Donors help West Africa

Photo: A. Scotti4 December 2009 - At a round table held in Vienna on 3 December, donors raised more than 15 million euro to help the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) reduce the region's vulnerability to drugs and crime.

The meeting, hosted by Austria and UNODC, is part of the Praia Process launched at a ministerial meeting in Cape Verde one year ago in response to a dangerous increase in cocaine trafficking through West Africa.

Although drug seizures have decreased in the past 18 months, West Africa is still considered a major hub for drug trafficking from Latin America to Europe. Furthermore, the discovery of precursor chemicals in Guinea this summer suggests that the region is becoming a producer of synthetic drugs. Drug addiction is also on the rise in West Africa.

"Drug cartels are so large and powerful that they are undermining some Governments." President of ECOWAS, Mohamed Ibn Chambas

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa, Said Djinnit, said that criminal networks are "changing their modus operandi and becoming better equipped and more sophisticated". He called on donors to help "to address the underlying causes that make the region vulnerable to organized crime".

UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa warned that "drug traffickers are adapting more quickly than the international community's ability to respond". He called for more assistance for drug treatment and criminal justice reform for West Africa. He hailed the United Nation's efforts in the region as a model of cooperation.

Donors made pledges to support the implementation of the ECOWAS regional action plan on drug trafficking and organized crime (2008-2011). The European Commission alone pledged 15 million euro.

"This is a clear demonstration of shared responsibility", said Mr. Chambas.