Director General/Executive Director
Remarks at the Security Council Briefing on the "Impact of Transnational Organized Crime on Peace, Security and Stability in West Africa and the Sahel Region"
Ladies and Gentlemen,
For UNODC it is an honour to brief the Council on the impact of organized crime and drug trafficking on security and stability in West Africa and the Sahel region.
Indeed, these transnational challenges in the region have evolved from social and criminal problems into threats to security, stability, and development.
The West African transit route feeds a European cocaine market which in recent years grew four folds, reaching an amount almost equal to the US market. We estimate that cocaine trafficking in West and Central Africa generates some US$ 900 million annually.
South American drug cartels are exploiting regional vulnerabilities in West Africa: poverty, unemployment, lack of border control, weakness of law enforcement structures, and endemic corruption.
For these criminals, West Africa represents not only the shortest, but also the most cost-effective channel for trafficking illicit drugs to Europe. In doing so, they use a range of different transportation methods: second-hand aircraft, large and small ships, and container shipments.
West Africa is not only a cocaine transit area. The local consumption market is growing fast, and drug use is increasing across the region. There are up to 2.5 million drug users in West and Central Africa.
We also need to understand the extent to which drug trafficking in the region may be linked to piracy off the coast of West Africa.
However, piracy and drugs are not West Africa's only concern: trafficking in human beings, arms, and counterfeit medicines have also been reported; the smuggling of migrants and other illegal activities are also growing.
In the face of these transnational issues, UNODC's approach has been strategic and tactical. It represents a multi-dimensional effort that acknowledges the multifaceted nature of these challenges.
Our approach recognizes that while the problems in West Africa are local in nature, the solutions are often global.
In promoting an inter agency-approach, for example with UNOWA and DPKO, we try to deliver practical action through regional programmes, while also designing activities that complement each other across different regions.
Our overall goal is to support and strengthen local institutions, and encourage partnerships among states and regional organisations, such as ECOWAS. All our activities are based on the principle of shared responsibility.
In this, I add my voice to the need to renew the ECOWAS Praia Political Declaration and Regional Action Plan beyond 2011, as one of the best means of uniting local and international responses.
I also welcome the initiatives of Member States, particularly, the work of Togo which has adopted a national strategy under the ECOWAS Praia Political Declaration and Regional Action Plan.
UNODC stands ready to support activities of the Peace Building Commission to mainstream transnational organized crime into the peace and security agendas.
The West African Coast Initiative, operating beneath the umbrella of UNODC's West Africa programme and in partnership with DPKO, DPA and Interpol, supports the ECOWAS regional action plan.
This initiative builds upon national and regional ownership and focuses on interagency cooperation and the rule of law. WACI will soon be extended to Guinea Conakry and Cote d'Ivoire and will help sustain regional reforms.
I thank our partners for their financial support of WACI. Both UNODC and the UN System, in general, are at the disposal of Member States.
We are working to introduce to the region best practices based on our worldwide experience.
Our "REFCO" network of prosecutors, in Central America since 2011, is an example of how we are strengthening the criminal justice chain through exchanges in information and best practices.
Now, we have the necessary funding to introduce a similar network of organized crime prosecutors in West Africa.
Through such activities we can promote regional connectivity and later ensure that these networks work together across the Atlantic Ocean. This will be an excellent example of South-South cooperation.
Other important initiatives include the Global Container Control Programme operating on both sides of the Atlantic and complemented by a similar programme, AIRCOP, for both region's airports.
These programmes are helping to build capacities across land, sea and air.
UNODC's development of Transnational Crime Units is also a role model for the future. TCU's have been established in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea Bissau; both the TCU's in Sierra Leone and Guinea Bissau have reported seizures.
Between January and August 2011, the unit in Sierra Leone investigated 50 cases of crime, resulting in 25 convictions and seven cases being referred to the High court for trial. In the same period, over 1,800 kilos of cannabis were seized.
However, our work can not be effective, if not based on clear understanding of the nature and scope of existing challenges.
A new threat assessment in the region is being undertaken by UNODC and will be completed soon. It will be focused the trafficking routes across the Atlantic Ocean.
The November 2011 UN interagency mission to Benin and Nigeria, co-led by DPA and UNODC, defined the incidence of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea as a major threat to the peace, security and economic interests of States in the region.
The mission's report recommended better coordination among the regional bodies and noted that the UN is well placed to achieve this coordination.
Working with its partners, UNODC plans to use its West African programme to translate the report's recommendations into firm action.
In the Sahel region, where concerns remain about the security situation, UNODC is assisting with the implementation of a regional initiative on judicial cooperation including Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Burkina Faso.
At the national level, UNODC is supporting Mali and Mauritania in the implementation of national integrated programmes and working with the EU on projects in Nigeria.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
To conclude, I would stress the need for continued political commitment. I would also commend the countries in the region for the efforts they are undertaking to combat these threats.
However, additional resources are needed, if we are to sustain reforms in the long term and contribute to Security Sector Reform.