UNODC and SADC confirm commitment to make Southern Africa safer from crime and drugs
23 May - Windhoek - At a special high-level session of the Annual General Meeting of the Southern African Regional Police Chiefs Cooperation Organisation (SARPCCO) in Windhoek, Namibia, representatives from UNODC and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) confirmed their commitment to make the SADC Region safer from Crime and Drugs through their Joint Regional Programme for 2013-2016.
Ehab Salah, Officer-in-Charge of UNODC Southern Africa briefed the present dignitaries, including the SADC Executive Secretary, 15 National Police Chiefs and 15 Heads of Criminal Investigations, on UNODC's and SADC's joint efforts.
"The SADC-UNODC Joint Regional Programme to Make the SADC Region Safer from Crime and Drugs" supports the Member States in responding to challenges within the mandate of UNODC through strengthening capacities at the national level and promoting regional cooperation in line with the priorities and needs of the countries concerned. The Regional Programme has three substantive pillars
- Countering Illicit Trafficking and Organised Crime;
- Criminal Justice and Integrity;
- Improving Drug Abuse Prevention, Treatment and Care, and HIV Prevention, Treatment and Care for People Who Use Drugs, including Injecting Drug Users and in Prison Settings.
In particular it is envisioned to contribute to crime prevention measures in the region in the context of supporting a sustainable socio-economic development.
Diverse region with shared challenges
Technical experts from all Member States were consulted in two Regional Expert Group Meetings to identify the key concerns and priorities to be addressed under the future Regional Programme. Member States are increasingly confronted with the need to respond effectively to a number of issues related to UNODC core mandate areas in the fight against drugs and crime. In this context, the SADC Member States noted "… with concern the escalation of crime at both national and transnational levels, and that the increased easy access to free cross border movement enables offenders to escape arrest, prosecution, conviction and punishment", and stressed the elimination of threats to the security of their people as a crucial step to speedy integration among the State Parties in all areas of activities.
While the countries in the region face a number of diverse issues with regard to drugs and crime, the major challenges faced throughout the region pertain to:
- uneven development and social inequality, and their linkages to high crime rates;
- illicit trafficking to, from and within the region, facilitated by weak border control and management capacities;
- weak criminal justice systems affected by corruption; and
- highest prevalence globally of HIV/AIDS.
Uneven economic development and high levels of social inequality, both among the countries and within the individual countries, act as drivers of organised crime in the region.
Illicit trafficking is among the most challenging forms of crime in the region. It is an integral part of the organised crime chain, both facilitating the spread of illicit contraband and generating considerable profits for those involved. Transnational organised crime groups take advantage of the long and porous borders, the ease of cross-border trade, the diversity of individual countries' legislations, and the lack of information-sharing and cooperation among law enforcement agencies in the region. Illicit trade in the SADC region includes a range of items such as illicit drugs and precursor chemicals, small arms and light weapons, wildlife and natural resources, tobacco products and fraudulent medicines, as well as trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants. The latter particularly show the transnational nature of illicit trafficking, with South Africa, for example, being a country of origin, transit and destination for internal, regional and inter-regional human trafficking.
Importance of inclusive regional cooperation highlighted
UNODC O-i-C, Ehab Salah highlighted in his speech on the day that:
"Challenges such as increasing drug use, HIV and Aids, organised crime, trafficking in persons, violence against women and children, corruption and money-laundering are shared challenges, which inhibit national and regional development, undermining justice and the rule of law, and threatening overall security in all SADC Member States. Only by working together, can these challenges be addressed in a meaningful and sustainable way."
The implementation of the Regional Programme is ongoing in a number of thematic areas including HIV in Prison Settings, Trafficking in Persons, Gender-based Violence, Anti-Corruption, Asset-Recovery and many more. In order to expand the programming geographically and thematically, further support from the donor community is required.