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KRG Prime Minister: Combating the Use of Drugs Is Not Only the Government’s Responsibility, but Also a Collective Responsibility

On Sunday, 15th October 2023, in the presence of Prime Minister Masrour Barzani of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), the Counternarcotics Conference organised by the KRG’s Office of the Coordinator for International Advocacy took place in Erbil.

Prime Minister Barzani delivered a speech in which he emphasised the importance of tackling drug crimes collectively. Here follows the Prime Minister’s full speech:

“In the Name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful,

“I am delighted to join today the Counternarcotics and Psychoactive Drugs Conference. I thank the organisers of this vital event, which addresses one of the most perilous phenomena of our time. According to current statistics, drug trading and usage in the Kurdistan Region are alarmingly high, posing a significant threat to our society.

“The KRG is working diligently to combat this perilous threat, making earnest efforts to eradicate it and prevent its spread. For this purpose, Legislation No. 1 of 2020, “Combating Drugs and Psychoactive Substances in the Kurdistan Region,” was enacted. This legislation obliges all relevant institutions in the region to coordinate and collaborate on its implementation.

“The issue of psychoactive drugs and their prevention is a global challenge faced by many societies around the world. Regrettably, Iraq and the Kurdistan Region are not immune to this threat.

“Psychoactive drugs not only cause health issues for users but also contribute to social, economic, safety, and financial damage across all sectors of society, undermining human capital significantly.

“The Kurdistan Region faces hostility in multiple ways, and one of the most dangerous methods is through the spread of psychoactive drugs. These substances are used covertly and overtly against the region to distort our society and harm the health and potential of our youth. It is imperative to confront this threat vigorously because the dangers posed by psychoactive drugs are no less than those posed by terrorism.

“Mafias and criminal traders have made the Kurdistan Region a target for their nefarious plans, attempting to exploit our region’s geography as a gateway to smuggle drugs to other areas. They employ various methods to achieve this, leading to a rise in drug addiction in our region. It is therefore imperative for relevant KRG institutions to forcefully tackle these criminal traders and thwart their treacherous intentions.

“It is essential to note that a security vacuum in the disputed territories of Article 140, also known as “Kurdistani Areas Outside the Region,” and the presence of militant groups on the border between the Kurdistan Region and neighbouring countries contribute to instability and hinder the KRG’s security forces in combating drug traffickers. Unfortunately, some of these militant groups are involved in drug trafficking themselves.

“While relevant KRG institutions have intensified their efforts in combating drug dealers, the KRG requires local and international collaboration to address the root causes of this epidemic. This goal necessitates collective collaboration and coordination.

“The KRG has established the Supreme Committee for Counternarcotics, consisting of several ministries and relevant institutions. Additionally, we have created a fund for the development, rehabilitation, and treatment of psychoactive drug addicts.

“In addition, our government’s human rights plans include initiatives compatible with international recommendations for combating drugs and psychoactive substances. This conference serves as a crucial step in implementing these international recommendations, aiming to adopt a roadmap and tackle the challenges facing the Kurdistan Region through the establishment of adequate mechanisms to implement laws and regulations.

“To rehabilitate and reintegrate drug addicts into society, the KRG is working to build an addiction rehabilitation centre. We urge the private sector to assist the government in combating drug traffickers and in the treatment and rehabilitation of addicts.

“Combatting drugs is not solely the government’s responsibility but rather a shared responsibility. I urge parents, educational and cultural centres, religious leaders, media agencies, social media influencers, and all citizens to collaborate with the government in raising awareness, particularly among the youth, about the lethal dangers posed by this epidemic. It is imperative that we launch an intensified and expansive campaign to combat drug trafficking and drug use, requiring fast and genuine efforts, coordination, and collaboration from all.

“It is crucial to distinguish between criminal drug dealers and those who have fallen victim to drug use. Addicts must be helped and treated through rehabilitation and treatment centres. At the same time, we must show no leniency in holding criminal drug dealers accountable; they must be punished severely.

“The KRG also requires international assistance and cooperation, particularly through consultation and logistical support from United Nations agencies and other organisations. I propose a comprehensive joint strategy for cooperation and coordination with our government. To that end, we have intensified the KRG’s coordination measures with international agencies, especially with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

“Regarding legal expertise, the KRG must be supported in developing and training judges and public prosecutors in the region to deal with drug dealers and drug addicts. It is essential to learn from the expertise of organisations and other countries, particularly those with specialised knowledge in this field, to mitigate risks and minimise threats to our society.

“We hope this conference will serve as a catalyst for further action against drugs and psychoactive substances on every level. We aim to implement the KRG’s human rights initiatives to expedite the fight against drugs, ensuring the safeguarding of our society from this lethal phenomenon.”

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