A new unity of focus on the heroin trade

A coming UN special session on drugs will be a timely help for the center of the rising global trade in heroin, Afghanistan. The world must unite to set a norm against addiction.

AP Photo
Afghan farmers harvest raw opium at a poppy field in Kandahar’s Zhari district, Afghanistan.

If one thing unites the world these days, it is a determination to end a near-record flow of heroin across borders. Next year the United Nations General Assembly plans to hold a special session on drug trafficking, its first since 1998. From China to Iran to the United States, officials are joining together to seek solutions, especially in curbing the opium trade.

Where should they focus their efforts?

The easy answer is Afghanistan, source of more than 80 percent of the world’s illicit opium.

Opium cultivation in Afghanistan reached a record last year, up 7 percent from the year before, increasing the drug money available to the country’s warlords and insurgents. Global production of opiates has doubled since 2012, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. In the US, a few states have declared an emergency over a rise in deaths from opiate overdoses.

In Afghanistan itself, drug addiction has risen sharply. And all this is despite more than $8 billion spent by the United States and other countries to eradicate the opium trade since the 2001 ouster of the Taliban regime by NATO.

The government in Kabul has had some success with interdiction of opium and in treating addicts. It needs to find high-value substitute crops that would allow farmers to earn an income similar to what they do now in growing poppies, the flowers that produce the opium for manufacturing heroin. One model can be found in Peru, where many farmers have been persuaded to switch to growing coffee instead of coca, the source for cocaine. In Afghanistan, some alternatives are saffron and hot peppers.

The newly elected government of President Ashraf Ghani must also tackle the poverty, corruption, and a climate of impunity that help drive the drug trade. He will need continued US support, especially for the Afghan Army in its war against the Taliban. And with the coming UN focus on drugs, Afghanistan will deserve special attention.

One country cannot bear such a heavy burden as the UN now turns to ways to end the opium trade. Every country with a drug problem must provide lessons and aid in kicking this habit. Global unity itself will send a strong message that drug addiction is not the norm.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to A new unity of focus on the heroin trade
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today