UNODC strengthens international cooperation in the Sahel
Terrorism, drugs, illicit trafficking, organized crime and corruption are both recurrent and interrelated phenomena threatening peace and security in the Sahel region. UNDOC estimates that about 18 tons of cocaine and tens of thousands of illegal weapons circulate in the region, adding to and exacerbating the considerable security challenges posed by instability in northern Mali, the absence of state control in southern Libya, and mounting threats from Boko Haram in Nigeria, among others.
In light of these issues, UNODC seeks to further strengthen its activities with the G5, which regroups decision-makers from Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso through a regional approach to security issues, as well as with the Maghreb. It is with this aim that the UNODC Sahel Programme organized a strategy meeting on 19 and 20 January in Dakar, Senegal, to assess and evaluate the considerable progress achieved under the framework of the UN Integrated Strategy for the Sahel, and set a precise direction for its future in the face of recent developments.
The meeting, which was opened by the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for the Sahel, Ms Hiroute Guebre Sellassie, was attended by government representatives from the Sahel and the Maghreb region, including Algeria, Burkina Faso, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco and Niger, as well as UNODC experts. It featured several presentations highlighting achievements and challenges of past and current efforts of UNODC to enhance justice and law enforcement alongside its partners and governmental counterparts. Among these are the establishment of several cooperation networks (such as WACAP and ARIN-WA), the harmonization of a number of national legislations with international conventions on organized crime and terrorism, as well as the strengthening of criminal justice systems and prison management reforms.
To such regard, the Special Envoy also underlined the considerable work already achieved by UNODC, including the strengthening of cooperation in mutual legal assistance; the improvement of knowledge on transnational organized crime and state building in the Sahel; the establishment of awareness programs on firearms trafficking issues; the fight against radicalization of detainees; and improvement of knowledge in the international legal frameworks against terrorism. She also emphasized that "good governance is critical to any search for a solution to the problems of the Sahel, and especially those related to security."
Such statements allude to the growing need for strengthened regional cooperation among Sahel countries, but also between G5 governments and their northern counterparts, in the Maghreb. Following this perspective, participants approved the extension of the Sahel Programme until 2017 (previously 2016), and further integration of Algeria, Libya and Morocco into activities and initiatives in the region.
As the core pillars of the UNODC Sahel Programme, anti-corruption and money laundering measures, border control, efficient criminal justice systems, scientific and forensic evidence, and sound prison management have a high potential to mitigate the causes of current instability in the region. The path to peace, stability, democracy and good governance is visible, but cementing it will require strengthened cooperation and coordination among Sahel countries, and between their governments and the ones in the region. These issues were discussed in length and subsequently approved during the meeting.