Vienna (Austria), 17 March 2022 – The first regional multi-stakeholder event on strategies to prevent and combat organized crime in Western and Central Africa took place from 9 to 10 March 2022 in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire with 11 countries and numerous other stakeholders. The event was organised in the framework of the UNODC Global Programme for the Implementation of UNTOC and represented the first step in the regional dissemination of the Organized Crime Strategy Toolkit for Developing High-Impact Strategies, the main vehicle for the delivery of technical assistance in the formulation of strategies against organized crime in line with the requirements of UNTOC. The UNODC Civil Society Unit presented a session on developing and implementing strategies to prevent and combat organized crime: a multisector and multi-stakeholder approach.
Moderated by Anders Frantzen, Programme Officer, UNODC Civil Society Unit, the session was dedicated to the exchange of views on the relevance of a whole-of-society approach to the development and implementation of such strategies. Emphasizing the role of community associations in West Africa to prevent and combat transnational organized crime, Dr Eddy NguiffeuTajouo, senior lecturer at Universite de Dschang informed how civil society organizations participate in a wide range of activities in the prevention and fight against organized crime in West Africa. “They are involved in raising awareness and advocacy, supporting victims, and caring for vulnerable people such as women and children,” he further noted.
Other featured presentations focused on available mechanisms for multisector and multistakeholder participation as well as reflections on how civil society and the private sector can play a role in this, including the effective monitoring of strategies. Presenters reflected on region-specific challenges and priorities that could be addressed through an inclusive approach.
Lucia Bird, West Africa expert at the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime (GI-TOC) explained that Member States need information from communities to inform holistic responses against organized crime, stressing that civil society is perfectly positioned to work as the bridge between communities and States. “Through the resilience programme, the GI-TOC supports grassroots organisations, through capacity building, security provision and financing, so together we can better respond to transnational organized crime”, she added.
During the discussions, the participants said that better guarantees for the protection of witnesses and leaders are needed, otherwise, there is a fear of seeing basic community associations become obstacles to the fight against organized crime. The challenges related to access to medicines in a context of low income were also discussed, which would justify the populations' recourse to generics and cheap medicines, regardless of the quality. The Brazzaville Foundation echoed by other CSO speakers clearly highlighted that civil society organizations in the West African context have become essential pillars in the implementation of effective strategies to eradicate illicit trafficking and other illicit activities of organized criminal groups.
In conclusion, it was agreed that CSOs must be actively involved in the development of strategies and the implementation of international, regional and national tools for the fight against the various forms of organized crime.
The regional multi-stakeholder event was made possible thanks to the financial support by the governments of the United Kingdom and Germany.