What's In Blue

Posted Mon 20 Feb 2012

Debate on Transnational Organised Crime (West Africa and the Sahel)

On Tuesday (21 February), the Council will hold a high-level debate on the impact of transnational organised crime on peace and security in West Africa and the wider Sahel region. The President of Togo, Faure Gnassingbé, will preside over the debate with the Secretary-General briefing. On 14 February, Togo circulated a draft presidential statement to be issued after the debate. Following negotiations on 15 and 16 February, the draft statement was put under silence procedure on Friday, 17 February. Togo has also circulated a concept paper on the impact of organised crime on peace, security and stability in West Africa and the Sahel region.

The suggestion that violent activity from armed groups in the region has been exacerbated by the proliferation of weapons from Libya appears to have been a contentious issue during the negotiations. (There had been similar difficulties over a press statement that was negotiated following a briefing on the Sahel on 26 January.) It appears that some Council members (China, India, Pakistan, Russia and South Africa,) want more specific reference to the conflict in Libya exacerbating the problem of the proliferation of arms in the region. Other Council members, particularly those that had been involved in the NATO operation, appear more reluctant to connect these problems to Libya arguing that they predated the crisis there. It appears that a more detailed reference to resolution 2017 (31 October 2011) has helped get agreement on this issue. (Resolution 2017 focused on the prevention of the proliferation of arms in Libya and the region, particularly man-portable surface-to-air missiles, chemical weapons stockpiles and other small arms.)

Besides expressing the Council’s concern about the serious threat to international peace in the region posed by transnational crime, the presidential statement requests a number of actions. Acknowledging the importance of system-wide UN action, it calls for coordination between the UN and affected states in fighting these threats. In addition, it invites the Secretary-General to include analysis of the role played by transnational threats in his reports on situations on the Council’s agenda. The statement also requests the Secretary-General to provide specific recommendations on how the Council can deal with the question of organised crime, including trafficking in West Africa and the Sahel region.

The discussion during the debate is likely to be based on two reports recently submitted to the Council by the Secretary General —the 17 January report on the UN inter-agency assessment mission to the Sahel and the 18 January report on the Gulf of Guinea piracy assessment mission. The key recommendations of the two reports were that the UN should strengthen its presence in the region, support governments affected by transnational crime and various forms of terrorism-related insurgencies, and to strengthen the Global Counter-terrorism Forum Sahel Working Group.

Sign up for What's In Blue emails