The Economic Community of West of African States (ECOWAS) is intensifying its ongoing fight against illicit drug trafficking, organized crime and drug abuse which poses a major threat to the social, political and economic development of West Africa.
As part of the continued efforts, an ECOWAS ministerial conference on illicit drug trafficking, organized crime and drug abuse in West Africa is holding on Monday, 5th of September in Abuja, as part of an ongoing effort at dealing with drug and organized crime situation in the region.
During the meeting, the ministers from the 15 Member States will appraise the threats posed by the related scourges to the social, political and economic development of West Africa. The ministers will also be reviewing the re-validation as well as implementation of the ECOWAS Regional Action Plan on illicit Drug Trafficking, organized crime and Drug Abuse in West Africa.
In addition to this, a detailed agenda for the implementation of activities which will effectively address and counter the challenges of illicit drug trafficking and drug abuse will be finalized.
Drug abuse and its illicit trafficking poses a threat to the social, political and economic development in West Africa. The collaborative efforts at stemming the tide with a regional approach are being funded mainly by the European Union (EU). Efforts by ECOWAS Heads of States and Government to curb its effects were initially put in place by the adoption and endorsement of the ECOWAS political declaration and Regional Action Plan to combat illicit drugs trafficking, organized crime and drug abuse (2008-2011).
Meanwhile, prior to the ministerial meeting, experts on the subject matter and stakeholders from Member States, Mauritania, the African Union (AU), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), INTERPOL and the EU on Friday, September 2nd, deliberated on strategies to address the menace of illicit drugs in the region besides reviewing the 2016-2020 ECOWAS Regional Action Plan.
Held at the ECOWAS Commission, the ECOWAS Commissioner for Social Affairs and Gender Dr. Fatimata Dia Sow urged participants to build on the positive developments arising from regional as well as national efforts.
According to her, some of the positives from the reports on the implementation of the Plan include the fact that some Member States have developed good drug control initiatives and have upped the ante in the fight against cross-border crime including the strengthening of the criminal justice system.
“Included here is the Dakar Initiative and Togo’s National Integrated Programme for the fight against drugs. Also some Member States have already established links with regional and sub-regional organisations with technical partners such as the European Union, the World Customs Organization, Interpol and the UNODC among others” she said.
On the road to a drug free region, there will be inputs from Ministers of Justice and Interior from Member States who are also to endorse a final draft of the 2016-2020 ECOWAS Drug Action Plan that is expected to be adopted by the ECOWAS Heads of State and Government.
It could be recalled that Heads of State had at their 42nd Ordinary Session which held in February 2013, backed the ECOWAS Commission’s Memorandum for the two-year extension of the ECOWAS Drug Action Plan. The extension from the original 2013 to 2015 periods to 2016-2020 is meant to allow for an operational review of the implementation and revalidation of the ECOWAS Regional Action Plan on illicit Drug Trafficking, organized crime related to it and drug abuse in West Africa.