Artist Coumba Gawlo raises voice against trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants

Dakar, 19 May 2016 - The phenomenon of trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants has seen a significant rise in West and Central Africa. Several factors have facilitated the expansion of these criminal activities: porous borders, sometimes leading to political instability or violent and endemic conflict are among the reasons that push vulnerable groups to embark on dangerous journeys, where organized crime groups can take advantage of them while generating millions of dollars in profits each year.

To step up its advocacy efforts to the highest level, the UNODC Regional Office for West and Central Africa introduced its new National Goodwill Ambassador against trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants for the year 2016 - the notorious Senegalese singer and activist Coumba Gawlo Seck - during a ceremony held on 19 May at the United Nations information Centre in Dakar.

Coumba Gawlo Seck, National Goowill Abassador and Pierre Lapaque, UNODC Regional Reprentative

Pierre Lapaque, the UNODC Regional Representative, outlined the reasons for the appointment of the Senegalese artist during the press conference: "Thousands of people are victims of trafficking and subject to smuggling. In Senegal, there are, in the 'Greater Dakar' region only, more than 50,000 talibés (children who attend Koranic schools called 'daaras'). Over 30,000 of them are forced to beg for as many as six hours per day. That's almost a normal working day. Known and respected personalities are well positioned to advocate on issues like these. Who could do this better than Coumba Gawlo?"

A short film allowed the public to familiarize itself with Ms Seck's humanitarian work alongside organizations such as UNFPA, UNICEF, UNDP, UNHCR, and her role as godmother of the Albert-Royer Children's Hospital in Dakar.

In their replies to journalists, Pierre Lapaque and Coumba Gawlo emphasized the plight of thousands of victims of trafficking and exploitation, often subjected to forced labour in mines, sexual exploitation, forced begging, recruitment of children as soldiers, and migrant smuggling.

Asked by journalists about her assignment with UNODC Coumba Gawlo stated: "My mission is to educate leaders to promote protective legislation, and educate young people about the risks related illegal migration, which can turn out to be lethal. I'll talk to young people in neighbourhoods and universities, and sensitize religious leaders. I also intend to involve my artist friends in these activities, as I have previously done in Haiti following the earthquake."

To provide an answer to the problem of trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants, the UNODC Regional Office has set up the  2015-2020 UNODC Regional Strategy for Combating Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants in West and Central Africa in support of the ECOWAS Regional Action Plan to Address the Growing Problem of Illicit Drug Trafficking, Organized Crime and Drug Abuse. To give a new impetus to activities in this area the UNODC Executive Director nominated Mrs Coumba Gawlo to the post of "National Goodwill Ambassador" for the year 2016.

The presentation ceremony was attended by several diplomats and Senegalese officials. Ambassadors from Canada, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Morocco, and Niger were present along with representatives from UN agencies, as well as the Ministry of Women, Children and Family. UNODC warmly welcomes their support.

In her new assignment with UNODC, the new ambassador will be crucial to raise awareness and help strengthen national, regional and international efforts to fight trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants. UNODC has planned a number of advocacy activities regarding children victims of trafficking and smuggled migrants.

For more information:

UNODC Regional Strategy for Combating Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants in West and Central Africa

Definitions and tools on human trafficking and migrant smuggling

UN Integrated Strategy for the Sahel

Contribution of UNODC to the UN Integrated Strategy for the Sahel

UNODC uses film to change social norms