Director General/Executive Director
Side event of the 57th session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs - Drug trafficking and consumption in West Africa
19 March 2014
My thanks to the Governments of Cabo Verde and Benin, the African Union, the West Africa Commission on Drugs and the International Drug Policy Consortium for sponsoring this important event on drug trafficking and consumption in West Africa.
The vulnerability of West Africa to illicit drug trafficking, and its spillover effects is of great concern, as I highlighted in my remarks to the High-Level Review last week.
The trafficking of cocaine from Latin America through the region en route to Europe remains a serious challenge.
There has been an increase in the amount of heroin trafficked into West Africa, especially since 2010. According to UNODC research, it appears most of the heroin is entering the region via East Africa, sourced from South West Asia.
Methamphetamine production in the region is rising. Moreover, trafficking of ephedrine, which is a chemical precursor in the manufacturing of methamphetamine, is a matter of serious concern.
Meanwhile, local drug use appears to have intensified, including the growing use of crack cocaine, heroin and amphetamine-type stimulants.
Chronic gaps in the available data continue to present challenges in quantifying and addressing drug use in the region. However, there is indication that the number of people in West and Central Africa who have used cocaine or opiates in the past year could exceed three million.
This has become an issue for public health and safety, with an attendant rise in the number of new HIV infections attributed to injecting drug use.
The countries of West Africa are well aware of the threats posed by these challenges to health, governance, security and development.
The vast profits generated from these illicit flows undermine good governance and legitimate economies, and fuel corruption. The funds enable criminal organizations to maintain their operations and possibly support terrorist activities.
I addressed the UN Security Council last December on the issue of drug trafficking in the Sahel and West Africa.
On that occasion, the Report of the Secretary-General on transnational organized crime and illicit trafficking in West Africa and the Sahel region was discussed.
The Statement issued by the President of the Security Council expressed growing concern about the serious threats posed by drug trafficking and related transnational organized crime to international peace and stability in West Africa and the Sahel region.
It further emphasized the need to enhance interregional cooperation and coordination.
A number of initiatives, including the African Union Plan of Action and the ECOWAS Political Declaration and Regional Action Plan to Combat Illicit Drug Trafficking, Organized Crime and Drug Abuse in West Africa, have been launched over the past years to tackle these multifaceted threats.
On this basis, UNODC developed its Regional Programme for 2010-2014, which constitutes the main framework for the delivery of technical assistance and capacity building in the region.
UNODC's future assistance will also be closely tailored to the needs of the region, and will be developed based on an evaluation of the current Regional Programme and in support of the ECOWAS plan of action.
UNODC provides supports through a broad range of regional, sub-regional and national projects, including the West Africa Coast Initiative (WACI), the Airport Communication Project known as AIRCOP, the Global Container Control Programme, the strategy for the Sahel and the Gulf of Guinea, the Sahel Judicial Platform and the West African Network of Central Authorities and Prosecutors.
All our initiatives are implemented in close consultation with the concerned Member States, and in cooperation with other partners in the region.
Last October we also held an International Donors Conference in Abidjan that was organized by ECOWAS, UNODC and UNOWA, and hosted by Côte d'Ivoire, which reconfirmed the international community's commitment to West Africa.
Despite this progress, much more support is needed to stop illicit drug trafficking and transnational organized crime networks in the region and go after the proceeds derived from drug trafficking and other crimes, as well as to address demand and facilitate quality treatment and rehabilitation services.
If we want to achieve sustainable results, the response to drugs and crime must be made a part of wider efforts to address challenges in the region, including corruption, governance and the rule of law, poverty and youth unemployment.
UNODC, as always, remains ready to work with our partners and Member States to support these efforts. You can count on us.