UNODC sets a way forward to fight organized crime and terrorism in the Sahel
Activities of UNODC in the Sahel region are supported by contributions from Austria, Canada, Denmark, the European Union, France, Germany, Japan, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and the United States.
Terrorism, drugs, illicit trafficking, organized crime and corruption are both recurrent and interrelated phenomena jeopardizing peace and security in the Sahel region. Threats posed by foreign terrorist fighters or the involvement of children in terrorist activities are new and evolving challenges increasingly facing the region.
In light of this, the UNODC Sahel Programme organized its first Steering Committee Meeting on 12 and 13 April 2016 in Dakar, Senegal, to set a precise direction for its future priorities. The meeting brought together decision-makers from Algeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, Libya, Mali and Morocco, along with envoys of the G5 Sahel and experts from UNODC. It gave various regional experts the opportunity to assess and evaluate the considerable progress achieved under the framework of the UN Integrated Strategy for the Sahel and make recommendations on the way forward.
The meeting featured several presentations highlighting achievements and challenges of past and current efforts of UNODC to enhance justice and law enforcement alongside its partners and governmental counterparts. Since the start of the Sahel Programme in January 2014, UNODC has implemented more than 190 activities at the national and regional level, reaching more than 5,900 direct beneficiaries and yielding tangible results outlined in its recent Progress Report.
Participants to the meeting with Ms Hiroute Guebre Sellassie
In her opening speech, the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General (UNOWAS), Ms. Hiroute Guebre Sellassie, reaffirmed that cooperation in the Sahel region is particularly important in the light of cross-border crime and the current climate of fear in which the region was plunged following the rise of extremism and terrorist attacks in the region.
She emphasized the importance of the UNODC Sahel Programme "to strengthen the capacity of governments to enable them to face these challenges", highlighting the need for national ownership to achieve sustainable and lasting solutions to current security challenges. Such statements allude to the growing need for strengthened regional cooperation among Sahel countries, but also between G5 governments and their northern counterparts, in the Maghreb.
The participants took the opportunity to reiterate their support towards the Sahel Programme, and formulate strategic priorities for its continuation.They discussed topics such as the destabilizing effects posed by foreign terrorist fighters, as well as the need to address the exploitation of children and adults for terrorist purposes. The participants agreed to incorporate these issues in the framework of the Programme.
Participants discussing the Sahel Programme strategic priorities in the meeting room
As a prerogative for any response to countering crime and terrorism in the region, the UNODC Regional Representative for West and Central Africa, Mr. Pierre Lapaque, particularly emphasized the importance of procedural and human rights. He also reiterated the relevance of strengthening national legislation, improving border control and making better use of scientific evidence in court.
Established in 2013 to meet the security challenges affecting the Sahel, the UNODC Sahel Programme supports the development of accessible, efficient and accountable criminal justice systems to combat illicit trafficking, drug trafficking, organized crime, terrorism and corruption in the region. As the core pillars of the UNODC Sahel Programme, anti-corruption and money laundering measures, border control, efficient criminal justice systems, scientific and forensic evidence, and sound prison management have a high potential to mitigate the causes of current instability in the region.
The UNODC activities in the Sahel region are supported by contributions from Austria, Canada, Denmark, the European Union, France, Germany, Japan, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and the United States.