Frost over the World - Opium in Afghanistan PDF Print E-mail
The shaping of policy at UNODC (2002-2010)


Good to be back in London. In this wonderful city I had my first real job -- as a chef, believe or not, in a McDonald's-type joint.  Much later, namely when I was about three times older, I spent many years as Secretary-General of the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).


Main focus of the visit was the launch of the UNODC Afghan Opium Survey 2008 together with FO Minister Bill Rummel. UNODC information about drugs in Afghanistan is considered the gold standard - a reputation I am proud of.


Launch of the report was overshadowed by the terrorist attacks in Mumbai. When I was preparing for a radio interview (that took place in a white min-van with a massive antenna), I could hear an interview taking place with Shashi Tharoor about the attacks in India.


While in London I learned a lot from an interchange about drug control with a couple of hundred students at the London School of Economics.  If it were up to them, UNODC could be scrapped and so would the UN conventions:  good debating training for drug control, in view of the tough BBC program next day (see below).  Later in the evening, together with Cherie Blair, I took part in an event about human trafficking -- in a church - hosted by the NGO Stop the Traffik.


There were some interesting press encounters as well, like an appearance on the Al-Jazeera programme




with the living legend Sir David Frost (of BBC fame), and an appearance on the BBC programme HardTalk:  they thought they could corner UNODC and ridicule us and what we stand for, in drug control.  I believe it didn't work the way the BBC producer had imagined - and hoped.


Walter Kemp also introduced me to his buddy, equally famed writer, author Frederick Forsyth (famous forThe Day of the Jackal and The Dogs of War) whose next book will be about cocaine trafficking (I won't give away the plot, but the Office is key in this new novel, based on UNODC information, especially drug/crime/corruption inside information provided by Antonio Mazzitelli - whom author Forsyth specifically went to meet, in Dakar).

By the way, if you have not read it yet, I advise you to buy yourself a literary Christmas gift, namely the novel by Alain Lallemand, titled L'Heroine Afghane (Alain is a senior editor of the Belgian paper, Le Soir).  The book title is obviously a play of words, and it is centred on information we have provided (here in Vienna, where Alain spent a few weeks last year, and in Kabul, where he travels frequently).  Some of the main characters in the book are taken straight from the UNODC directory, about half a dozen of our staff, their names and roles in the Office just re-touched.


You know the profile of our Office is going up when crime fiction writers take an interest in what we do.  By the way, another recognition just came from one of the world's foremost political analysts, Ahmed Rashid, author of the no. 1 New York Times bestseller, The Taliban.  In Descent into Chaos (Viking, 2008), about the failure of nation building in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia, Ahmed speaks very highly of UNODC - the only UN agency referred to in a positive way.  "Only UNODC had the courage to call a spade a spade" says the author, with plenty of supportive evidence.


On behalf of all these authors I thank you for the good reputation you are giving to the United Nations.



Last Updated on Sunday, 04 May 2014 17:12