Director General/Executive Director
Remarks of the Executive Director UNODC at the Security Council Briefing on West Africa
11 July 2012
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you for the opportunity to update the Security Council on the threats of drugs and organized crime to West Africa.
With increased drug trafficking, signs of drug production, growing drug consumption, piracy and insecurity, West Africa represents one of UNODC's key challenges and continues to be one of its main priorities.
Illicit drugs and transnational organized crime are undermining stability in the region, and affecting health, democracy and economic development.
In 2011, around 30 tons of cocaine were trafficked to West Africa. However, only 2.7 kg was reported seized in Guinea Bissau during the same period.
Cocaine trafficking in the region is estimated to generate some US$900 million in profit annually for criminal networks.
In addition, there has also been an increase in heroin trafficking. UNODC reported 20 kg seized in 2008, 210 kg in 2010, and almost 400 kg in 2011.
Recently, methamphetamine laboratories were also discovered in West Africa.
UNODC is continuing to analyze the overall situation. A Threat Assessment for the region, emphasizing the transatlantic route for cocaine, will be issued later in the year.
But, let me be clear, West Africa is no longer simply a transit route for cocaine from Latin America to Europe, it has also become a final destination.
There are now up to 2.3 million cocaine drug users in West and Central Africa, with the majority reported in West Africa.
This means a greater need for prevention and treatment of drug users, particularly injecting drug users, as well as a focus on HIV/AIDS.
Drug money is also being reinvested in the region to feed all criminal activities and illicit trafficking.
There is also a growing threat of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea: 36 pirates attacks were recorded in 2010, 49 in 2011, with 16 so far in 2012.
A UN Assessment Mission, mandated by Security Council Resolution 2018, to support Benin was co-led by UNODC and DPA in November 2011.
As a follow-up, UNODC will address piracy and maritime security as part of a national integrated programme for Benin.
UNODC is also carefully monitoring terrorism in the region, which has the capacity to destabilize countries such as Mali.
Today, the northern part of Mali is a potential "safe heaven" for terrorist and other criminal groups.
This could further deteriorate security and good governance in the region and we are closely reviewing possible links between terrorism and transnational organized crime.
UNODC fully supports the Council's endorsement of the mediation efforts of ECOWAS.
If successful, we will be able to restart our operations in the country, after they were suspended following the coup d'etat in March.
And the situation in Guinea Bissau remains a serious concern for UNODC. There are fears over the connections between elements of the military forces and illicit drug trafficking, and there is a prevailing culture of impunity hindering effective law enforcement activities.
In the face of all these challenges, UNODC is building political commitment through regional platforms, especially ECOWAS; developing inter-agency approaches; and delivering solutions through its integrated regional programmes.
The West African Coast Initiative-WACI- offers technical assistance in law enforcement, border management, and justice reform, among others.
We are working at the field level with DPA, UNOWA, DPKO, INTERPOL, WCO under WACI. This is allowing us to combine our mandates and create multi-disciplinary responses.
I also welcome the renewal of the ECOWAS Regional Plan of Action. UNODC will continue to assist Member States in confronting these transnational issues.
The ECOWAS Commission has a pivotal role to play in building commitment among Member States, as well as promoting sustainable reforms.
In the area of inter-agency activities, UNODC is currently drafting, with DPA, the Secretary-General's report on the impact of transnational organized crime in West Africa and the Sahel region as requested by this Council.
The UN Task Force on Transnational Organized Crime and Drug Trafficking, created by the Secretary-General in 2011, is also promoting inter-agency collaboration and joint actions.
UNODC is working with the Peacebuilding Commission to help to mainstream drugs and crime as a threat to peace building across the region.
In the area of operations, our "REFCO" network of prosecutors, in Central America since 2011, will soon be partnered with a similar network in West Africa.
The Global Container Control Programme, which UNODC co-manages, now operates on both sides of the Atlantic and is supported by a similar programme at the region's airports.
We have also established Transnational Crime Units established in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea Bissau.
Through this initiative we are building judicial and forensic capacity, and significantly, the ability to intercept money being laundered.
West Africa faces complex challenges that represent a severe test for the individual countries and for the region as a whole.
Our aim must be to help countries sustain their development, while also ensuring peace and prosperity in the region.
To achieve this, UNODC will continue to work with its partners to build the commitment and develop the necessary solutions in this extremely fluid and fast moving environment.