Russian Official Chairing UN Office on Drugs and Crime Knocks NGOs Out

Russia scored a major diplomatic victory. Yury Fedotov, Russia's Ambassador to Britain, was appointed the head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the head of the UN office in Vienna. Now, the Russian diplomat is heading the leading international organization to control drug trafficking and crime prevention.

However, this has angered the leaders of the world's 24 leading non-governmental organizations (NGOs) fighting HIV and AIDS. Their leaders sent a letter of appeal to the head of the UN Ban Ki-moon, asking not to appoint Yury Fedotov for this position.

They think that Russia can not represent UNODC because of “lack of respect for human rights” and allegedly ineffective strategy of Moscow against heroin production in Afghanistan, which only insists on the destruction of opium plantations and does not suggest anything but solution of the problem by force. The third paragraph of the “claim” states that Russia does not undertake the necessary efforts to prevent HIV infections and, in particular, renounces the use of narcotic drugs methadone and buprenorphine for treating drug addiction.

Now to the details. Speculations about the lack of respect for human rights in Russia are based on the relevant U.S. State Department report of 2009. The report states that there were instances of abductions and killings of human rights defenders and opposition journalists in Russia. It also says that those detained by law enforcement authorities are allegedly subjected to “tyranny and violence,” and that Russian justice is “corrupt and conducive to warrantless searches.”

In other words, NGOs are initially trying to cast shadows on the Russian representative. Meanwhile, the suspicions were virtually dispelled the UN Secretary General. The official statement of Ban Ki-moon press service says that Yuri Fedotov is very familiar with the issues of concern to the UNODC, including ensuring the rule of law and crime prevention, as well as the fact that he is bringing over 40 years of experience of Russian diplomatic service.

As for the first accusation, in Russia, buprenorphine and methadone are considered drugs and therefore their circulation is limited and is under strict control. In the West, these substances are used to treat drug addiction. However, the Russian authorities are against methadone treatment, pointing to the conclusions of Russian medical professionals who believe that its effectiveness is not proven by science.

And what is this method exactly? Russian medics mention that, in fact, the weaker drug (methadone) simply replaces heroin. However, those who replace heroin with methadone needle never get rid of their addiction. Besides, where is the guarantee that when we “crack openthe doors” to semi-legal drugs, we can ensure that the number of drug addicts will not increase as a result? There is a suspicion that foreign NGOs are openly lobbying for the interests of the producers of drugs”legalized” in the West.

The accusation regarding Afghanistan does not hold water. First, Russia does not have troops in Afghanistan. It is the NATO countries whose troops occupied the country that should be questioned about lack of progress in the fight against drug production.

And secondly, what are the other ways to fight against illicit drug production and drug trafficking besides stringent measures? In this situation it is impossible to hope to persuade Afghans to abandon the production of heroin. The Russian side proposed to replace opium poppy with crops traditional for Afghan lands. The problem is that cotton, wheat or almonds bring in several hundred times less profit than opiates. There is only one way out: pay more to the producers of conventional crops.

But so far the NATO occupational forces in Afghanistan did not express interest in this proposal. Furthermore, during their stay in this country heroin production has multiplied.

According to Mikhail Margelov, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Federation Council, such criticism was expected, since the appointment of Fedotov means “qualitative improvement of our presence in the UN, and anyone in this position would be under fire.“

Gennady Gudkov, Vice-Chairman of RF State Duma Security Committee commented on this situation for Pravda.Ru:

“I personally know Yury Fedotov, and I think that he is a very good fit for this position as a diplomat with great experience. The accusations of NGO representatives are unfair. Let’s look at the Afghan issue. How can Russia be responsible for what the Americans are doing there? And I do not rule out that an attempt to prevent such an appointment is due to just that. Americans are well aware that Afghan heroin comes to our country in large volumes and that we are very concerned about this issue and probably some fear that Fedotov will be tough in criticizing their actions from the tall stands of the UN,” Gudkov said.

The thing is that the appointment of Yury Fedotov for such an important position will automatically mean that Russia will now control half of the four United Nations offices and positions of our country in this international organization will be strengthened considerably. One of them is also headed by the Russian representative Sergei Ordzhonikidze. It is important that Yuri Fedotov automatically becomes deputy secretary general. Of course, not everyone likes this state of affairs.

Sergey Balmasov

Read the original in Russian

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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov