In a memorandum of understanding signed in Bangkok, the U-N and Afghanistan took aim at chemicals that scientists say harm the ozone layer and contribute to climate change. The UN has also agreed to help Afghanistan train Afghan custom officials to identify the dangerous chemicals.
Presenter: Ron Corben
Said Mubin Shah, deputy minister for customs and revenue Afghanistan's Ministry of Finance; Young Woo Park, UNEP regional director
CORBEN: Said Mubin Shah is the deputy minister for customs and revenue under Afghanistan's Ministry of Finance. He says the U.N. will help train Afghan customs officials to identify the dangerous chemicals.
SAID MUBIN SHAH: We especially in the current time in need of building capacity of the customs officials. So building capacity without capacity the official cannot do many things so that is why it is very important. Identification especially of the chemical which is destroying the ozone layer.
CORBEN: Is Afghanistan seen as especially vulnerable to this sort of trade?
SAID MUBIN SHAH: Of course Afghanistan has less product and the people are also in the transit between central Asia and South Asia and also the links with the Gulf countries. So this is why if it is banned like the import and export of all the dangerous chemicals to South Asia and Central Asia this will be banned and it will be protected. So it will play a greater role.
CORBEN: So at the moment are the signs there that a considerable amount is going through the country?
SAID MUBIN SHAH: Our custom official doesn't have the capacity to identify such a dangerous chemical. But building up that capacity we will be able to identify that amount that is going through this area. Of course there are economic issues but life is important in everything.
CORBEN: The illegal trade in chemicals includes those that deplete the ozone such as chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs and hydro-chlorofluorocarbons. The ozone layer is vital in blocking harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun.
There will now be a framework to assist Afghan customs officers to implement the 1989 Montreal Protocol which calls for phasing out the use of chlorofluorocarbons. Scientists also say that CFCs act as greenhouse gases, which contribute to climate change.
Young Woo Park, the UNEP regional director, says the agreement will help reduce the illegal trade in the banned chemicals in South Asia.
PARK: At the same time how to deal with the illegal traffic on chemical substances and we will build the trust and capacity building on that in these two areas. And a lot of countries have faced the same problem because it is ozone depleting substances is cheaper and also easy to get and so it is natural not only for Afghanistan but many countries they try to get these ozone depleting substances from outside of the country. So that is what Afghanistan is trying to stop.
CORBEN: Mr. Park says it is an important challenge for Afghanistan in the fight against the illegal trade in chemicals given the myriad of domestic concerns currently faced by the country.
PARK: It is important not only in terms of the depletion of the ozone substances but as we all know Afghanistan has a lot of other important issues to deal with. But they are here to make a commitment on ozone substances and so to us it is really important the country's in a difficult situation domestically they still have a strong commitment and give importance on the environmental issues.