Strengthening the fight against drug trafficking and transnational organized crime in West Africa

With increased drug trafficking, production and consumption, corruption, piracy, terrorism and strengthened transnational criminal networks penetrating state institutions, West Africa represents one of the UNODC's key challenges and main priorities. Due to their multifaceted nature, transnational organized crime and drug trafficking are capable of undermining security, hindering development and destabilizing democracies.

In many of the world's regions, and especially in West Africa, they have evolved into major threats to stability, the rule of law, good governance, and human rights.

To address these challenges, the West Africa Coast Initiative (WACI) implementing partners (UNODC, UNOWA/DPA, INTERPOL and DPKO) organized the Third Programme Advisory Committee meeting (WACI PROCOM) on 23 November 2015, in Bissau.

Representatives of WACI partners at the end of the PROCOM

Chaired by the UNODC Regional Representative for West and Central Africa (ROSEN), the PROCOM gathered its statutory members, including high-level representatives of the United Nations Office for West Africa (UNOWA), the United Nations Mission in Guinea Bissau (UNIOGBIS), the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), the Division for Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and WACI implementing countries (Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea Bissau, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone).

Assisting the members of ECOWAS in implementing the Regional Action Plan to Address the Growing Problem of Illicit Drug Trafficking, Organized Crime and Drug Abuse in West Africa, WACI has been at the core of UN and INTERPOL efforts to fight transnational organized crime in the region.

The UNODC Regional Representative, Mr. Pierre Lapaque, stated that "transnational organized crime, including large scale drugs trafficking continue to be a real threat to stability, peace, security, and economic development in many parts of the world today.

National authorities in some West African countries are taking serious measures to strengthen the security sector, including its criminal investigation capacities and the Rule of Law. As enforcement and criminal justice succeed in one country, it is crucial to avoid the displacement effect from one State to a weaker neighbor; the problem must be approached regionally.

Meeting participants during the discussions in Bissau

During the meeting, the participants reviewed the achievement reached so far and the challenges affecting the implementation of WACI, and agreed on the future operational and strategic priorities. They welcomed the renewed commitment of the WACI implementing states in the fight against transnational organized crime as well as the reinforcement of the connection established between the West Africa Coast Initiative and ECOWAS in the field. Discussions emphasized the need for deeper sub-regional coordination as well enhanced cooperation between the Transnational Crime Units (TCUs) established under WACI and other national law enforcement agencies. The need for increased participation of the same TCUs in regional and international cooperation initiatives was also underlined.

The PROCOM welcomed the positive cooperation mind set between the WACI member states and the WACI partners and commended the positive results, including on operational level, achieved so far in Guinea Bissau, Liberia and Sierra Leone, encouraging also authorities in Cote d'Ivoire to take further steps in operationalizing their Transnational Crime Unit.

Taking note of the WACI programme's extension until 2017 and the possible expansion to other West African states, the PROCOM called for an enhanced and wider regional and international support in continuing the efforts made by the programme, considering the difficult and complex security situation faced by West Africa.

In the face of these multiple challenges, UNODC and its partners are building political commitment and operational blocks through all regional platforms, especially ECOWAS within the region; developing inter-agency approaches; and delivering solutions through its integrated regional programme, one of its components being the West Africa Coast Initiative-WACI.

For implementing this joint programme, UNODC is working in partnership with UNOWA/DPA, DPKO and INTERPOL, building synergies that allow for the combination of partnering organizations' mandates and the creation of multi-disciplinary responses.

For more information:

UNODC and WACI in West and Central Africa