Aceh: Paradise Rediscovered PDF Print E-mail
The shaping of policy at UNODC (2002-2010)

Posted: 1 February 2013

Can you think of a region so poor that income is less than one dollar a day per person: that has gone through a war against the central government for 30 years (1975-2005); that in 2004 was submerged by a tidal wave (the tsunami) that killed 170,000 people out of a total population of 3 million (in other words 1 person out of every 20); that was later submerged by an avalanche of assistance personnel that pushed local prices beyond what locals could afford?

Well, let me help you.

The Aceh peninsula of Northern Indonesia, along the strategic Malacca Straits, is where I went on mission yesterday, with a delicate task: to determine the extent of drug production (cannabis cultivation); trafficking (hashish and methamphetamine); the associated crime and violence; the health impact (including the spread of HIV because of drug-injection); and, above what can be done to put an end to all this through development.

Last Updated on Saturday, 11 October 2014 17:38
A plea from Zeinab PDF Print E-mail
The shaping of policy at UNODC (2002-2010)

altOn my way back from Afghanistan recently, I visited the Iran-Afghan border where there is a trench, 1000km long, four metres wide and four metres high. It is like one of the wonders of the world - you can probably see it from space; the inverse of the Great Wall of China.

Iran has built these earthworks to slow the trafficking of drugs out of Afghanistan. This is the front line in preventing the spread of opiates into the West. This effort has come at a great cost - both financial and human. More than 3,500 Iranian border guards have been killed in the past generation, fighting well-armed drug gangs along the border.

This tragedy was given a human face when, at a border post, an 11-year old girl named Zeinab, dressed in black and carrying a picture of a handsome man in uniform, read out a letter to me. Here is what she said:


Last Updated on Sunday, 04 May 2014 17:09
What to do about organized crime? PDF Print E-mail
The shaping of policy at UNODC (2002-2010)

There is a growing focus on, and concern about, organized crime: in public opinion, the media, and among policymakers. I have addressed the issue lately in a number of speeches, for example at the 2009 Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice. 

Have a look at my outline.

Last Updated on Thursday, 20 January 2011 11:15
Birds of prey on Congo PDF Print E-mail
The shaping of policy at UNODC (2002-2010)


 The Congo River impresses the air-traveller approaching Kinshasa airport: its water volume greater than the mighty Nile, its current faster than that of the thunderous Zambezi. Yet, it was not the Congo River that attracted my attention. As the United Nations plane I was in hovered above the airport, my eyes were transfixed by the dozens of airplanes idle on the grass. Not on the tarmac, not on the runways, not ready to take off. In the tall grass were small planes with bent propellers, mid-size turboprops with twisted landing gears and some gigantic crafts with rusty jet engines protruding under wings the size of tennis courts. Abandoned, crashed and seized planes, unworthy of the skies, cannibalized for parts, at least 30-40 years old. Weird colours and company names were still visible: orange Diamond Jetways, blue and yellow Zanzi Co., red striped Bluebird etc. There were no markings on most fuselages, just badly applied paint to mask the craft's original identity.

Last Updated on Sunday, 04 May 2014 16:16
Descent into the heart of darkness PDF Print E-mail
The shaping of policy at UNODC (2002-2010)

Gulu, northern Uganda, January

"We lined up the villagers, about 20 of them, and chopped their hands with a machete." He twists his fingers and looks at his own hands as to make sure that they were both there. "They dropped to the ground screaming. We cracked their skulls."

Opoko is a handsome boy with vivid eyes, in his late teens (he isn't exactly sure how old), and a former child-soldier. He was abducted 4 years ago by the LRA (Lord's Resistance Army) and forced to commit atrocities, or atrocity would have been committed on him.

I met Opoko and another two dozens former child-soldiers at a camp in the town of Gulu, northern Uganda, organized by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, and the ICC Trust Fund for Victims. The initiative to help these kids was conceived more than a year ago when, during a meeting organized by Simone Monasebian (Head of UNODC Office in NY), we asked renowned artist Ross Bleckner of New York whether he could be motivated to launch an art-based campaign against human trafficking. Child-soldiers, their victimization and their exploitation for violence against civilians, are a dramatic case of contemporary slavery - one that UNODC is committed to fight in the four corners of the world. We proposed to start with northern Uganda.

Last Updated on Sunday, 04 May 2014 17:10
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.


Last Updated on Sunday, 04 May 2014 17:12
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