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Briefing by Ghada Waly, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, on the situation in West Africa and the Sahel.

The Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Ghada Fathi Waly said, “it is clear that maritime insecurity, illicit flows, and linkages between transnational organized crime and terrorism all represent major obstacles to achieving peace, security and development in West Africa and the Sahel.”

Speaking to the Security Council today (10 Jan) via a video link, Waly reiterated that “alongside efforts to provide humanitarian and emergency assistance, and to prevent conflict and promote dialogue, including among local communities, we must encourage political will and increased international support to strengthen comprehensive and cooperative crime responses.”

She said, “such effective responses must build on international legal and institutional frameworks, regional partnerships, and national capabilities.”

Across West Africa and the Sahel, the world has seen that organized crime, facilitated by corruption, is perpetuating instability, violence, and poverty, said the Executive Director.

She explained, “lack of opportunities and frustration drive more youth to piracy and crime, and leave them more receptive to radicalization narratives. Desperate conditions render more people vulnerable to human trafficking and migrant smuggling, and more women and girls at greater risk of exploitation and sexual violence.”

Waly also noted that Member States in the region have also sounded the alarm about a marked increase in drug trafficking and related insecurity in recent years.

She said, “rising non-medical use of pharmaceutical opioids and drug use disorders are harming health and public safety in West Africa, as the region continues to be heavily affected by illegal tramadol imports.”

At the same time, the Executive Director highlighted that West Africa has emerged as a manufacturer of methamphetamine, mainly destined for markets in East and South-East Asia.

She said, “the greater security threats are posed by cocaine trafficking, with West Africa serving as a major transit area for onward shipments to Western and Central Europe, as well as cannabis resin trafficking.”

Khatir Mahamat Saleh Annadif, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel also briefed the Council via a video link.

He noted that in Burkina Faso, the attacks incessant terrorist groups have led to disenchantment growing public in the face of the state's difficulties reversing the trend murderous, and weakened the legendary consensus of the country. Attacks at large scale against military and civilian targets continued in the Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.

The Special Representative added that in Nigeria, the resurgence of crime and conflicts between farmers and herders diverted attention from extremist violence in the northeast, which nevertheless remains omnipresent. Other incidents, although small magnitude, in northern Côte d'Ivoire, Benin and Togo demonstrate that the much-mentioned threat of acts of terrorism moving from the Sahel towards the coastal countries of the Gulf of Guinea is a reality.

Annadif reiterated, “one of the major consequences of these security developments is that our region is experiencing a multifaceted humanitarian crisis, characterized by rising food prices, increasing poverty due to COVID-19 and loss of crops due to drought.”

He continued, “over 38 million people are at risk of food shortage by the next lean season, an increase of 23 per cent compared to last year.”

The Special Representative warned that “growing insecurity has led to massive population displacements and abandonment of land agriculture by millions of displaced people.”

According the UN, in November 2021, there were more than 8 million refugees, displaced internals, returnees and stateless persons in West Africa and 4.1 million in the G5 Sahel countries (Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania).

Annadif also noted, “the resurgence of coups, especially in West Africa, are often the consequence of political practices totally out of sync with aspirations of the populations,” adding that “in this context, the ECOWAS for its active engagement with the crises in Mali and in Guinea. UNOWAS supports and accompanies these efforts to restore order constitutional as soon as possible.”


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