UNODC holds its 3rd Sahel Programme Steering Committee meeting
The security situation in the Sahel deteriorated in recent years. To better respond to the security challenges in the Sahel, the Office of the United Nations for Drugs and Crime (UNODC) organizes a meeting each year which brings together both, beneficiary and observer countries of its Sahel Programme to discuss and refocus the strategy of the Programme. The objective of these "steering committee meetings" is to ensure that the Programme's strategy and objectives are still in line with the expectations, needs and priorities of Sahel countries in their fight against terrorism and transnational organized crime.
As Pierre Lapaque, UNODC Regional Representative for West and Central Africa stated during the opening ceremony of the meeting "the recent attacks in Burkina Faso and the frequent attacks against the Malian Armed Forces (FAMA) and the MINUSMA remind us once again of the importance of our shared determination in the fight against violent extremism and terrorism in the region."
Representatives of Burkina Faso, Chad, Libya, Mali, Morocco, Mauritania and Niger and representatives of the Permanent Secretariat of the G5 Sahel participated in the 3rd Steering Committee meeting of the UNODC Sahel Programme from 6 to 8 March 2018 in Dakar. They discussed with experts from UNODC Headquarters, the Regional Office for North Africa and the Middle East as well as the Regional Office for West and Central Africa to identify ways to improve their cooperation in the framework of the Sahel Programme. A total of 59 participants, including 24 women, took part in the three-day meeting.
This meeting was also an opportunity to present the achievements of the cooperation between UNODC and the Sahelian authorities. Among them we find:
- The AIRCOP project which is operating in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, three of the 5 Sahel countries, has displayed positive and encouraging results. For example, the Joint Inter Agency Task Force (JAITF) of the International Airport of Ouagadougou arrested 2 radicalized passengers during its first year of operation and seized 7 kg of heroin and 1 kg of cocaine.
- In Chad, a draft law on terrorism has been submitted to the Government for appraisal and adoption. This was followed by two national legislative drafting workshops on the fight against terrorism. Theses workshops allowed participants "to deepen their knowledge of the international and national legal frameworks in the fight against terrorism.", underlined the counselor to the court of appeal Mr. Alghasim Khamis.
- In Mali, investigations on a judicial file related to money laundering resulted for the first time in the conviction of two individuals in August 2017.
- Burkina Faso has set up special units for the police and gendarmerie. During the attacks of 2 March 2018, these special units intervened in the capital Ouagadougou.
- In Chad, important efforts have been initiated to reform and modernize the penitentiary institutions. The infirmaries of 10 penitentiary establishments were rehabilitated and equipped.
These positive results are first and foremost the result of the work put in place by states themselves, as it was underlined by UNODC Regional Representative Pierre Lapaque: "It is thanks to the contributions of your countries, the efforts of national institutions and the determination of governments of the G5 Sahel Member States that, in recent years, we have been able to contribute to the strengthening of peace and security in the region."
These contributions included recommendations and amendments, discussed and approved during the third day of the meeting. Particular attention was given to the need to further operationalize the G5 Sahel Security Cooperation Platform (PCMS), notably through the creation of a network of financial intelligence units and a pole of excellence for technical and scientific police. Together with the G5 Sahel, UNODC is committed to the development of a guide to ensure the operationalization of the PCMS both at national and regional level.
The need for cooperation between the Maghreb and Sahel countries was also highlighted. There is a "lack of information and exchange between countries, even though they are facing the same problems" deplored the director of the judicial police of Niger, Mr. Boubacar Rabiou Daddy. States expressed their willingness to work together, particularly to share experiences and training, with a focus on the illicit trafficking of firearms.
The Steering Committee of the Sahel Program was created during its 2015 Strategic Meeting, which was followed by two meetings in April 2016 and 2017. These events served as a forum for consultation to assess and guide the implementation of the contribution of UNODC to the United Nations Integrated Strategy for the Sahel (UNISS). The Programme Sahel is one of the nine flagship projects of the Strategy developed by the United Nations Security Council in 2012 to respond to the crises in Libya in 2011 and Mali in 2012, and in the region since then.