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26/01/2008 00:00:00

Nepal: International Customs Day Combatting Drug Trafficking

January 26 has been designated as International Customs Day. The day
this year is being marked with the theme ?Combating illicit trafficking
of drugs and psychotropic substances". While considerable progress has
been made, a great deal remains to be done in the fight against drug
trafficking. A quick look at the report published by the World Customs
Organisation (WCO) ?Customs and Drugs 2006" states that seizure of all
types of drugs has risen sharply in recent years.

Drug supply
The ?International Narcotics Control Strategy Report - 2006", released
by the Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs,
states that ?although Nepal is neither a significant producer of nor a
major transit route for narcotic drugs, domestically-produced cannabis,
hashish and heroin are trafficked to and through Nepal every year. An
increase in the use of Nepalese traffickers, apprehended by the police,
suggests that the country's citizens are becoming more involved in

Moreover, Nepal's Narcotics Drug Control Law Enforcement Unit (NDCLEU)
reports that more Nepalese citizens are investing in and taking a larger
role in running trafficking operations. Customs and border controls
remain weak, but international cooperation has resulted in increased
narcotics-related indictments in Nepal and abroad.

This statement and the summary report should be taken with caution and
care by the concerned authorities in Nepal. It clearly demonstrates
Nepal's weak customs administration and management particularly in the
border areas.

In 1987, the UN convened an international conference against drug abuse
and illicit trafficking to promote international cooperation to address
the problem. The conference unanimously endorsed a 35-point
comprehensive multidisciplinary outline for action to be taken on all
aspects of drug abuse and trafficking. The outline contains chapters on
preventing and reducing demand, controlling supply, suppressing illicit
drug trafficking and treating and rehabilitating drug users.

Political and financial instability, a feature prevalent in the
developing countries, has been generally linked to smuggling and
trafficking of illicit goods. Realising the negative impact of smuggling
and illicit trafficking of goods on the economy, the government has
taken stringent actions against those involved in such activities. The
increase in public revenue in recent times clearly indicates that the
controlling measures taken by the government have become quite positive
and effective.

The fast changing social and economic circumstances, easy access and
global availability of illicit drugs, and the rising demand for them
have contributed to the increasing trade, posing a serious threat to
society and the community. Hence, only a concerted and determined effort
and response from the international community can successfully cope with it.

In the particular context of Nepal, it had included a drug policy in the
Ninth Plan, which reflected the country's commitment to controlling drug
abuse and illicit trafficking. The recent Customs Act of the government,
which has been drafted and enacted in compliance with the WTO norms, is
crucial in combatting drug trafficking.

The Government of Nepal has also approved a National Drug Control Policy
and a National Drug Reduction Strategy. Provisions have also been made
for the national laws to conform to the 1961 and 1988 United Nations
Convention along with the South Asian Association for regional
Cooperation (SAARC) Convention of 1990 relating to drug abuse and drug

It is quite obvious that not all of Nepal's problems are of its own
making. The ever-increasing international trade and the massive
globalisation of manufacturing activities have increased the role of the
cargo business thousand fold. It is more so in the context of the role
to be played regarding safe cargo delivery without drug trafficking. So
sensitisation and awareness building training programmes should be
conducted at the operational level to the cargo entrepreneurs at
frequent intervals.

The scourge of drugs, like a deadly disease, respects no boundaries. It
afflicts everyone - young or old, rich or poor, conservative or radical,
Asian, African, Latin American as well as western. The United Nations
Fund for Drug Abuse Control (UNFDC) was established in 1971 for the
express purpose of assisting governments in combating the production,
trafficking and the use of illicit drugs. The incentive behind the
growth in the international traffic of narcotics is the rising demand in
certain developed countries. In this regard, much attention should be
developed and devoted in curbing the consumption of drugs in the North.

The traffic has become highly organised. Similarly, the illicit traffic
in narcotic drugs calls for cooperation among the developing countries,
both in curbing the traffic and in reaching an agreement with the
consuming countries of the North on finding a durable global solution.

The illicit traffic in narcotics drugs is not a North-South issue; there
is no conflict of interest to be resolved through bargaining. The
eradication of the traffic calls for concerted international efforts
because few countries are totally unaffected or can expect to remain
unaffected. Any action on the part of the governments in the South to
stamp out the production of narcotic drugs needs to be strengthened by
appropriate measures in the North to be effective.

As such, we must agree that the wave of globalisation has also generated
a boom in supply and demand, both in terms of legal and illegal trade.
In the recent past, we had producer countries, on the one hand, and the
consumer countries at the other end. The world is now faced with
producer countries, transit countries and the consumer countries,
delivery countries and destination countries as well.

As said by the Secretary General of the World Customs Organisation,
Michel Danet: ?We must remain vigilant, pool our efforts, heighten
co-operation and make the best possible use of all the tools and the
instruments available by demonstrating a high-level of integrity along
the entire length of supply chain, from decision-makers to line
enforcement officers.

?The fight against drug trafficking, a priority of the WCO, relies on a
global intelligence strategy in which the role of each player, and
especially the role of the WCO, is defined, and in which a more
effective use of the existing tools together with proposals for
implementing new instruments and the methods are examined and endorsed."

It is not enough that drug traffickers and abusers are caught and
punished. We must also strive to educate the population to reduce the
problem and to rehabilitate those who at present are part of the
problem. Therefore, the immediate target beneficiaries should be the law
enforcement authorities who will strengthen legislation to help them in
their work, and who will also have a group of better trained officers at
their disposal

Author: Gorkhapatra via UKCIA

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