4 February 2009 - Strong currents are pounding East Africa - trafficking from its eastern shores, and instability from states in conflict and transition. An effective response to such complex challenges must be concerted and sustainable. UNODC is therefore spearheading a Regional Programme to Promote the Rule of Law and Human Security in Eastern Africa 2009-11. Experts are meeting in Nairobi this week to develop a comprehensive approach to countering illicit trafficking and organized crime; building justice and integrity; and preventing terrorism.
Criminals exploit vulnerable states. "One of the main challenges facing Africa is to develop rule of law" says Francis Maertens, Director for Operations, UNODC. Maritime piracy, especially along the coast of Somalia, is a recent example of what can happen when the rule of law is absent. "Poor governance, insecurity, conflicts, poverty and economic disparities among and within countries of the region are providing opportunities for transnational organized crime, as is evidenced by the widespread illicit trafficking in drugs, persons, money, arms, wildlife and timber products" says Maertens. "National legislative frameworks to fight organized crime, corruption, money-laundering and the financing of terrorism are weak in most countries of the region".
UNODC is seeking to harness partnerships to pursue security and development together, for example, in a plan of action with the African Union (AU). High crime rates impede development. Extreme levels of income inequality, such as in Kenya, rapid urbanization and youth unemployment exacerbate social tensions but national crime prevention policies and programmes for young people are lacking. Another handicap is the lack of capacity to collect data on the drug and crime problem. Criminal justice systems are under-resourced and most prisons in the region are overcrowded. To address problems like these, this year, a project is being launched to assist the AU Commission, Regional Economic Commissions and Member States to mainstream justice and security issues into their development agenda.
"Studies and assessments being conducted by UNODC and other institutions in post-conflict settings are also confirming that, where smuggling and illicit trafficking have become implicated in the political economy of conflict, economic crime tends to be systemic and well-integrated into regional and global criminal networks", said Mr. Maertens. "The key challenge for the Programme is to translate the Regional Programme into an integrated, effective, and sustainable set of activities on the ground".