Measures Against Organized Crime

UNODC helps governments react to the instability and insecurity caused by crimes like the smuggling of illicit drugs, weapons, natural resources, counterfeit goods and human beings between countries and continents.

The Situation: Organized Crime in the Sahel

For countries in the Sahel region, transnational organized crime, specifically drugs, arms, and human trafficking, constitute a major threat that tends to be linked, to some degree, with violent extremist and armed terrorist groups.  

Border Management

The Sahel Region is affected by a combination of factors making it increasingly vulnerable to illicit trafficking, organized crime and terrorism. The geographic situation is a major factor in analyzing the fragile security situation in the region.

This situation encourages activities cross border criminality and further justifies UNODC's efforts and mission to strengthen border management capacities in the region. To this end, in the framework of UNODC's Sahel Programme, notable advances have been observed regarding capacity to collect, analyze and diffuse information but also regarding more efficient cross border cooperation in matters of transnational investigations and information exchange. These advances are a testimony to the results of UNODC support to the Member States of the G5 Sahel. 

Drug Control

Narcotics trafficking is an international illicit trade including the cultivation, manufacturing, distribution, and sale of outlawed substances. West Africa and the Sahel states in particular, represents today a major transit zone for various kinds of narcotics, including cocaine originating from South America (production zone) and destined for Europe (final destination zone). Along with the expansion of the cocaine market, heroin originating from Asia, is transited through East African ports and airports before reaching West Africa, from which the drug is then sent to Europe and North America. Beyond serving just as a transit zone, West African states are also becoming production zones for certain drugs (such as methamphetamine) as well as consumption.  

With the goal of assisting the Sahel states to face these mounting threats, UNODC, through its Sahel Programme and their partners, works to increase efficiency in law enforcement agents and in the fight against narcotics in the region. Since 2014, the UNODC Sahel Programme has implemented a series of workshops aiming to build capacity for those implicated. In December 2016, for example, a workshop on strengthening capacities in the fight against drug trafficking was organized in Mali in partnership with the Central Narcotics Office (Office Central des stupefiants) (Read More). This series of workshops resulted in a training workshop in May 2018 on the use of rapid drug detection kits in Ségou, Mali (Read More). As a result, thanks to support from UNODC, Sahel countries have since produced noteworthy results contributing to countering drug trafficking. For example, in December 2016, Malian airport authorities seized a significant amount of cocaine (Read More) a few months after a large international drug trafficking network was dismantled in October 2016 (Read More). Niger also recorded a sizeable seizure of cannabis in June 2018 (Read More). Mauritania made noteworthy advances in dismantling drug trafficking networks recording several important seizures in September (Read More) and November 2018 (Read More) thanks to training activities and capacity building workshops implemented by UNODC. 

Anti-Money Laundering

Money laundering and other related illicit financial activities have a devastating impact on the economic, security, and social spheres.  

UNODC through its Global Programme against Money Laundering, Proceeds of Crime, and the Financing of Terorrism (GPML) participates in reinforcing capacities to fight against money laundering in the region, in partnership with global and regional organizations, strengthening legislative frameworks, consolidating capacity, and overall participating in strengthening national, regional, and international cooperation focused on the G5 Sahel member states. This reinforcement remains particularly necessary for Financial Intelligence Units (FIU), judicial authorities, regulatory and intelligence bodies, as well as reporting entities.

Firearms Control

Illicit firearms trafficking is a threat often linked to other forms of criminality. The responses to these challenges related to illicit firearms trafficking in the Sahel region requires an integrated approach that encompasses both preventative and control measures and that can adapt to respond to the specific needs within a country or sub-region. It is through this dynamic that UNODC implements the Global Programme against Firearms, specifically in the Sahel, considered to be one of the programme's priority zones.

This Global Programme against Firearms, including in the Sahel region, is based on 5 major pillars: 

  • Strengthening and harmonizing institutional and national legislative frameworks in the fight against illicit firearms trafficking through the use of regional and international instruments, such as the United "Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime" (Palermo Convention) as well as its supplementing "Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Their Parts and Components and Ammunition"; as well as the "Arms Trade Treaty" and the "United Nations Programme of Action to Prevent, Combat and Eliminate the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects". 

  • Improving measures for prevention and control through the use of marking, registering, and physically securing the stocks of seized and/or confiscated arms in law enforcement agencies and tribunal courts administration services.

  • Building capacity of law enforcement agents and magistrates on the matter of investigation and prosecution of infractions linked to firearms, including identification, storage, tracking as well as intelligence gathering to ensure better court judgments on the matter. 

  • Facilitating regional and international cooperation towards greater efficiency in the treatment of illicit arms trafficking cases through regular information exchange and dialogue between communities of practitioners and relevant stakeholders. 

  • Monitoring trends and improving information collection as well as transparency concerning firearms. 

Following technical assistance provided by UNODC as well as regional and national training workshops conducted targeting law enforcement agents within the G5 Sahel, a total of 35,777 fire arms were marked in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger over the course of 2017. In Mali, 100% of the weapons stock within the Customs Department was marked, as well as 8,500 weapons belonging to the national police. The Sahel countries also receive technical and financial support towards registering weapons that have already been marked. At the beginning of 2017, Burkinabe authorities succeeded in identifying and seizing a weapon belonging to a terrorist, that had been stolen during an attack against the police station in Intangom, near the Malian border. "This identification was made possible thanks to activities related to firearms marking through the use of the marking kit provided by UNODC" noted one of the police officers. 

Protection of Migrants

In the framework of it's Regional strategy in the fight against trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants in West Africa (2015-2020), the UNODC regional bureau for west and central Africa developed a specific mandate and expertise to assist member states in implementing effective actions against trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants, while ensuring the protection of migrants' and trafficking victims' rights. Developed in collaboration with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Economic Community of Central African States, this mandate serves as a coherent tool for the implementation technical assistance and capacity building activities in partnership with national and regional partners in the region. In the framework of this mandate, the section of UNODC that works to fight trafficking in persons and the smuggling of migrants implements these activities in a variety of projects to effectively disrupt organized crime groups and their recruitment. To this end, UNODC implements multiple related activities in the Sahel region. 

In the framework of its contribution to the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel, UNODC works alongside police, gendarmerie, and magistrate institutes in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger to integrate modules on trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants into the curriculum of training schools as well as to constitute a team of trainers within these institutions. In 2018, UNODC expanded its actions in the framework of the programme to other domains in Sahel countries, notably while providing judicial assistance.   

Similarly, the « PROMIS » project (protection of migrants) is a joint initiative between UNODC and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) that aims to strengthen the ability of West African and Sahel states to develop a response to migrant smuggling that is based on human rights and to effectively respond to human rights violations linked to irregular migration. The initial implementation of this project focused on Mali, Niger, Senegal, the Gambia, and the Ivory Coast with a potential extension to other countries in West Africa. The project is structured in three principles: (i) technical assistance for the detection, investigation and prosecution of drug smugglers and other related crimes in accordance with human rights; (ii) the reinforcement of regional and international cooperation regarding exchange of operational information related to migrant smuggling, especially as it relates to mutual legal assistance and the rights of migrants; (iii) the protection and promotion of migrants and their human rights both in their country of origin and throughout their migratory movements. 

Lastly, the « GLO.ACT » project ("Global Action against Trafficking in Persons and the Smuggling of Migrants) is a global joint program between UNODC, IOM, and UNICEF covering 13 countries, including Mali and Niger. The project addresses trafficking in persons and the smuggling of migrants through six pillars: (i) developing national strategies and politics; (ii) legislative assistance; (iii) reinforcing capacities; (iv) regional and transregional cooperation; (v) providing protection and assistance to trafficking victims, including migrants; (vi) providing assistance and support to children among those trafficking victims, including migrants. The project contributes to the implementation of the European Union's strategy for the elimination of human trafficking 2012-2016 and the European Commission's strategy for the fight against migrant smuggling, notably through cooperation and dialogue with the origin and transit countries implicated in the phenomenon. 

Trafficking in humans and smuggling of migrants are two forms of criminality that have a profound effect on the Sahel region as well as the implicated departure, transit, and destination countries. These phenomena, linked with the issue of migration, develop and become increasingly complex very quickly through organized criminal networks as well as a fundamental disregard for human rights.   

For More Information:

UNODC border control initiatives