§ The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean)
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) released its Afghanistan opium survey 2004 on 18 November. The survey showed that opium poppy cultivation increased by 64 per cent from 80,000 hectares in 2003 to 131,000 hectares in 2004 while production rose by 17 per cent from 3,600 tonnes in 2003 to 4,200 tonnes. The report is available on the UNODC website atwww.unodc.org.
The UK uses the UN results and the trends they demonstrate as a reference point for Afghanistan, as we do for the rest of the world. This has been the case since UNODC started its surveys in Afghanistan in the 1993–94 growing season.
The UK recognises that the Afghan Government are working in very difficult circumstances. The security situation remains serious. Drugs are deeply embedded in all levels of society. The establishment of governance, delivery of development aid and the establishment of law and order cannot proceed as quickly as Afghanistan and her partners would like to see. The 2004 UN survey results make clear the scale of the task ahead but the Afghans' strategy and the practical measures they are putting in place remain right.
As lead co-ordinating nation on counter narcotics in Afghanistan, the UK Government are already taking forward with the Afghans a comprehensive programme that sets the conditions for more visible results in the future. It covers: alternative livelihoods; eradication; criminal justice; law enforcement and information and treatment campaigns to raise awareness and tackle the problems of addiction in Afghanistan itself.
With the Afghan Government and the international community, we recognise that we must and will do more in the coming year across each of the five main pillars of the strategy. By securing wider international support, the UK will increase its support for Afghanistan's national drug control strategy in the coming year.