Consolidated UNODC efforts improve drug field testing capacity and regional cooperation
Front line law enforcement officers combating illicit drug trafficking in West Africa have been trained and equipped to identify illicit drugs and their precursors using UNODC field test kits. This capacity-building effort, which took place in Accra, Ghana, from 30 September to 1 October 2015, capitalized upon the synergies that exist between different UNODC programmes, addressing the needs of countries in West Africa to improve drug testing capacity and enhance regional cooperation. This training was organized by the UNODC Global Synthetic Monitoring: Analyses, Reporting and Trends (SMART) Programme in collaboration with the Airport Communication Programme (AIRCOP), the Container Control Programme (CCP) and the West Africa Coast Initiative (WACI).
West Africa has become an established source of methamphetamine trafficked to East and South-East Asia transiting Southern Africa or Europe using new routes, which poses an additional challenge for law enforcement interceptions in the region. At the same time, West Africa continues to be a trans-shipment region for cocaine and heroin trafficked to Europe. These illicit flows fuel corruption, leading to an increase in organized crime, while negatively impacting on regional security, peace, health and development.
H. E. Mr. Shigeru Umetsu, from the Japanese Embassy in Ghana, in his opening remarks raised concerns "about the spread of methamphetamine throughout the world" and stated that "it is crucial for countries, regions and the internationally community as a whole to strengthen drug and precursor control mechanism as well as forensic science." He further highlighted that this "first workshop focusing on synthetic drugs in the region" represents "a solid step forward to fight synthetic drugs in this region."
Trainer demonstrating the use of a drug test kit
The training, in English and French, brought together 45 law enforcement officers from 13 countries - Benin, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, the Gambia and Togo. It was made possible thanks to contributions from the governments of Japan, the United States of America and the European Union, and was supported by the Ghana Narcotics Control Board (NACOB).
Participants learned and practiced the basic drug and precursor identification methods in the field as well as the use of handheld drug identification devices. They were introduced to new developments such as the emergence of new psychoactive substances. The training also provided participants the opportunity to share their experiences and discuss collaboration opportunities in the region. Over 60 UNODC field drug and precursor test kits were handed over to participating countries upon the conclusion of the training.
In the framework of UNODC's efforts to build capacities of law enforcement agencies in the region, UNODC drug and precursor test kits provide beneficiaries with the means to conduct on-site testing for illicit drugs, including narcotics such as heroin and cocaine as well as psychotropic substances like amphetamines and for precursor chemicals used to manufacture drugs, such as acetic anhydride as well as ephedrine.