UNODC organizes a high-level scientific consultation on addictions in West Africa

This activity was funded by the European Union

Abidjan, 20 February 2017 - Psychoactive substances use disorders poses a global public health challenge with negative impacts on peace, security and development in African countries. However, to promote a better health access for people suffering from drug abuse disorders, developing alternative and less repressive approaches is critical. These approaches based on public health and human rights, integrate opioid substitution treatment, palliative care and pain relief.

To this end, ECOWAS Member States, in collaboration with all its stakeholders, including civil society organizations in the region, must strive to reduce the drugs demand by exploring alternatives, especially those related to public health. Several African organizations called for a review of drug policies in West Africa based on scientific evidence for better and more targeted interventions. 

In this regard, the Regional Office for West and Central Africa of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) organized an important "Conference on the Prevention and Treatment of Drug Use Disorders in West Africa ", from 20 to 21 February 2017, in Abidjan, in Côte d'Ivoire.

 This conference 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 Scientific Conference, Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, February 2017 ©UNODC/2017

The overall objective of the conference was "to share knowledge on good practices and disseminate recent research findings on drug abuse issues", furthermore the conference was meant to "promote strategies, policies and initiatives based on evidences."  Drug Demand Reduction should be fostered in accordance with International Standards. Making the Abidjan meeting gave an opportunity to experts to exchange views on the epidemiology prevention and treatment of drug use in West Africa.

Very fruitful sessions were held on: the epidemiology of drug use in West Africa, basic science on drug use and related disorders, prevention of drug abuse and the onset of addiction disorders, the state of scientific discoveries on integrated therapies, and science for evidence-based policy and program development.

During two days, 60 researchers, academics, health facility managers, addictions prevention and treatment specialists, as well as drug control officials, including civil society actors, held discussions around the latest results of scientific research on disorders caused by the use of psychoactive substances.

This international high level scientific had participants from ECOWAS Member States   other African countries (Kenya, Morocco ...), Europe (France, Belgium, Portugal ...), Australia and USA. The participants were from prestigious institutions involved in scientific research, management of addictions and supply reduction.

The Abidjan meeting was an important turning point in the implementation of the ECOWAS Action Plan as it is the first of its kind in Africa since the UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the world drug problem in April 2016.

 According to Pierre Lapaque, UNODC Regional Representative : "The Abidjan meeting is a major step towards for evidence-based implementation of drug demand strategies in relation to international standards".

The State Minister for Homeland Security HE Mr. Hamed Bakayoko, and Minister of Health and Public Hygiene, Ms. Raymonde Goudou-Coffie, who chaired the opening Ceremony, advocated for effective responses, including the establishment of an Integrated National Drug Control Plan for Côte d'Ivoire and the establishment of specialized centers for drug dependence management.

The ECOWAS Official representing HE Babacar Carlos Mbaye (ECOWAS Representative in Côte d'Ivoire), Ms. Raymonde Goudou-Coffie, Minister of Health and Public Hygiene, HE Mr. Hamed Bakayoko, Minister for Homeland Security ,  Mr Pierre Lapaque, UNODC Regional Representative, Mr Cheikh Touré, UNODC Project Coordinator (left to right)
Participants at the Scientific Conference

UNODC has devoted part of its technical assistance to States, advocating that drug-related disorders, including addiction, are recognized as a health problem. In this regard, the objective is to promote a scientific approach; thus, encouraging member states to develop policies and strategies based on scientific evidences for the prevention and the treatment of drug addiction disorders.

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 others Offices based 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, in accordance with their international obligations.

  Dr Jean Pol Tassin from France, presenting his findings on addiction mecanisms


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