More effective regional cooperation to counteract international drug trafficking in West Africa

This activity was funded by the European Union

Abuja, 24 November 2016- Organized crime is a transnational phenomenon, without sparing the West African region. In the next decade, the development of West African economies and a qualitative transformation of transport infrastructure is expected. To date, there are 24 transport programs of approximately 24 million USD that are financed by the African Development Bank until 2030, not to mention projects that are financed by the European Union to facilitate cross-border movements. All these initiatives have the aim of facilitating the transport of goods and people throughout the sub-region by promoting regional integration and thereby reducing poverty around the "corridors of development".

These positive trends will have beneficial effects on these economies. But they will also create opportunities for cross-border criminal networks involved in illicit trafficking. Another challenge is the laundering of criminal assets that pass from one state to another. These threats are accentuated by the highly informal nature of the region's economies, border vulnerability and occasionally inadequate legal framework.

In order to respond to all these challenges and threats; UNODC, in collaboration with ECOWAS, organized a "Conference in Support of the Implementation of the ECOWAS Action Plan Against Drug Abuse through more effective Regional Cooperation", on 22-24 November 2016 in Abuja, Nigeria.This regional meeting was organized as part of the project Support to ECOWAS Regional Action Plan on drug trafficking, organized crime and drug abuse in West Africa that is entirely funded by the European Union (Abuja Office).  

Group photo of the participants at the Regional Cooperation Conference, Abuja, Nigeria, November 2016 ©UNODC/2016

The conference brought together high-level law enforcement bodies (Police, Gendarmerie, Magistrate, etc.) from ECOWAS member states in order to exchange on the most effective ways to achieve a more efficient interstate cooperation against cross-border criminal networks connected to drug trade. Representatives of UNODC, the European Union and INTERPOL also attended the meeting. In addition, organizations such as the Support Project for Strengthening the Technical and Scientific Police Force in West Africa (Artecao), the Intergovernmental Group Action Against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA) were represented.

Police cooperation, inter-state coordination, the collaboration of drug enforcement bodies at the national and sub-regional levels, platforms for information exchange, adaptation of response mechanisms and the best practices for rapid interventions have all been subjects of in-depth discussions between professionals in order to act more efficiently at a sub-regional level.

Law enforcement professionals also advocated for a better integration of forensic resources in the fight against drug trafficking, including the establishment of a West African network. The opportunities offered by the UNODC e-learning platform (learning) also attracted the interest of the participants.

After three days of rich discussions, law enforcement professionals from ECOWAS countries issued recommendations around the following areas:

• strengthening regional cooperation mechanisms aimed at combating drugs and promoting police-to-police cooperation;

• strengthening information-sharing platforms between law enforcement at the application level;

• Updating the legal arsenal at a regional level in order to remove obstacles from the reinvestment of seized assets into the fight against organized crime.

• Strengthening the operational capacities of law enforcement professionals through an intra-regional operational and judicial fluidity in cross-border investigations.

Regional Cooperation Conference, Abuja, Nigeria, november 2016 © UNODC/2016

UNODC has been providing technical assistance to West African States for 20 years, through its Regional Office for West and Central Africa (ROSEN) based in Dakar, Senegal and 10 other local offices in different countries of the region. As a Guardian of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (CTO) and its Protocols, as well as the three Conventions on International Drug Control; UNODC is mandated to assist member states in strengthening their national responses against international drug trafficking and organized crime, in accordance with their international obligations.

For more information:

UNODC action against drug trafficking in West Africa

West Africa Coast Initiative (WACI)

Support Project to ECOWAS Regional Action Plan on illicit drug trafficking in West Africa

UNODC Sahel Programme