The Establishment of a UNODC Sub-Regional Office for the Maghreb Countries

Project Status: Ongoing
Project Duration: 06/10/2010 - 31/12/2016
Total Budget: US$ 2,099,335
Donor: Libya


Governments of Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Libya; Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Health, Interior, Justice and civil society in the Maghreb countries; Regional Organizations e.g. the Maghreb Union; Inter-Governmental Organization; Non-Governmental Organizations; UN Agencies; The Private Sector

Target Groups

National Agencies and Authorities in the area of drug control, crime prevention and criminal justice; Public Services and Structures; The Private Sector

Outline And Objectives

Libya, Algeria, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia constitute the Arab Maghreb countries. These five established the Maghreb Union in 1989 to promote cooperation and economic integration. According to UNODC geographical distribution, Mauritania falls under the West Africa region. Historical facts as well as economic cooperation indicate that North African countries are closely linked to the African continent. Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Libya have strongly contributed to the design and implementation of African development plans. In recent years, Libya has mediated to resolve a number of African conflicts, contributed to the establishment of new sub-regional organizations, and has provided financial aid to a number of African countries. The four target countries have also played a central role in enhancing cooperation among Arab States through their active involvement in the League of Arab States.

Problems of drug control and crime prevention are getting more prominent in the MENA region and are on the rise, particularly the trafficking of drugs, human beings, the smuggling of migrants, terrorism and the spread of HIV/AIDS among injecting drug users and in prison settings. Institutional challenges also relate to the human, organizational and financial capacities of national counterparts to respond to these forms of criminal conduct.

Recently, the Maghreb countries have been increasingly affected by the illicit trafficking of narcotic drugs. Their geographical location near primary trafficking routes in Western, Central and Eastern Africa, as well as extensive sea and land borders have increased their exposure to this threat. Furthermore, the problems of drugs and crime control are becoming more prominent in the region, and have the potential to escalate considerably if countermeasures are not strengthened.

Drug use is a growing problem in the whole region and this is especially true among the young population, with indicators showing an increasingly younger age of onset for first time drug use. Algeria is a transit country for drugs and human trafficking, but the prevalence of smuggling of migrants makes it difficult for host governments to distinguish between migrant smuggling and human trafficking. In Algeria, transiting illegal immigrants from West and Central Africa travel through the country to destinations in Europe. Traffickers exploit the aspirations of those living in poverty and those seeking better lives. The transnational criminal nature of trafficking also overwhelms law enforcement agencies, which are not equipped to fight organized criminal networks that operate across national boundaries with impunity.

In light of its central geographical situation, Libya is used as a point for trafficking of cannabis, heroin and, to a lesser degree, cocaine smuggled from South America and entering through West and Central Africa through Tripoli Airport, as well as pharmaceutical products smuggled from neighboring countries.

Migration movements into Libya, dramatically increased during the last few decades especially from Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. This is a multifaceted phenomenon, which is mainly driven by economic reasons - People seeking better living conditions and employment opportunities and in some cases, escaping the internal instability in their home states (i.e. Sudan, Somalia), which compel people to migrate.

Most of such movements towards Libya often follow irregular patterns, in violation of the receiving State laws, such as the entry through non official ports, mainly along the 4.000 kilometers of desert borders which are difficult to control, being located in very extreme environments, and easy to cross (Kufra, Al-Qatrun, Ghat). According to different estimates, between 65,000 and 120,000 sub-Saharan Africans enter the Maghreb (Mauritania, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, and Libya) annually, of which 70 to 80 percent are believed to migrate through Libya.

In other cases, foreigners who entered Libya abiding by its legal provisions became later on illegal immigrants, after disrespecting the laws regarding the residency or visa.

Within the Regional Programme for the Middle East and North Africa, UNODC has been working closely with Algeria, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia in the fields of drug control and crime prevention. Accordingly, the establishment of the Sub-Regional Office and the identification of new programming will be based on the experiences and best practices from the past and lessons learned from the ongoing UNODC national and regional projects implemented in the Maghreb region.

This project will establish a UNODC Sub-Regional Office in Tripoli, in order to support the Government of Libya and other Maghreb countries in their efforts in the field of drug control and crime prevention through efficiently implementing the Maghreb component of the ROMENA Regional Program and providing technical assistance to the national counterparts.

The establishment of a Sub-Regional office will:
• Improve the cooperation and coordination of UNODC operational activities in the Maghreb countries
• Strengthen cooperation
• Enhance the capacity of the national counterparts in Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Libya.

This will be achieved through putting in place the human and financial resources as well as the logistical infrastructure and providing the programmatic framework for UNODC interventions in the Maghreb countries.

Key Achievements

Strengthening the Criminal Justice System Response to the Smuggling of Migrants in North Africa (XAMT14)

Support to the Process of Criminal Justice Reform in Libya (LBYS66)

Assistance for Promoting Transparency and Integrity and Strengthening the Anti-Corruption Measures in Libya (LBYT77)

Prevention of Drug Abuse and HIV/AIDS among Drug Users, Injecting Drug Users and Vulnerable Populations in Libya (LIBI36)

Strengthening the National and Legal Institutional Capacities of Libya through Multi-Sectoral Drug Control Assistance (LIBF71)