Controlling illegal drugs — a global issue

With this feature,series UN news investigating human trafficking in the Sahel focuses on the illegal drug trade.

according tonew report From the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), drug trafficking in the Sahel region continues to impede security, economic development and the rule of law, while endangering public health.

“Drug trafficking is entrenched in the Sahel region, with negative regional and global consequences,” said Amado Philippe de Andres, head of the agency’s West and Central Africa regional office.

“Increasing drug flows into West Africa and the Sahel region undermine peace and stability in the region,” he said. “This is not only a security issue, as armed groups receive income to fund their operations, but also a public health issue, as criminal organizations exploit population growth to expand their illegal drug markets. It is also a problem.”

UNODC

Cannabis seized in drug sting. (File)

large scale human trafficking

In some Sahel countries (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger), cannabis resin remains the most frequently seized internationally traded drug, followed by cocaine and pharmaceutical opioids.

In fact, cocaine seizures in the Sahel region skyrocketed in 2022, reaching 1,466 kg in 2022, up from an average annual seizure of 13 kg from 2015 to 2020. The UNODC assessment says this suggests large-scale cocaine trafficking exists in the region.

Although annual estimates for 2023 were not available, authorities said 2.3 tonnes of cocaine had already been seized in Mauritania by mid-year.

The region’s geographic location makes it a “natural transit point” on the way to Europe, where increasing amounts of cocaine are produced in South America and demand for cocaine is increasing in Europe as well. That’s what a new report has found.

Experts investigate cocaine in Guinea-Bissau.  (File)

United Nations News/Alexandre Soares

Experts investigate cocaine in Guinea-Bissau. (File)

The ‘vicious cycle’ linking human trafficking and instability

The report said the drug economy and instability in the Sahel are linked through a “vicious circle”, with weak rule of law facilitating the expansion of the drug economy. This, in turn, may provide the financial resources to sustain or escalate conflict and continue to undermine the rule of law.

A new report shows that drug trafficking continues to finance armed groups in the region, including Algeria’s Plateforme des Mouvements du 14 juin d’Alger (Plateforme) and Mali’s Coordination des Mouvements de l’Azawad (CMA). It was revealed that In order to continue its involvement in the conflict, especially through the purchase of weapons.

Meanwhile, human traffickers are using money laundering to disguise illicit proceeds in a growing number of sectors, from gold to real estate. This gives traffickers greater economic leverage and a “sham of legitimacy” while making financial transactions more difficult to trace, the report said.

The Port Authority, established under the framework of the UNODC-supported Container Management Program, seized 260 tons of cocaine in 2023.

UNODC

The Port Authority, established under the framework of the UNODC-supported Container Management Program, seized 260 tons of cocaine in 2023.

Corruption enables traffickers

Corruption and money laundering are “key drivers” of drug trafficking, according to the report.

Recent seizures, arrests and detentions in the Sahel region have revealed how drug trafficking is facilitated by a wide range of individuals, including members of political elites, community leaders and heads of armed groups.

According to UNODC, traffickers use their income to penetrate different levels of the state, effectively allowing them to evade prosecution.

The report also highlights overwhelming evidence of the continued involvement of armed groups in drug trafficking in the region, raising the possibility that terrorist-affiliated organizations may be benefiting indirectly through tough crackdowns. revealed that it was high. ZakatA type of wealth tax, collected from traffickers and tax convoys that cross the territory under their control.

Terrorist groups and organized crime

Combating terrorist organizations operating in the Sahel region was the focus of the recent African Counter-Terrorism High-Level Conference held in Abuja, Nigeria, in late April. Among the concerns raised by heads of state across the region was the growing link between terrorism and organized crime.

UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed spoke at the meeting.explained The situation in Africa, particularly in the Sahel, is dire, he said, noting that the region currently accounts for almost half of the world’s terrorist deaths.

“A key factor accelerating the escalation of insurgency in the Sahel is organized crime, particularly the proliferation and smuggling of firearms across porous borders,” she said. “The availability of weapons gives terrorist groups more power and is often better equipped with the latest technology.”

Children play in front of the police station in Gao, which was attacked by terrorists.

United Nations Photo/Marco Dolmino

Children play in front of the police station in Gao, which was attacked by terrorists.

Daesh and al-Qaeda head south

At the rally, U.N. counterterrorism chief Vladimir Voronkov warned that Daesh, al-Qaeda and their affiliates are making significant profits in the Sahel and moving as far south as the Gulf of Guinea.

“We recognize that no actor can solve today’s threats to peace and security alone,” he said.Said. “Instead, multiple stakeholders need to work together with solutions based on strong national ownership and supported by funding partners.”

A “step change” in efforts to address these complex challenges comes with the launch of the United Nations Joint Appeal on Counter-Terrorism in Africa, which sees 16 United Nations agencies supporting 10 new multi-partner initiatives across Africa. He said they will come together to tackle these important issues. It is a region responsible for border control and counter-terrorism on the continent, and a region responsible for the link between terrorism and organized crime.

A detention center in Bamako, Mali.  (File)

© MINUSMA/Harandane Diko

A detention center in Bamako, Mali. (File)

morning Call

Meanwhile, local and regional actors continue to work together to combat illicit drug trafficking in the Sahel region, UNODC said.

Leonardo Santos Simão, special representative of the UN Secretary-General for West Africa and the Sahel, said the agency’s new report should serve as a “wake-up call”.

“Countries in the Sahel region, together with the international community, must take urgent, concerted and comprehensive action to dismantle drug trafficking networks and give the peoples of these countries the future they deserve.” said.

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