Distinguished Members of the Council,
Thank you for this opportunity to brief the Security Council on the threats posed by drug trafficking and organized crime to peace and security in Guinea-Bissau.
I welcome this discussion, which comes at a challenging time of transition for international support to Guinea-Bissau, and as the COVID-19 crisis further heightens vulnerabilities and complicates efforts to deliver much-needed technical assistance.
Urgent, coordinated action based on shared responsibility is needed.
As noted by the Security Council, and most recently in the Secretary-General’s Report, tackling transnational organized crime, including drug trafficking and trafficking in persons, is critical to build peace and work towards lasting political and economic stability in Guinea-Bissau.
Guinea-Bissau’s coastal geography and related border management challenges have been exploited by organized criminal groups, in particular for transatlantic cocaine trafficking – a situation that has been greatly aggravated by instability, poverty, and constrained justice and law enforcement capacities.
Despite these severe challenges, Guinea-Bissau can nevertheless be proud of some recent law enforcement successes.
Last year, two operations undertaken with the support of UNODC, Operation Carapau in March and Operation Navara in September, led to the seizure of close to three tons of cocaine.
The operations were not a matter of chance or luck. They represent hard-won achievements, enabled by the integration of the Guinea-Bissau judicial police into regional and international anti-drug trafficking platforms.
Notably, 19 drug traffickers, including foreign nationals, have been convicted by judicial authorities since 2019 and assets were seized.
But these gains are proving difficult to take forward. UNODC is also concerned about the resurgence of drug trafficking and the re-emerging influence of criminal operators in the country.
The recent return of convicted drug traffickers to the country, observed by UNODC, is a further concern.
In addition, the dismissal of key counterparts within law enforcement agencies threatens to compromise the sustainability of what has been accomplished.
Security sector reform is fundamental and essential to a lasting solution to Guinea-Bissau's chronic political instability and vulnerability to transnational organized crime, which UNODC has sought to support since the Office started implementing activities in the country in 2006.
In view of this cardinal objective and as mandated by Security Council Resolution 2512, UNODC assistance to Guinea-Bissau will focus on strengthening the capacity of national institutions to combat corruption and enhance criminal justice responses to all forms of organized crime.
Our work will be undertaken in the framework of the National Strategic Plan on Drug Trafficking, Organized Crime and Security Threats, which was developed with UNODC support and approved by the Council of Ministers in February.
The new National Strategic Plan is a comprehensive and integrated multi-level approach for the entire security and justice system chain to effectively address drug trafficking, organized crime, corruption and money laundering.
UNODC will start implementing two new projects this summer, in partnership with UNDP, IOM and UNIOGBIS, which aim at supporting specific objectives laid out in the National Strategic Plan; strengthening coordination between law enforcement and criminal justice actors; and promoting anti-corruption and integrity mechanisms.
Moreover, UNODC is providing technical support to the Ministry of Women and Children and, in partnership with IOM and the US, our Office has contributed to the design of the trafficking in persons contingency plan for 2020.
This plan will further serve as a basis for the preparation of the National Action Plan for 2021-2026, which will take the important step of including an integrated referral mechanism to identify and assist trafficking victims.
At the same time, UNODC will continue supporting the operational law enforcement units our Office has helped to establish in Guinea-Bissau, which have yielded important results on which we can build.
The AIRCOP Joint Airport Interdiction Task Force, created by UNODC in partnership with INTERPOL and the World Customs Organization, is a specialized multi-agencies unit in charge of detecting and intercepting drugs, other illicit goods, terrorism prevention and high-risk passengers at airport settings.
In the framework of the West Africa Coast Initiative implemented by UNODC, UNOWAS, DPO and INTERPOL, we have also helped to establish the Transnational Crime Unit, which is a specialized inter-agency law enforcement unit tasked to collect and analyze information on organized crime and produce national operational intelligence to support complex crime investigations.
Both these units have helped to include Guinea-Bissau law enforcement agencies in networks of cooperation, supporting South-South exchanges and coordination, especially along the cocaine route between Latin America and West Africa.
These are important steps but much more work needs to be done to sustain and improve operationalization, with the enhanced support and participation of national counterparts.
As we approach the UNIOGBIS transition, let us be clear: Guinea Bissau needs and deserves the renewed and redoubled commitment of the international community.
For nearly 15 years, UNODC has responded to the calls of the international community to support Guinea-Bissau’s peace and stability. Today, political will and extensive, long-term assistance, backed by sufficient funding, are needed more than ever.
UNODC is fully engaged in supporting the SRSG for West Africa and UNOWAS in devising effective strategies to contribute to the country’s stability.
As stated by the Secretary-General in his latest report on Guinea Bissau, UNODC will continue to closely monitor and report on the drug trafficking and organized crime situation, with a view to preventing traffickers from exploiting the current pandemic situation and political dynamics.
In this regard and taking into consideration the evolving political situation, UNODC will continue delivering its large array of technical assistance activities to Guinea-Bissau. This will be supported by an expanded team on the ground.
Going beyond this important but largely technical expertise, our Office stands ready to offer more formal advisory services on drugs, organized crime and justice reform to the UN Country Team and the Resident Coordinator, with reference to Security Council resolution 2512, mandating our continued support.
UNODC’s Regional Office for West and Central Africa, based in Dakar, will also provide technical and advisory support, and continue strategic coordination with UNOWAS and the UNCT.
Furthermore, UNODC is providing Guinea-Bissau with integrated support that acknowledges and addresses important regional dynamics affecting drug and organized crime challenges.
We do this through our cooperation with UNOWAS, as well as the implementation of the UNODC Regional Programme with ECOWAS and global programmes, including the CRIMJUST programme to strengthen investigation and cooperation along drug trafficking routes, and our Global Maritime Crime Programme.
UNODC relies on the international community’s engagement and resources to advance and strengthen this assistance to Guinea-Bissau in the transition and beyond.
In closing, I would like to thank the Security Council for keeping the fight against drug trafficking and organized crime a priority, and for the Council’s repeated calls for increased support for UNODC’s work with and for the people of Guinea-Bissau.