What's In Blue

Posted Tue 18 Dec 2018

Briefing on Drug Trafficking in West Africa

Tomorrow afternoon (19 December), the Security Council will hold a meeting on “Drug trafficking in West Africa as a threat to stability” with a briefing, via VTC, by Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime Yury Fedotov. The session will be the Council’s first thematic meeting on drug trafficking and its threat to stability and peace and security since December 2013.

The Council held a session on drug trafficking for the first time under the agenda item “Peace and Security in West Africa” during an open debate on 8 December 2009. This was followed by a briefing in February 2010, an open debate in February 2012 and a briefing in December 2013 that were on the impact of drug trafficking and transnational organised crime in West Africa and in the Sahel. Several presidential statements were also adopted during this period (S/PRST/2009/32; S/PRST/2010/4; S/PRST/2012/2; and S/PRST/2013/22). After the almost annual meetings from 2009 – 2013, since December 2013 the Council has not held another discussion on the subject. Issues of illicit trafficking and transnational organised crime have since been considered mostly in some country contexts such as Afghanistan and Guinea-Bissau. The Council has also held discussions on organised crime dimensions linked to terrorism, including trafficking in persons and cultural heritage.

In his briefing, Fedotov may highlight how the drug trade threatens stability in West African countries and can create failed states, especially in already fragile or post-conflict settings. He will most likely speak about the role of UNODC in the Sahel. This includes its Sahel Programme, within the framework of the UN Integrated Strategy for the Sahel (UNISS), as well as its support to operationalising the police component of the G5 Sahel Joint Force, whose mandate is to combat terrorist and criminal groups. Among other country situations, Fedotov may cover drug trafficking in Guinea-Bissau. Members may also be interested in drug trafficking in northern Mali which, as the International Crisis Group reported last week, enables armed groups to finance their operations, but has also become a source of conflict in itself.

Fedotov is likely to highlight the role of West Africa as a transit hub for trafficking drugs. UNODC has reported on the increasing movement of opiates along a southern route from Afghanistan to East and Southern Africa, then transiting West Africa en route to Europe and North America. For 2017, Afghan opium production was at a record high, doubling over the previous year. While the area under cultivation was down 20 percent in 2018 due to drought, opium production was still the second highest in Afghanistan’s history, and this drug trade may become an increasing threat to West African states. Likewise, West Africa remains a transit hub for trafficking drugs from South America, where, according to UNODC, coca acreage in Colombia for cocaine production reached its highest figure ever recorded in 2017.

Council members received a background note from UNODC for tomorrow’s session that highlights how, in addition to its transit role, West Africa has become an emerging market for drug traffickers as the region has exhibited strong economic growth and exposes traffickers to less risk. The background note outlines UNODC’s different programmes in the region, carried out by its regional office in Dakar and country offices, which focus on building the capacity of law enforcement agencies of West African states and increasing inter-agency and regional and international cooperation. Fedotov may reiterate that addressing the threat of drug trafficking requires international cooperation and is a shared responsibility of producing, transit and destination states. He may emphasise the importance of anti-corruption efforts.

The Security Council has recognised, including in its previous presidential statements, the impact that drug trafficking and transnational organised crime have in undermining states’ authority and governance, and has also expressed concern over the links, in some cases, between drug trafficking and terrorism. Members may reiterate such concerns at tomorrow’s briefing, which is intended to update Council members on drug trafficking in West Africa and raise awareness about what is required to address the issue. Some members could refer to the need to increase the presence in Guinea-Bissau of UNODC, which depends on voluntary funding for most of its programmes. Members could also refer to an Arria-formula meeting held this past June on maritime crime, an issue that is interlinked with drug trafficking. Council members have been negotiating over the last few months a draft presidential statement on maritime crime but it is unclear when it may be adopted.

It seems that Côte d’Ivoire, this month’s Council president, may use tomorrow’s briefing to pursue further consideration of this issue during 2019. A summary of the meeting is expected to be prepared and circulated to Council members ahead of consideration of a possible Council product on drug trafficking in West Africa next year.

Sign up for What's In Blue emails