Workshop to review the draft ECOWAS legal framework against transnational organized crime


In the Economic Community for the West African States (ECOWAS), Transnational Organized Crime and trafficking pose a grave threat to human security, public health, and governmental stability. The region is experiencing a continuous increase in trafficking and abuse of drugs. According to the UNODC World Drug Report 2021 by 2030, demographic factors project the number of people using drugs to rise by 11 per cent around the world, and as much as 40 per cent in Africa alone, West and Central Africa, along with North African countries, accounted for eighty-seven per cent of pharmaceutical opioids seized globally in 2016 and that Africa, along with Asia, also saw the largest rises in cocaine seizures in 2016. West Africa continues to be a trans-shipment region for cocaine trafficking but has also increasingly become a place for the production and trafficking of methamphetamines and other synthetic drugs. 

OCWAR-T is an ECOWAS support project, commissioned by the German Government and Co-funded by the EU, Coordinated by GIZ, in Cooperation with UNODC, UNDP, Mines Advisory Group, International Centre for Migration Policy Development and Enhancing Africa’s response to Transnational Organized Crime.

Transnational Organized Crime encompasses virtually all profit-motivated serious criminal activities with international implications – it covers not only offences committed in more than one state, but also those that take place in one State but are planned or controlled in another, including crimes in one State committed by groups that operate in more than one state, and crimes committed in one State that has substantial effects in another State.

As underlined by Dr Amado Philip de Andrés, UNODC Regional Representative for West and Central Africa “The criminal justice systems in the West Africa region have to be strengthened. The regional legal framework against Transnational Organized Crime has to cover drug trafficking and all forms of Transnational Organized Crime along with the increase and improvement of drug users’ health systems, especially as it regards new psychotropic substances. Champions countries within the West African region should be identified to lead the way with ECOWAS, UNODC and other key partners as the guardians of these conventions.”

To strengthen collaboration and build a platform for cooperation between ECOWAS member states to combat Transnational Organized Crime in the region, UNODC is partnering with ECOWAS and other key stakeholders including the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH to draft an ECOWAS Legal Framework Against Transnational Organised Crime. The 3 days activity, held between 2 to 4 February in Dakar, Senegal, was part of  Organized Crime: West African Response to Trafficking (OCWAR-T) project.

Thirteen International Independent Experts joined the workshop to review the draft legal framework; also present at the opening of the workshop was the UNODC Regional Representative for West and Central Africa, Amado Philip de Andrés, the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General representative Ms Giovanie Biha, the Ambassador of Germany in Senegal, H.E. Soeren Siemon, and the European Union’s Team Leader Governance and Stability, Amaury Hoste.

The United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) represented by Ms Giovanie Biha, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General (DSRSG) stated that in the last decade, the level of drug trafficking has significantly increased, and Piracy is also increasing in the Gulf of Guinea. There is a need to find urgent and quick solutions to the challenge of increasing transnational organized crime within the region. She further reiterated the need for increased cooperation with the ECOWAS member states to strengthen border control and tracking mechanisms.

During the three days meeting, the draft ECOWAS legal framework was presented for joint review and input by independent international experts and the ECOWAS legal department. The recommendation by the international experts will be included in the legal framework to ensure that there is no lacuna in the legal framework and to strengthen the legal framework following which the document will be submitted to the ECOWAS Commission for internal review by various directorates and other relevant stakeholders towards the submission to the ECOWAS Heads of the States and Government for endorsements.