West Africa: another target for pirates?

Photo: UNODC24 September 2011 - Amid rising concerns that pirates are taking control of the waters off West Africa, Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of UNODC, met Nassirou Bakou Arifari, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Benin , during the annual session of the General Assembly in New York.

"These are worrying developments that we should take seriously", Mr. Fedotov told Mr. Arifari. Benin, in particular, is seeing an increase in piracy off its coastline that may have implications for its national development and stability.

Holding massive reserves of oil, cocoa and metals needed to supply hungry world markets, the Gulf of Guinea - a stretch of West Africa's coast spanning more than a dozen countries - is witnessing early signs that pirates may be keen to pounce on new and lucrative opportunities. Piracy, drug smuggling and political uncertainty have made the Gulf of Guinea a challenging environment for investors seeking to benefit from natural resources.

UNODC, the United Nations Office for West Africa and the International Maritime Organization are therefore setting up a mission to assess the capacity of Benin to combat piracy. They will lend international support within the framework of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) regional action plan to combat drug trafficking and organized crime in West Africa and the UNODC Regional Programme for West Africa for the period 2010-2014.

Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea is not on the scale of that off the coast of East Africa, but more attacks in a region ill-equipped to counter the threat could disrupt shipping and investment. Indeed, the Security Council has already expressed concern over the increase in piracy, maritime armed robbery and reports of hostage-taking in the Gulf of Guinea and its damaging impact on security, trade and economic activities in the subregion.

In recent years, West Africa has emerged as a hub for cocaine trafficking between Latin America and Europe, and that issue is firmly on the agenda of the international community. UNODC will assist Benin to formulate a national integrated programme against illicit drugs and organized crime.

"My Office stands ready to assist Benin and the subregion within the framework of the UNODC Regional Programme for West Africa, in which Benin is actively participating", said the Executive Director.

Related information:

UNODC in West and Central Africa