The problem of Drug and Organized crime in West and Central Africa
Over the past few years, the West Africa region has become an increasingly important venue for international drug trafficking and organized crime. Since 2006, between 20‐40 tons of cocaine per year are transiting through the region en route to Europe. With 20 tons valued at approximately US$ 1 billion on the wholesale market - a sum higher than the GDP of some West African countries ‐ the criminal behavior and corruption that travels alongside the cocaine is seriously affecting the very stability of the countries in the region. A recent UNODC report entitled " Transnational Trafficking and the Rule of Law in West Africa: A Threat Assessment", launched in July 2009 at a United Nations Security Council special session on West Africa, showed that drug trafficking is far from being the only concern confronting the region: evidence of drug production has been discovered and drug abuse is on the increase; trafficking in persons, arms, minerals, and counterfeit medicines has also been identified; smuggling of migrants, oil bunkering, and other illegal activities are flourishing in a climate of instability.
The increased level of attention given to the region triggered by drug trafficking brought to the fore other critical issues, some of which are linked to the complex heterogeneity of West African countries. While the West African coast countries are emerging from conflicts and concerned with peace‐building, the Northern part of the region is under increased pressure from terrorist groups that are building links with criminal organizations. The rule of law and State authority throughout the region is threatened by corruption, money‐laundering activities and trafficking in all kinds of illicit goods.
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has recognized with great concern, the potential for transnational organized crime and trafficking to completely undermine the stability and development of the West Africa region. A number of special sessions have been convened to discuss the threat, and the UNSC has called upon the Member States to increase "their cooperation with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime", and requested the UN Secretary‐General to consider these threats as a factor in conflict prevention strategies1. In this regard, in January 2009, the UN Secretary‐General made an appeal to the international community to " support the sub region in facing the formidable challenge posed by drug trafficking", stressing the " critical importance of building capacity in the countries of the sub region and mobilizing resources to help regional States in confronting the threat at the national and cross border levels" 2.
In October 2008, Ministers and experts from the 15 Member States of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) designed a Regional Action Plan to combat illicit drug trafficking, organized crime and drug abuse for the period 2008‐2011. This document was officially endorsed by those countries at the 35th ECOWAS Ordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government on 19 December 2009, together with a Political Declaration on the Prevention of Drug Abuse, Illicit Drug Trafficking and Organized Crime in West Africa. The Declaration urges the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to strengthen its technical assistance in the region for the implementation of the Regional Action Plan. The UNODC response to the challenges presented by the region, and to the call for support from ECOWAS has been to design a crosscutting, multilateral strategy based on the principle of shared responsibility, where peace‐building, security sector reform, national institution building, and capacity building efforts would be implemented in the most effective manner with a view to contribute to the creation of an environment prone to socioeconomic development to the benefit of the people in West Africa.
A Tailored Regional Programme for West Africa, 2010 - 2013
West Africa is afflicted by a number of transnational organized crime flows, attracted by, and aggravating, the special vulnerability of the region, including with regards to socioeconomic development. In this context, the ECOWAS was established in May 1975 and initially aimed at promoting trade, cooperation, and self‐reliance in West Africa as a means towards economic cooperation, integration and development. Its mandate was later progressively extended to more ambitious political, economic and security‐related objectives.
Governance and socio ‐ political context. Political instability is the main issue troubling West Africa. Since 2000, the region has seen ten coups d'état or attempts to such, three civil wars, and the assassination of one President. Arguably, with this track record, West Africa could be considered one of the least stable regions in the world.The conclusion of peaceful and credible elections, including in States considered to be particularly fragile, is an encouraging sign that good governance and democratization are taking root in the region. On the other hand, a number of West African countries continue to be affected by political crises resulting from contested electoral processes, unconstitutional changes of government or other threats to democratic processes and governance. The Togolese presidential elections, despite the quarrel among the main political actors over the various aspects of the electoral process, took place on 4 March 2010 with no major incidents reported. Côte d'Ivoire, which has been divided for more than seven years between the South controlled by the Government and the North controlled by the "New Forces", has postponed its election date since 29 November 2009. This postponement represents a setback and a source of dissatisfaction for national and international stakeholders.Finally, the evolving political and constitutional crisis in Niger continues to undermine the progress achieved in democratic governance and rule of law, and constitutes a source of tension and instability, which resulted in a military coup on 18 February 2010.
The Sahelo-Saharan band, expanding from northern Niger and northern Mali to Mauritania remains insecure. Besides clashes between rebels and military forces, foreigners have been kidnapped in the area and the risk of further kidnappings is still high. The Security Council has expressed concerns that this region is a significant "threat to the regional stability with possible impact on international security". Following several years of fighting for a better repartition of oil incomes between the government and the people of the oil‐producing Niger Delta region, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) and the Federal Government of Nigeria are yet to establish a sustainable basis for peace and stability in that region. Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea Bissau are still in a fragile process of peacebuilding, security sector reform and reconstruction, after suffering from several years of civil war. The United Nations are fully involved in the various peace processes in the region, including peacebuilding and post‐conflict reconstruction, through the presence of Peacekeeping Operations and UN Integrated Offices in Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea Bissau, Liberia and Sierra Leone, and the UN Office for West Africa (UNOWA) based in Senegal.
Drugs and crime in West Africa . West Africa is affected by a combination of factors making it vulnerable to illicit trafficking, organizedcrime, terrorism and drug abuse, most notably its geographic location, mid‐way between SouthAmerica and Europe, as well as its long coastline and largely porous national borders. This is exacerbated, however, by national institutions in the region that are often under‐resourced, weak and fragile, as West African States strive to emerge from violent conflicts and long institutional crises. Criminals are exploiting these conditions to traffic a range of products through the region: drugs, cigarettes, weapons and ammunitions, counterfeit medicines, etc.. In the past few years, West Africa has become a hub for cocaine trafficking from Latin America to Europe. UNODC has estimated that around 40 tons of cocaine consumed in Europe in 2006 were trafficked through West Africa, for a wholesale value (in West Africa) of about $600 million, and a retail value (in the streets of Madrid, London or Rome, for example) of more than five times as much ($3.2 billion).
Although a decrease in drug seizures has been observed since the last quarter of 2009, intelligence reports suggest that this scenario is just a sign of tactical repositioning and that multi‐ton shipments are still and will certainly be arriving in West Africa in the future, particularly since the underlying factors that facilitated the flow of drugs in the first place continue to exist. There are also other indications that the trade is pushed both southwards and inland. The discovery of clandestine laboratories and the unprecedented seizure of cocaine and ecstasy processing equipment in Guinea show that drug cartels are no longer using West Africa as transit point only, but may be working on developing sophisticated on‐site capacities for narcotics production. The very public and violent political struggles in Guinea clearly demonstrate the challenge of addressing drug trafficking in the region. In Mali, although investigations are still ongoing, the recent discovery in November 2009 of the wreckage of a cargo plane (Boeing aircraft) suspected to have transported cocaine directly from Latin America is a further illustration of the evolving threats linked to drug trafficking faced by the region. Since cannabis culture is a quick and quite easy cash business, no ECOWAS country is immune to local cultivation and domestic marketing. Cannabis seizures have been regularly reported in all ECOWAS States. Large shipments of hashish from Morocco and Mali are becoming common place on the trans‐Saharan route thus feeding the growth in banditry, general lawlessness and acts of rebellion.
Of equal importance, other types of trafficking (oil, medicines, cigarettes, toxic waste, persons and migrants) amounted to almost US$ 2.5 billion in 2008. For instance, despite significant progress in the response, trafficking in persons continues to represent a serious threat to human security in West Africa. The predominant pattern is intra‐regional and within individual States for the purpose of exploitative labour of children in the agricultural and fishing sectors, street begging or sexual exploitation. The second type of trafficking involves young girls and women trafficked within the subregion and to Europe, South Africa, and the Middle East for the purpose of sexual exploitation.
According to a recent UNODC study, between 3,800 and 5,000 girls and women are trafficked annually from West Africa to Europe. With regard to terrorism, the Sahel region, a vast region bordering the Sahara Desert, is increasingly referred to by the US military as " the new front in the war on terrorism". This threat is emphasized by the presence in the region of Al‐Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
West Africa is also experiencing a continuous increase in drug use, especially injecting ones. Between 1992 and 2006, cocaine use increased throughout the world but Africa and Europe saw the sharpest increase. It is difficult to address this issue effectively because of the lack of accurate information on the extent of the problem, but also because medical centers are neither adequately equipped nor have trained personnel to deal with the consequences of drug dependence. Specialized Units are few, in some countries the number of psychologists may be counted on the fingers of one hand, proper treatment is seldom available, and no systematic reintegration scheme has been put in place in any country.
It was noted that it is within vulnerable groups such as drug users that the spread of infectious diseases is the most rapid. In Cape Verde for instance, HIV/AIDS prevalence is 0.8% in the general population whereas it reaches nearly 14% among drug users. More generally, surveys showed that UNODC, "Transnational Trafficking and the rule in West Africa: A Threat Assessment", July 2009 prison population and injecting drug users (IDUs) in the region have HIV/AIDS infection rates that are between two and ten times higher than those in the general population, with increased negative impact on women and youth. Very few interventions are developed in favor of these vulnerable groups to combat HIV/AIDS and offer a comprehensive package of services. Universal access to HIV services needs to be scaled up within those groups in order to reach the related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015. With regard to crime prevention, increased trafficking in the region as well as poverty and the lack of opportunities make it easy to enroll individuals in low level criminal activities. Rural exodus is rampant and the unemployed find themselves trapped in suburbs of major cities, contributing to very high levels of urban crime. The challenge is immense and requires a comprehensive and engaged development strategy with economic support.
Finally, Criminal justice systems in many West African countries still fail to function effectively. Despite efforts to secure adherence from the Member States to international conventions and protocols, the effective implementation of those instruments remains a challenge. In many countries, arbitrary arrests, political detentions and human rights abuses are commonplace. Arrestees' access to legal support is insufficient. The judicial systems are poorly funded, with a lack of magistrates and court premises missing basic equipment. Prisons are overcrowded, living conditions are appalling, and many detainees have been awaiting trial for years.
The permeability of national institutions to corruption, the porous borders, the structural deficiencies in controlling territories and enforcing the law, as well as the lack of funding and of
coordination between services and countries are all factors explaining the increased relevance of West Africa on the map of transnational organized crime. Both law enforcement agencies and the justice system are malfunctioning because of these various factors. Although an ECOWAS Regional Action Plan and a Political Declaration have been adopted, translating these instruments into concrete actions and promoting continued political support for their implementation remain difficult and require important and long‐lasting efforts. Also, funding and the weak operational capacities of major actors in the region will require the close attention of the international community. UNODC's response to these challenges is through the establishment of a multi‐year strategy, the Regional Programme for West Africa, 2010‐13. The overall objective of the Regional Programme is to contribute to and support the efforts of the Member States in West Africa, as well as those of regional organizations and the civil society, to respond to evolving health and human security threats and to promote the rule of law and good governance .
The programme will aim at achieving clear outcomes having tangible results as part of the implementation of the ECOWAS Political Declaration on the Prevention of Drug Abuse, Illicit Drug Trafficking and Organized Crimes in West Africa. The Regional Programme is in line with the UNODC Mid‐Term Strategy 2008‐2011 and will support the ECOWAS Regional Action Plan to address the growing problem of illicit drug trafficking, organized crime and drug abuse in West Africa. The latter covers fifteen countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Côte d'Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo. As the UNODC Regional Office for West and Central Africa also covers Mauritania, this country will be included in the Regional Programme. UNODC will implement the strategy through its Dakar‐based Regional Office for West and Central Africa (ROSEN) and its Country Office for Nigeria (CONIG) - the latter was established due to Nigeria's political and financial role in the fight against all forms of organized crime in the region.
Political and development framework
On many occasions, different organs of the UN System have addressed the multivariate threats faced by the West Africa region, and have called upon UNODC to collaborate with the Member States in the fields of organized crime (Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice), drugs (UN Security Council and Commission on Narcotic Drugs), criminal justice (UN Economic and Social Council) and terrorism (UN Security Council). The increasing number of UN resolutions also shows an acknowledgement of the fact that the situation in West Africa has worsened in recent years. A special session of the UN Security Council on drug trafficking in Africa was held on 8 December 2009. The Security Council recognized the importance of UNODC's work in facing the numerous security risks caused by drug trafficking, and encouraged it, together with other relevant UN agencies, to undertake further actions in this regard. In particular, the Security Council reaffirmed and commended […] the important work of the UNODC in collaboration with the United Nations relevant entities and emphasized the need for adequate capacities to support national efforts. More recently, in line with the 8 December session, the Security Council session of 24 February 2010 addressed at the global level the threats to peace and security posed by drug trafficking and other organized criminal activities. Of paramount importance is the Council's renewed invitation to the Secretary‐General to regard these threats as a factor in conflict prevention strategies and the acknowledgement of the critical role played by UNODC in the assessment and planning of integrated missions. Overall, these resolutions, decisions and declarations provide the basis for UNODC action and they insist on collaborative measures and support to the Member States in the fight against drugs and crime. As the UN Secretary‐General stated the " UNODC [is] an authoritative source of information and a provider of capacity ‐ building for State efforts".
The African Union and ECOWAS
Regarding African institutions, the African Union Ministerial Conference, organized with UNODC support and held in Addis Ababa on 3‐7 December 2007, endorsed a "Revised AU Plan of Action on Drug Control and Crime Prevention (2007‐2012)" and a "Follow‐up mechanism for the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the revised AU Plan of Action on drug control and crime prevention". The Regional Programme will therefore take full advantage of the Memorandum of Understanding signed between UNODC and the African Union regarding the implementation of this Plan. The African Union Plan of Action on Drug Control and Crime Prevention (2007‐2012), aims inter alia " to strengthen the capacities of […] Regional Economic Communities and Member States for Drug Control and Crime Prevention policy development and coordination of implementation".
In this context, the Economic Community of West African States ( ECOWAS), UNODC's most important strategic counterpart in West Africa, developed a Regional Action Plan to address the growing problem of illicit drug trafficking, organized crime and drug abuse in West Africa and adopted a Political Declaration on the Prevention of Drug Abuse, Illicit Drug Trafficking and Organized Crime in West Africa. The Declaration urges UNODC to strengthen its technical assistance in the region for the implementation of the Regional Action Plan. The Regional Action Plan contains a set of objectives and activities per thematic area to be reached by 2011. It focuses not only on combating organized crime and drug trafficking but also on research, drug and HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, criminal justice, and anti‐money‐laundering. In this respect, the ECOWAS Regional Action Plan represents UNODC's guide for all its interventions in the region. This is further supported by the fact that the Political Declaration urges UNODC to strengthen its financial and technical assistance programmes and cooperation with the ECOWAS Commission and ECOWAS Member States within the framework of the implementation of the Regional Action Plan. In this regard , the ECOWAS Political Declaration provides the political umbrella for UNODC actions in the region. The Regional Action Plan is divided into regional and national activities. Regarding regional activities, the ECOWAS Commission, with support from UNODC, has developed a roadmap for implementation.
The ECOWAS Operational Plan, elaborated in Abuja on 12‐13 May 2009, was endorsed by the Heads of State and Government at their 36th Ordinary Summit in Abuja on 22 June 2009. This document provides for concrete, budgeted activities aimed at building the ECOWAS Commission coordination capacities and at addressing specific priorities linked to the drug and crime situation. The Regional Action Plan and the Operational Plan, as well as the Political Declaration, are supplemented by a Monitoring and Evaluation Mechanism (MEM). The MEM foresees regular evaluations to be conducted in ECOWAS Member States in order to measure the degree of implementation of the Regional Action Plan and, with regards to the ECOWAS Commission, the degree of implementation of the Operational Plan.
On 3 December 2009, the ECOWAS Commission convened a Donor Round Table in Vienna hosted by the Government of Austria, and co‐organized by UNODC in partnership with UNOWA, which was aimed at mobilizing international support for implementing the ECOWAS Regional Action Plan. During this event, support and funds were pledged, including €15 million from the European Commission. The Regional Action Plan and its related documents cover a wide range of topics. Yet, more targeted instruments have been elaborated in parallel. In 2006, with support from UN agencies (UNODC, UNICEF and ILO), the ECOWAS adopted an Action Plan on Human Trafficking and established an Anti‐Human Trafficking Unit within the Commission.
National Integrated Programmes against illicit drug trafficking and organized crime (NIP)
National Integrated Programmes against drug trafficking and organized crime (NIP) represent the national foundation for an effective regional response to the threat posed by organized crime. NIPs are governmental development frameworks elaborated through an inclusive and participative approach. This process is open to a wide range of stakeholders, including inter alia, bilateral partners, other UN agencies and multi‐donor trust funds with a view to avoid duplication and involve possible funding partners at an early stage so as to create consensus on the way forward and a synergy of efforts.
Their objective includes placing the fight against drug and organized crime within the context of the overall national development strategy. Security and rule of law being prerequisites to any sustainable development, NIPs intend to address all problems related to the management of intelligence, effectiveness and coordination among all law enforcement agencies, functional and effective criminal justice systems, crime and HIV/AIDS prevention, drug abuse as well as countering money‐laundering and the financing of terrorism. The ECOWAS Regional Action Plan in its Thematic Area I has specifically requested all ECOWAS Members State to develop a NIP. So far, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Mali and Togo have developed one. Benin, Burkina Faso and Ghana have already requested UNODC's technical assistance for the formulation of theirs in 2010. UNODC will continue to support the development of these national strategic frameworks and their integration into national development policies, as well as ensuring their consistency within the rubric of the Regional Programme as a whole.
Research and analysis
The UNODC Regional Programme for West Africa will put an emphasis on research and analysis as strategic tools to better understand organized crime and drug problems as well as raise awareness within the national and international communities. In 2005, a pioneer UNODC report on Crime and Development in Africa established links between poor socioeconomic development and an environment where crime thrives. This report initiated a series of innovative and awareness‐raising research conducted on the continent. Publications are not only aimed at exposing the underlying driving forces of drug‐ and crime‐related activities, they are also made to communicate to the general public, and more specifically to decision‐makers, on the nature and impact of a particular threat. Gaining knowledge on a threat contributes to better prevention efforts and to the elaboration of appropriate, evidence‐based responses. The latest UNODC publication on transnational trafficking and the rule of law in West Africa, presented at the UN Security Council in July 2009, had a resounding impact on the region andthe world media by shedding light on trafficking of other illicit goods taking place in West Africa.
Taking this into account the UNODC intends to use its publications as a strategic instrument. Attracting the attention of the leaders in the region and of the international community on crime areas where little is known, or revealing the full extent of a problem that was thought minor, will be the role of UNODC publications on West Africa. Moreover, these reports highlight the seriousness of transnational trafficking, especially drug trafficking, making it clear that these problems exceed the response capacity of any single country or region. Another role will be to monitor the evolution of trends in West Africa, including with regards to the financial aspects of trafficking. Conducting a thorough assessment of the situation and explaining its impact is a necessary step but may prove insufficient. It is also critical to keep the attention focused and show the effects of policies and operational efforts required to keep track of trends and to disseminate the results. It is with this in mind that UNDOC regularly publishes studies on drug trafficking in West Africa and will continue to do so. Furthermore, the research and analysis done by the UNODC will ensure that the technical assistance delivered through the Regional Programme is evidence based, with clearly established baselines against which impact can be measured.
The Regional Programme contains both regional and national initiatives focusing on areas related to UNODC's mandate. At the regional level, specific initiatives target capacity building for regional institutions, including the ECOWAS Commission, as well as the development of a range of strategic tools for national institutions. At the national level, UNODC supports NIPs, which represent the key building blocks of the Regional Programme implementation. This section provides the strategic objectives of each Sub‐Programme over the 2010‐2013 period, at both national and regional levels. The exact content of UNODC's interventions per country is detailed in Annex IV, though it should be mentioned that NIPs are to address all the objectives mentioned under the Sub‐Programmes. UNODC's Regional Programme is divided into four Sub‐Programmes:
(i) Organized Crime, Illicit Trafficking and Terrorism;
(ii) Justice and Integrity;
(iii) Drug Prevention and Health; and
(iv) Research and Analysis.
Sub‐Programmes (SP) are further divided into topics. Resources will be gathered and managed per Sub‐Programme, and targeted interventions will be developed in accordance with the objectives set in the various topics listed under each SP. Ideally, implementation will take place in all the countries within the same time frame and would provide the perfect opportunity to increase regional cooperation, the exchange of information, and the building of trust between neighbors. As a result, SPs have a double function in the present Regional Programme: a) to state UNODC 's objectives for all topics included within one of the four main subject areas; and b) to be used as an instrument of intervention to further maximize the impact of the National Integrated Programmes. In terms of partnership, Sub‐Programmes will always seek cooperation with relevant specialized institutions, be it at international or regional level. With regards to implementation, ownership and leadership from the national authorities concerned are obviously paramount to the success of Sub‐Programmes.