New York/Vienna 16 December 2010 - (UNODC) - A multi-agency programme launched today in New York will help curb drug trafficking and organized crime in West Africa, a hub for cocaine trafficking from Latin America to Europe. As narco-traffickers adjust their tactics to evade counter-narcotic efforts, West Africa is witnessing new criminal methods, which call for stepped-up and coordinated international responses.
International cooperation gathered greater momentum today with the new United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Regional Programme for West Africa 2010-2014. At a high-level session co-chaired by UNODC, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the United Nations Office for West Africa (UNOWA), in cooperation with the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), the UN Department of Political Affairs (DPA) and the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), parties voiced their commitment to the Programme, which is designed to address new drug and crime trends in a comprehensive and integrated way.
Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of UNODC, said that the Regional Programme for West Africa "represents an opportunity to support the ECOWAS regional framework through effective collaboration among all international stakeholders involved in fighting drugs and transnational organized crime in West Africa".
Underlining the threat to security and development, Mr. Said Djinnit, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa, said that "the fight against drug trafficking and organized crime was an essential pillar for any conflict prevention and peace building strategy in West Africa. The UNODC Regional Programme will be key to streamlining support for the ECOWAS regional plan of action and efforts at combating this global threat to peace and security."
Covering 16 countries, the Regional Programme will respond to the needs of ECOWAS States based on the principle of shared responsibility. It will address the transcontinental nature of the challenge, in particular, the transatlantic route. It will focus on peace building, security sector reform, and national and regional institution- and capacity-building. The partners and States will work to strengthen action in the areas of organized crime, trafficking and terrorism, justice and integrity, drug prevention and health as well as awareness raising and research.
Ms. Carmelita Pires, Special Advisor to the President of the ECOWAS Commission, cautioned that adequate resources, political will and robust partnership between the sub-region and the international community would be crucial. "Ending the culture of impunity and taking appropriate measures in criminal justice reforms with the assistance of UNODC and partners of the programme, is a priority, in line with the decisions of the July 2010 ECOWAS Summit," she added.
Mr. Dmitry Titov, Assistant Secretary-General of DPKO, said: "The Security Council continues to recognize transnational organized crime as a critical global threat. We must consolidate our efforts and expertise with those of our national and international partners, for none of us can win this fight alone. The Department of Peacekeeping Operations deeply values the commitment and energy of each one of you in this endeavour."
INTERPOL Special Representative Michael Olmsted said that his agency "would support enhanced communications among law enforcement bodies in the region, advanced criminal data services, and police training and capacity-building."
"The added value of UNODC facilitating the entire process will certainly lie in its particular mandate and experience, as well as in its role within the UN system as the main international forum to address crime and drug trafficking as a threat to international security at the global level," said Mr. Fedotov.
In 2008, ECOWAS held a ministerial conference in Cape Verde, which resulted in a political declaration and regional action plan to combat drug trafficking and organized crime in West Africa. That meeting, followed by the multi-agency West Africa Coast Initiative, gave the impetus to create the current Regional Programme.
UNODC has long been warning about narco-trafficking in West Africa compounded by widespread corruption and money-laundering. The 2009 UNODC report Transnational Trafficking and the Rule of Law in West Africa: A Threat Assessment estimated that up to 100 tons of cocaine might have transited through West Africa. Also, more large seizures are again being made, with 2.3 tons of cocaine intercepted in Gambia. In some cases, the value of trafficking flows through the region surpasses the GDPs of the West African States, which are among the world's poorest countries.
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