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The Business of… Illegal Drugs

No one knows its exact scale, but it’s thought to be one of the biggest industries on the planet, amounting to almost 1 percent of global GDP. Kipp takes a look.

November 29, 2010 3:48 by


Interestingly, in 2001 the Taliban (then running Afghanistan) banned opium poppy cultivation, and the country’s production reportedly dropped by 94 percent. After the US-led invasion, production leapt again and the country regained its top spot as world’s largest producer. Yet more evidence that drug production thrives in periods and areas of unrest and turmoil.

In its 2010 World Drug Report the UN identified the following challenges in tackling the drugs trade: “A clear lesson from the history of drug control is that the mere sum of uncoordinated national and sectoral efforts, even successful ones, cannot result in a global success. Another lesson is that countries with limited means cannot resist, and counter the impact of, powerful transnational trafficking flows on their own.”

As we said, the drug production industry thrives in unstable countries. For that reason Western nations are now seeking to pursue measures that tackle transnational crime, provide stability and foster the rule of law in troubled countries. At least, that’s what they say they’re doing.


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