The Sahel is one of the poorest regions of the world. It faces simultaneously the challenges of extreme poverty, the effects of climate change, frequent food crises, rapid population growth, fragile governance, corruption, unresolved internal tensions, illicit trafficking and terrorist-linked security threats.

The Sahel-Saharan region has always been a trade and migration route. However, factors such as the lack of state authority, weak justice systems, the collapse of the traditional pastoral economy, corruption and the presence of arms have created an ideal environment for illicit trafficking, organized crime, terrorism, corruption and money laundering.

The destabilizing effect of such terrorist groups and their impact on development and security in the Sahel are extremely serious. Criminal activities have reached a level that poses a threat to governance and social stability in the entire region and beyond.

Criminal networks have intensified their operations in the Sahel and expanded their illicit trade activities across the entire region. The profits generated from drug trafficking, arms trafficking, organized crime and kidnapping for ransom, which can easily be used for corruption, can only make an already precarious situation worse and less sustainable.

The UNODC Sahel Programme supports the development of accessible, efficient and accountable criminal justice systems to combat illicit trafficking drug trafficking, organized crime, terrorism and corruption in the region by: 

  • Promoting the implementation of international conventions with governments and foster regional cooperation on counter-terrorism with authorities and prosecutors ;

  • Preventing illicit trafficking of drugs, weapons, human beings and smuggling of migrants by enhanced detection and interdiction at airports and land borders ;

  • Improving justice systems by promoting integrity safeguard mechanisms and Police - Justice cooperation through anti-corruption and anti-money laundering training ;

  • Enhancing scientific evidence and investigation by providing authorities with appropriate laboratories and firearms control measures ;

  • Supporting access and treatment of people in contact with the judicial system through strengthening the frameworks of human rights, legal aid, victim and witness protection and prison reform.

The UNODC Sahel Programme has been developed within the framework of the UN Regional Integrated Strategy for the Sahel 2014-2019, which the UN Secretary-General launched in June 2013.

The UN integrated Strategy for the Sahel revolves around three key objectives: making governance more inclusive and effective, building capacities to counter cross-border threats, and strengthening the resil­ience of the Sahelian people.

UNODC activity implementation through the Sahel Programme is coordinated with the other UN agencies participating in the implementation of the UN Integrated Strategy, most notably with the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), the Department of Peacekeeping Operation (DPKO) and UN Development Programme (UNDP), the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and the Head of Mission of MINUSMA.

The Sahel Programme is supported by contributions from Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and the United States.

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