What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Who is more affected by the drugs trade?

Effectively as an addition to the late MStFB Spillover Monitor Report Series
Looking to collect some useful basic data I've just scrolled through the 2007 World Drug Report by UNODC again. I was looking to get a grasp of who is affected in Europe by the heroin trade specifically, and how much. One of the Realist theories of coalition participation and coalition contributions is balance of threat theory whereby one expects a country to do and offer as much as it does in a given case as much is logical based on the degree to which one is relatively, in comparison with other coalition members, threatened by the common threat source against which action is taken. So looking at the varying heroin threat level may theoretically be relevant to predicting/explaining individual countries' degree of participation in the ISAF coalition, since Afghanistan is the prime source of heroin distributed in Europe. (That is, if only Realist theory wouldn't be such a mess in all sorts of ways. Nevertheless it will always have in its defense the it's-as-good-as-the-perfect-market-model-in-economics argument, which tells you that if you examine the actual market you can get valuable information by looking at the extent of its divergence from the perfect model).
I found several useful tables that I would cite here, and already they do show interesting results. The first country list ranks countries in "Western and Central Europe" (funnily with Greece, Cyprus and Malta included in the notion of that statistical region) according to the "annual prevalence of abuse" for opiates in percentage of their population aged 15-64 (in Hungary's case the data is for those aged 15-54). It's from page 241 from UNODC's above mentioned report.So Estonia is at the lead among EU countries - not that any of the Baltic states could be happy about their position, lying as they are along one of the main heroin routes from the direction of Russia. Below is a picture of Lake Peipus (Peipsi in Estonian), on the Russian-Estonian border. I took it in 2005. That's one of the areas where smuggling takes place.
Estonia is, as you know, involved quite seriously in Afghanistan, even in the south there, in Helmand. Lithuania has a PRT based in Chagcharan. I should, meanwhile, probably also point out the UK with its high prevalence of abuse, given their boots on the ground, and their former leading role in counternarcotics in Afghanistan (which they abandoned when they went in to do counterinsurgency in Helmand province, the biggest geographical source of opium today). Luxembourg comes in at second on the list above which might raise one's eyebrow a little. Meanwhile, take an advance peek at Iceland's situation which looks totally enviable from a narrow-sighted perspective in the table below (few people treated for opiate-related problems), while the table above is in a strange contrast (contradiction?) with that, with 0.4% of Iceland's population aged 15-64 involved in abusing opiates.
Elsewhere, the World Drug Report provides data on drug-related treatment by country, showing the percentage of those treated for problems related to opiates, as well as the overall number of people treated. Unfortunately, the percentage data is at times from a different year than the overall figure for those treated, in UNODC's table. Anyway, I put together a table myself here showing you what can be shown, including even an assessed proportion of those treated for drug problems in general, and opiate-related problems concretely, within a given country's population, for the "Western and Central European" countries from the above list. Do look at the caveats regarding data use below the chart. (Besides the most relevant general one that this here is quickly assembled data which I'll have to check piece by piece again in the future.)
* Where I didn’t know the percentage figure for the given year for which I had data on the number of treated, I made a projection assuming an unchanged percentage figure from the year I had one from.
** Using population data (be it an estimate or census-based) available on Wikipedia on May 23, 2008 originating from the year closest to the actual year of measurement of data used in the other columns.
This somewhat refines the picture regarding the threat level to each country. A high number of people treated shows more overall treatment costs quite likely. It's also important to see that in some countries treatment is simply more widely available and of better quality - hence a ranking of countries based on the number of people treated for opiate-related problems could be out of sync with ranking based on the percentage of people (ab)using opiates. Still, countries that have more than 0.1% of their population having undergone treatment for opiate-related problems in the year of measurement might be highlighted here, and thus we may draw attention to Italy (the perpetual UNODC boss country), Slovenia, Switzerland, Malta, Luxembourg, the UK, Estonia and Austria.
But one does have to add critically, that while it is common to talk of the drugs trade as a threat, one shouldn't forget basic truths such as that heroin is only harmful directly if consumed in a polluted form and/or in an unknown dose (as is the case on the illicit market), and that an elimination of the market of natural drugs would merely lead to conversion to synthetic drugs, at least for a (likely significant) part of users.
In the end, instead of pointing out the obvious cases where balance of threat theory doesn't exhibit much predictive power, it also has to be seen that in fact it cannot be smoothly applied since only resilient and sustainable, long-term economic development in a secure environment could really help against narcotics production in Afghanistan. And once that could take place, some miracle would still have to stop poppy cultivation from just migrating to somewhere else from there. Therefore grounding one's Afghanistan policy narrow-sightedly on "the threat of drugs" is just not very feasible. Narcotics can only matter as part of a bigger picture which nevertheless is there to be seen.

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