Would this be small step to solve the giant smuggling issue in Afghanistan?
Bangkok, 23 March 2010 –When the problem is formidable, forming a partnership to address it is the best way to proceed. Today a rock solid partnership was forged to combat the illegal trade in chemicals which destroy the earth’s protective ozone layer and contribute to climate change. The partnership was cemented through the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the United Nations Environment Programme, Division of Technology, Industry and Economics (UNEP DTIE) OzonAction Programme, Afghanistan’s National Environment Protection Agency (NEPA) and Afghanistan’s Customs Department of the Ministry of Finance (ACD) at a ceremony held today at the United Nations Conference Centre (UNCC) in Bangkok, Thailand.
Afghanistan is facing an unprecedented challenge in relation to illegal trade and security. The smuggling of environmentally sensitive commodities such as ozone depleting chemicals has been a soft target for the creative smugglers and environmental criminals. Drug smuggling is always in focus in Afghanistan. Smugglers , knowing attention is mainly on drugs, make environmental crime as an easy target. can Today’s agreement establishes a framework for collaboration on customs training and capacity building initiatives for customs officers in Afghanistan. The partnership will contribute to strengthening environmental security in the country and enable ozone issues to be mainstreamed in Afghanistan’s capacity building efforts.
“Despite the difficult and challenging situation in the country, Afghanistan has so far succeeded in achieving compliance with the Montreal Protocol that Deplete the Ozone Layer through its determined efforts to phase out ozone depleting substances (ODS). Monitoring the cross border trade in ODS has been the key success factor in accomplishing this” said Rajendra Shende, Head of UNEP DTIE OzonAction Programme. “Today Afghanistan has demonstrated to the world its determination to protect the ozone layer and has stepped up its efforts to prevent the illegal trade in ODS. UNEP will stand shoulder to shoulder and support Afghanistan in all these efforts”, Mr Shende continued.
“ACD launched a Customs Academy in Kabul in January 2010. With the objective of improving and modernising the customs service, we are proud and ready to be part of this ozone capacity building initiative by developing a relevant training curriculum and monitoring the training courses, as well as collecting information on ODS seizures and illegal ODS trends” said Mr. Said Mubin Shah, Deputy Minister of Customs and Revenue, ACD.
“NEPA is expected to play a major role in environmental protection, especially in ozone layer protection. One of our key roles is to provide training to customs officers, including providing training materials tailored for Afghanistan, as well as information on the latest developments of the Montreal Protocol and other technical support related to ozone issues” said Mr. Mostapha Zaher, Director General of NEPA.
Porous land borders with neighbouring countries provide the major routes for the illegal ODS trade. In an effort to promote actions to curb illegal trade in these chemicals, UNEP DTIE OzonAction Programme has been facilitating border dialogue consultations between Afghanistan and neighbouring countries to discuss mechanisms to jointly address illegal trade issues. Following the ceremony today UNEP DTIE OzonAction Programme have organised a meeting between Afghanistan’s National Ozone Officer, NEPA, ACD, and experts from India, Iran and UNEP to discuss the challenges of control and monitoring of ODS, and relevant issues common to Afghanistan and its neighbouring countries.