the document adopted by all member states of the UN. This document will be reviewed again next year. This is the end of this declaration, because it was adopted in 2009. It means that next year, at the ministerial level, the UN Special General Assembly Session will adopt a new world drug problem document which will describe what to do with drugs in the next ten years, how to communicate, how to cooperate, how to stop drug trafficking.

One of the main achievements of the international drug control system at the global level is that drug misuse in the world, more or less, is kept in the focus. It is not at the epidemic level. It means that about five percent of the world population between ages 15 to 64 have experienced drug misuse or abuse. The majority of population has no drug and substance misuse or and have not experienced psychotropic substances. This is to promote UN conventions and governmental assistance on how to deal with drugs. The logic of the work of UN is related to the application of legal provisions at the national legislative level. For example, UN conventions, both the articles

In 2019, UN Special General Assembly Session will adopt a new world drug problem document which will describe what to do with drugs and how to stop drug trafficking in the next ten years.and the logic of drug control of its national legislation is everywhere. It means the legal field is equal in every country. This is the solid foundation on how to manage drug trafficking and drug control. Drug control includes the monitoring of illicit drugs allowed for medical use in medical facilities, and how to seal with illicit drug trafficking. This involves security and law enforcement, to catch someone who has been involved in drug abuse, and then treatment for them. This is an additional cost for governments and societies. Drug trafficking has become a global threat. Experts and researchers say that if we invest in preventive programs, much money is saved. Treatment is far more costly, but we have to do prevention also.

There are three levels of prevention. The first level addresses schools, the second for other young populations and the third on other people in societies. These programs reflected in the UN conventions.

Iran is part of all three UN conventions. All three conventions have been signed by Iran and Iran is one of the active participants for the review and implementation of the program. It is why the government of Iran created a drug control headquarters. This is the national focal point and responsible institution. This department is related to drug prevention and drug treatment even with associated HIV consequences. They have four security sectors to fight against the supply of drugs and they manage and coordinate work with anti-narcotic police, border customs, other security, because everything in is in line with UN conventions. It is almost the same system everywhere in the world.  It means there are partners cooperating and communicating with one another to tackle organized crime groups which are not dependent on passports or citizenship. They communicate with each other very easily through telephones and other means at the regional and global levels.

Drug trafficking has become a global threat.In some countries the drugs abuse and prevention methods are very well developed and in some countries they are not. We need to know how to manage that, and that is why UNODC was created under the secretary general to help every country adopt and implement the conventions in their legislations under the umbrella of the United Nations.

That is why I am here. We support the Iranian government and bring expertise, knowledge and technique to the fight here, and in neighboring countries. UNODC has offices in Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere in central Asia.

We work through the country partnership program signed by the government of Iran and UNODC. We also have four sub-programs dealing with reduction of drug demand, security and law enforcement development, criminal justice, anti-corruption and and even sustainable development.

Sometimes governments say that we don’t understand what happens in some regions in some countries, and how to manage. We try to solve these issues, too. Every year the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes publishes and launches the world drug report. The executive director of UNODC, Mr. Yury Fedotov has

Iran has signed and is part of all three UN conventions. Plus, Iran is one of the active participants for the review and implementation of the program.introduced the annual world drug report for 2018 with descriptions of what has happened with drug demand and supply and drug market prices. This year we also have a special publication on women and drugs. Women are a very vulnerable group. This document is based on data provided by every government, members of the UN conventions, members of the UNODC. This made possible analysis and publication of this drug report. Every government can refer to it, and access is free on the Internet. It is offered in Russian, Chinese, English, French, Arabic and Spanish.

Now about our region:

One of the countries in the region is Afghanistan. It’s the prime source country for opium. Opium is used for processing morphine and heroin. Cannabis, another source drug, is used in the production marijuana, hashish and hashish oil in that order. Both crops are grown in Afghanistan. From cannabis the end product is hashish and from opium the end product is heroin. These drugs can be smoked, eaten or injected.

Drugs are not harmful in nature and were used initially for medical purposes to reduce pain. If drugs are used properly, they won’t be harmful.

Almost 80 percent of opium seizures are by Iranian authorities and that is not because of the UN system.
For example, as a pain killer, morphine is the first substance chosen as a pain killer for oncological treatment. All regulations through the UN conventions should be in place not to stop it but to guarantee that people can get morphine when they need it like morphine, but not allow anyone to misuse it. That is the responsibility of every government. Governments should provide access to painkillers. Our role is to promote awareness and support civil societies and help them with such issues.

Q. How has Iran played a role as a member of UNODC in drug seizures?

A. Almost 80 percent of opium seizures are by Iranian authorities and that is not because of the UN system. It is the work of the Iranian government because Iran is on the path of trafficking from Afghanistan to Europe. Europe is the biggest market for illicit drugs. For example, in 2017, Iran had a seizure of over 600 tons of opium, the biggest seizure in the world. The government has invested resources to stop drug trafficking that comes from Afghanistan to European countries. Iran is absolutely aligned with UN conventions with its own legislation and is a very active participant in drug control at the international level. But at the same time, Iran has a high number of drug addicted people, because of drugs coming to the country.

Q. What is the role of your office in general and in particular in Iran?

A. Everything that is done through the UNODC on corruption, drugs and organized crime is based on work done by the Iranian government. We never evaluate who

We also have four sub-programs dealing with reduction of drug demand, security and law enforcement development, criminal justice, anti-corruption and even sustainable development.is having a more effective or less effective participatory role. We are not entitled to make such assessments. What we do is to support the ratification and implementation, when a government wants to do something.

In our office, we understand the situation and communicate with authorities in Iran. We understand that expertise in drug prevention resides with our colleagues. We assist the minister of health to manage this issue and offer support. The government of Iran has been quite successful with the establishment of drop-in centers to help drug addicts. There are 200 such centers across Iran. There are a number of NGOs in Iran that also help with vulnerable groups and their programs are supported by the government, but they need knowledge, expertise, and consultants. It is our role to assist Iranian experts, to cover their expenses, to send people to other countries to study and get training.

Additionally, we support the law enforcement sector. For example, this year, we conducted training sessions for anti-narcotic police in cooperation with the Italian government and provided funds for that. We bought sniffing dogs from the Netherlands for customs and border guards. For customs, you need to search and dogs are very effective. We invited foreign instructors and experts from the Netherlands and had long sessions on how to handle and treat dogs. These dogs have to be replaced every six years or so as they get old, plus they live in harsh conditions and are under pressure. Overall their life span is about 8 to 10 years and they should be very well trained.

The government of Iran has been quite successful with the establishment of 200 drop-in centers to help drug addicts across Iran.We also provided X-ray machines as they are used by law enforcement. We did procurement recently and some of the x-ray machines were replaced in some border areas in Iran.

Drug detection equipment was also given to Iranian anti-narcotic police. Detection of hidden drugs in vehicles, boats, airplanes, and people is thereby enhanced. There is intelligence exchange between law enforcement in various countries. At the UNODC, we help with that. We bring officers to another country and allow them to discuss what can be done.

Seized drugs are supposed to be analyzed at forensic labs: What kind of substance, what is the volume, what is the purity of the drug, is the drug mixed with sugar, salt or something else. Forensic lab exists in Iran and other countries, but they have to improve their skills.

How to do it? We need to support the professional development of forensic police staff. In Iran, for example, we must exercise collaboration at the international level. Iran is a member of this program to check the level of proficiency of the forensic staff of the police. The UNODC will test drugs. We do not substitute for Iranian law enforcement, but we support their work in line with UN conventions. Iranian authorities count on our abilities.

UNODC supports the law enforcement sector as well as.Partnership is based on decisions made at the annual gathering at the UN headquarter office in Vienna. This is the collective instrument for addressing drug control methods. We provide consultation for the local-self-government or institution and steering poor people into work that is not drug related. For example, three or more farmers can unite and grow beans and crops or organic crops instead of opium, and the government could support them by purchasing their products. This is an alternative development to overcome unemployment. This is the road to help people stay away from criminal activities, to give them alternatives.

Also some prisoners are given useful work while in prison or they may have knowledge or skills that can be put to use. So after imprisonment they have skills to have a profession. We like to support the Iranian government with this alternative development model, even though the model has not been tried out seriously in Iran so far.  

Q. Have you met with Iranian officials about the illegal drug and ways to prevent entry to Iran?

A. I met with Mr. Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Iranian Foreign Minister. He told me that drug control and drug demand reduction must be the key work of UNODC. I also

UNODC helps with intelligence exchange between law enforcement in various countries.met with the heads of anti-narcotic police, heads of cyber police ... We also coordinate plans to avoid duplicating an activity with other UN agencies in the country. The role of government is to coordinate our assistance in order to prevent duplication. For example, instead of buying two cars, we could buy five cars through different UN agencies. Activities should be coordinated at least at the governmental level to avoid duplication. I will tell you that more than 730 tons of drugs were seized by Iranian authorities last year.

And of course, we understand that in some cases we do not need to teach Iranian authorities what to do. They know it already.

Q. The UNODC also assists member states with the prevention of HIV/AIDS and treatment facilities. How has your agency cooperated with Iran in that area?

A. First of all, there is the governmental level and the provincial level of this work. What we did was, just as an example, we gathered trained staff from all over Iran, from Shiraz, Yazd, Tabriz, and Mashhad, all in the same room. We invited instructors who shared how to manage treatment and prevention. We even issued certificates for the participants. We tried to improve their skills. These people went back to their provinces, and they will be trainers for others. They will train their staff and their colleagues.

There is also an awareness and preventive programs at the UNODC for people to say NO to drugs when encountering peer pressure.Also one of the mandates is drop-in centers is for people with HIV and AIDS, where people can get tested for HIV free of charge.
There is also an awareness and preventive programs at the UNODC for people to say NO to drugs when encountering peer pressure. Gender is also another issue here. It is harder for women to seek help with drug addiction than for men.

Q. What measures have been taken to compensate for Iranian sacrifices in the battle against drug trafficking as some 4,000 Iranians have been killed in the war against drug smugglers?

A. Well, first of all, I have to say that police officers unfortunately can get injured and killed in many countries in the line of duty. I cannot say, the life of police officer in country A is any less valuable than the one in country B. The UNODC recognizes that Iran faces serious costs in the fight against drug trafficking. This is one cost of protection and security, unfortunately. But the role of Iran is well recognized by the international community. Governments recognize that Iran is not the source country, but a transit country, and Iran pays the biggest price in the fight against drugs, and that’s why the UNODC supports the Iranian government.

MN/TT

News Code 136072

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