Afghanistan Report


A lost mandate: The Public Calls for a New Direction in Afghan Counter-Narcotics Policies (September 2007)

A lost mandate: The Public Calls for a New Direction in Afghan Counter-Narcotics Policies Download the report

Press Release

During the period 14-30 August 2007, a nationally representative random sample of 1,000 adults in each of the four NATO-partner countries with troops fighting in southern Afghanistan were asked to respond to six questions relating to counter-narcotics policies currently pursued in Afghanistan. They were also asked their thoughts on the Poppy for Medicine proposal.

A quantitative telephone interview was conducted in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and the Netherlands with data weighted by gender, age, class and region to ensure comparability with national statistics.

Urgent International Public Call: New Approach Required for Counter-Narcotics Policies in Afghanistan Counter-narcotics policies at a crossroads
The international mission in Afghanistan has reached a tipping point. Failure to develop a fresh approach to the country’s unprecedented opium problem will adversely impact the international community’s ability to prosecute its security and development strategies. As stated by the UNODC in its latest Afghan report released in August 2007, the link between drugs and insurgency is now well established. Profits generated from 2007’s record opium crop of 8,200 metric tons will swell the Taliban’s coffers, enabling it to pay recruits higher salaries and arm itself with increasingly sophisticated weaponry to use against NATO forces in-country. A sense of urgency is required. The international community has a clear policy choice for Afghanistan: either persist with presently unsuccessful policies and implement even more forceful counter-narcotics measures, or pursue an effective and positive counter-narcotics policy. The public in the UK, the US, Canada and the Netherlands has clearly indicated that now is the time to change direction.

Time for a fresh approach to drug policy in Afghanistan: absence of grassroots support for current policies
NATO-partner states working in Afghanistan, the UK, Canada and The Netherlands must begin to promote alternatives to forced eradication as the polling results show an absence of grassroots support for current policies.

A binary proposition: Poppy for Medicine projects good, eradication bad
There is overwhelming public support for Poppy for Medicine projects – which would enable Afghan farmers to switch their crop away from the production of illegal narcotics, and towards the production of legal medicines – as a pragmatic, innovative counter-narcotics response to Afghanistan’s current opium crisis. This support is underpinned by strong public opposition to the forced eradication of Afghan poppy crops.

Chemical spraying + no alternative livelihoods= dramatic growth of Taliban insurgency
There is a widespread recognition that the spraying of chemicals on Afghan poppy crops would be disastrous, both for Afghanistan’s population and the international community’s stabilisation mission. More than two thirds of all respondents were opposed to the spraying of chemicals on Afghan poppy crops. Within individual countries, three out of four British, eight out of ten Canadians, and seven out of ten Dutch and Americans are against chemical eradication.

Governments have a mandate for Poppy for Medicine projects
Public support for forced crop eradication is extremely limited. Instead, across the UK, Canada, the Netherlands and even the US, there is a widespread belief that leaders should support the implementation of pilot Poppy for Medicine projects in Afghanistan in the next planting season this autumn.

Extensive potential market for Afghan-made fair-trade morphine
Although their countries do not face problems in accessing essential morphine medicines, respondents in the United Kingdom, Canada, the Netherlands, and the United States indicate that they would willingly use Afghan fair-trade morphine, if available. A

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