West African CSOs coordinate against drugs abuse 

Abuja, January 7, 2018- Drug use, trafficking, production and cultivation of illicit substances affect most countries in the world. They pose public health, development and security problems both in industrialized and developing countries. According to different UNODC assessment reports (2011-2013), West Africa faces major drugs related problems, mainly high prevalence use of cannabis, cocaine/crack and to lesser extent heroin with its negative health and social consequences. 

Drug use among adolescents and young adults in Africa has been increasing over the years; and this has caught the attention of government officials and the international community to fight against drug use and protect the African youth. The prevention and care initiatives are either non-existent or simply inadequate to meet the needs of drug users and protect most-at-risk populations.

In response to this situation, UNODC and ECOWAS organized a workshop in Abuja, Nigeria, from 7th to 9th January 2018 to "Building CSOs Capacity for Substance Use Prevention and Care in ECOWAS member states and Mauritania".

The workshop was organized as part of the project  " Support to ECOWAS Regional Action Plan on drug trafficking, organized crime related to it and drug abuse in West Africa" funded by the European Union and implemented by UNODC, in collaboration with ECOWAS. 

In fact, many civil society organizations (CSO) working in the field of substance abuse prevention, health and development issues have shown high interests of bringing their contributions to the drug related problems. However, it has been observed that most of those organizations lack necessary skills and knowledge to develop and carry out  effective evidence-based  prevention interventions. And this capacity building workshop aimed at enhancing sub regional CSOs capability to identify and disseminate best practices and policies for preventing substance use particularly among vulnerable population, that are children, adolescents, young adults, etc.

        The CSOs participants to the capacity building workshop, Abuja, Nigeria, 7-9 January, ©UNODC 2018

In the ECOWAS Action Plan Framework, CSOs are clearly identified as key partners and the capacity building workshop was held in coherence with previous meetings involving West African CSOs. The first was in Abuja July 2015, followed by the Interministerial Evaluation Meeting held in March 2016. These meetings aimed at integrating contributions from CSOs in the ECOWAS regional strategy.

The workshop provided skills and knowledge to develop and carry out effective evidence-based prevention interventions; 32 CSOs participants also got trained to use tools such as the Strategic Prevention Framework (SPF) developed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The meeting gave also an opportunity for Civil Society in West Africa to share best practises on data collection towards prevention program implementation.

Mr. Daniel Amankwaah, ECOWAS Project Coordinator, Mr. Cheikh Touré, UNODC Project Coordinator and Mrs. Stefania Marrone representing the EU, joined their voices in welcoming the Civil Society members at the meeting.

According to Stefania Marrone (EU), "Stakeholders from the region and all focal points from Civil Society Organizations are gathered here for three days to be trained about best practices, international standards, and priorities related to illicit drugs use in West Africa".

 ''This workshop is organized to uplift their technical capacities in terms of prevention, to advocate for better care for drug users in communities and society and within the legal framework'' Cheikh Touré added.

At the end of the three days meeting, focal points of Civil Society Organizations from the 16 countries of ECOWAS, have called for the creation of the West African Network of Civil Society on Substance Abuse (WANCSA) to better coordinate their efforts towards drug prevention and treatment in the region.

UNODC, ECOWAS and the EU have launched in 2016 a call for proposals to support innovative and pilot prevention initiatives promoted by West African Civil Society Organizations in six countries (Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde Liberia, Mauritania, Sierra Leone, and Togo. This Grants Programme, provided financial resources for the sub region CSOs to undertake innovative drug prevention activities among youth using an approach that is consistent with the international protocols and standards on drug prevention and care.

UNODC has provided technical assistance to West African States for the past 20 years through its Regional Office for West and Central Africa (ROSEN) in Dakar, Senegal and 10 other local offices based in different countries of the region. As a guardian of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (TOC) and its Protocols, as well as the three Conventions on International Drug Control; UNODC is mandated to assist Member States to strengthen their national response capacities on the matter, in accordance with their international obligations.

For more information:

UNODC action against drug trafficking in West Africa

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

UNODC Regional Programme 2016-2020 

ECOWAS Drug Unit web portal