Shared commitment to combating drug abuse in West Africa [fr]
Drug trafficking in West Africa as a threat to stability
Statement by Mrs. Anne Gueguen, Deputy Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations
Security Council - 19 December 2018
I express my gratitude to Mr. Fedotov for his enlightening briefing on drug trafficking in West Africa and the work of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). I also wish to thank Côte d’Ivoire through you, Mr. President, for having put this topic on the Council’s agenda. Like you, Sir, France also considers this to be a particularly important topic and welcomes the opportunity to discuss the matter today.
I will begin with some remarks on the obstacles and perils that the production, trafficking and consumption of drugs pose to the region’s security and prospects for development.
As Mr. Fedotov pointed out in his briefing, West Africa faces multiple threats related to transnational organized crime in all its forms and is affected by the issue of drugs in several aspects. The region is an important transit area for trafficking in cocaine, heroin and synthetic drugs, as well as a zone for the production of cannabis and synthetic drugs. The use of drugs is also an increasingly significant issue. The issue of drugs, including its security, economic, social and health consequences, aggravates the structural weaknesses of the region and seriously jeopardizes its development.
Drug trafficking also has a negative impact on the political dynamics of the region. In northern Mali, for example, a significant proportion of armed groups depend financially and logistically on the financial flows generated by the illegal economy and drug trafficking. That situation diverts certain key actors from implementing the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali by generating violence and hindering and hampering the realization of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process. The widespread corruption that is linked to drug trafficking also undermines people’s confidence in the rule of law, particularly the justice system, and can encourage a reflex of community protection and even prompt membership to terrorist groups.
Finally, in a region characterized by both drug trafficking and the presence of a number of terrorist organizations, the issue of the link between organized crime and the financing of terrorism has arisen. While there is evidence of collusion between drug traffickers and terrorist fighters, such cooperation is more opportunistic — for protection rather than for payment — than systematic. The proceeds from trafficking do not seem to be the main source of terrorist financing but could contribute either directly or indirectly.
As to my second point, we should reflect together about our response at the national, regional and international levels. At the national level, it is very important that West African States make the fight against drugs a real political priority and promote a balanced approach that acts both to combat the drug supply and to reduce the demand through prevention, care, support for users and harm reduction measures. It is essential that the States of the region strengthen the capacities of the concerned institutions, with the support of donors and international stakeholders.
Those actions must aim in particular at strengthening the entire criminal justice system, particularly the judicial system and asset seizure mechanisms, but also take into account the preventive and social and health care dimensions. The care of dependent persons, which remains underdeveloped, must become a priority area of action. France has therefore fully supported the creation of the first specialized centre for drug users in West Africa in Dakar in 2014, the Centre de Prise en Charge Intégrée des Addictions de Dakar and is currently supporting the creation of a similar centre in Côte d’Ivoire. Those efforts must be encouraged and supported in other countries in the region.
At the regional level, it is critical to strengthen cooperation in order to effectively fight trafficking and corruption. The response must be based on joint action on the security and development aspects. That is the impetus of the approach deployed by the Group of Five for the Sahel countries in the framework of the Joint Force and the Priority Investment Programme. France fully supports those efforts, in conjunction with its partners. For example, the Alliance for the Sahel, by financing quick-impact development projects in vulnerable areas, helps to provide viable economic prospects for local populations and prevent them from joining networks from the illegal economy.
There are myriad challenges, but the States of the region are not alone in meeting them. Indeed, international organizations, and the United Nations in particular, also have an important role to play in addressing the drug problem.
First, they have the primary responsibility of considering the whole dimension of the issue in the quest for sustainable political solutions to conflicts. Therefore, to continue with the example of Mali, which I mentioned earlier, the fight against drug trafficking in the region is also a means of supporting the implementation of the peace agreement. Sanctions are one of the tools at our disposal to act in that regard, since the participation in trafficking activities is among the designation criteria set up under the sanctions regime for Mali. We must make full use of them.
Secondly, the United Nations must support West African States, at their request, with technical assistance and capacity-building. I would like to acknowledge the outstanding work done by the UNODC in that area, particularly by its regional office based in Dakar.
Finally, the United Nations is also the guarantor of a comprehensive and balanced approach that allows not only West Africa but also other affected regions to act together to address the drug problem, based on the principle of common and shared responsibility. In that regard, the outcome document agreed to at the 2016 special session of the General Assembly on the world drug problem (resolution S-30/1) remains our common road map. The ministerial debate of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, to be held in Vienna in March 2019, will be another opportunity to reaffirm our shared commitment to combating drug abuse in West Africa and beyond.