Ghada Waly

Director-General/Executive Director


76th Session of the UN General Assembly
Special Event on the Links between Terrorism and Organized Crime in Africa


  28 September 2021



Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to address you at this side event on the linkages between terrorism and organized crime in Africa.

Terrorists and criminals are finding common cause, posing an immediate threat to peace, security, and development in Africa.

Crime and its proceeds can provide terrorists with funds and resources to operate; In turn, criminal groups can thrive on the business of terrorism, furthering illicit flows and claiming more victims in the process.

The UN Sanctions Monitoring Team has identified Africa as the region most affected by terrorism, and the one where terrorist groups have claimed the most victims.

During the recent review of the Global Counterterrorism Strategy, the need to fight terrorism in Africa was highlighted as a global priority.

Criminal networks and activities are an enabler of terrorist operations in the continent.  

There are reports of Dae’sh raising funds through extortion, kidnapping for ransom, and looting, as the group expands its presence in Africa.

There are also reports of Boko Haram trafficking narcotics across African borders.

Terrorist groups in the Sahel and West Africa are engaging in various forms of illicit trafficking, while pirates cause chaos in the Gulf of Guinea and create an unstable environment which terrorists could exploit.

In some parts of Africa, terrorists have replaced state authority with criminal tyranny.

They are in total or partial control of some border crossings; they tax and extort the poor and the vulnerable in other places.

Meanwhile, terrorist fighters use illicit channels of movement to travel undetected across African borders, over land and by air.

Terrorists and organized criminals are two heads of the same beast, preying together on the same vulnerabilities in Africa: instability, conflict, poverty, and humanitarian crises.

The COVID-19 pandemic is only leaving the continent more exposed.

The crisis has left many without livelihoods.

 African economies have contracted, some by more than seven percent, while more than 40 million people across the continent have been pushed into extreme poverty.

Only some three percent of Africans have been fully vaccinated. Over five billion doses of COVID vaccines have been administered globally, but only two percent of them in Africa.

Standing with Africa in this time of crisis, when vulnerabilities are at their highest and societies at their most fragile, also means protecting its people from being exploited by terrorists and criminals.

At the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, we have adopted a new Strategic Vision for Africa, addressing the cross-cutting challenges of drugs, crime, corruption, and terrorism as interconnected threats to security and development in the continent.

Responses are only as strong as their weakest link; Africa’s responses must encompass all threats to the rule of law, and the linkages between them.

Last year, UNODC led the drafting of the Secretary-General’s report to the Security Council on actions taken to counter the linkages between organized crime and terrorism. The report identified a number of important good practices to guide effective responses.

At the heart of such responses are connection, coordination, and cooperation.

UNODC is working with 50 countries in Africa, to build and connect criminal justice institutions and frameworks, empowered by the Strategic Vision for Africa.

By fortifying their intelligence coordination, border security, legal frameworks, and financial systems, we strive to meet the needs of Africa in confronting terrorist-criminal networks.

Our Office is supporting inter-agency cooperation to investigate terrorist activity and its linkages with other illicit operations, enabling simpler and faster information-sharing across jurisdictions and agencies.

We are helping countries build border security capacities over land, sea, and air; the borders that connect our countries must also separate terrorists from their funds, resources, and recruits.

We are assisting countries in reviewing legislation and regulations, in line with the international legal instruments on counter-terrorism, organized crime, and narcotic drugs, to empower them in prosecuting and convicting those at the nexus of crime and terrorism.

And we are helping establish strong measures to track and halt terrorist financing and illicit financial flows, in cooperation with civil society and the private sector, who are well-placed to identify vulnerable sectors.


Ladies and gentlemen,

By conspiring together, terrorists and criminals are undermining peace and security in Africa and threatening its hopes for sustainable development.

Our best answer is to strengthen our own cooperation, and to seek new avenues to work together.

I would like to thank UNICRI for their partnership with UNODC on countering the terrorism-crime nexus. Our joint work includes workshops in the Sahel on the linkages between organized crime and terrorism, and we look forward to expanding training to new regions in Africa next year.

I also look forward to exploring and expanding our cooperation with all other partners in the UN system and beyond, to work with Member States to tackle the linkages between terrorism and organized crime in Africa.

Terrorists and criminals are joining forces to kill, abuse, exploit, and profit. Through our own cooperation we can even the odds. We must empower Africa’s institutions to work together effectively, within and across borders, to safeguard African societies.

Thank you.