28 October 2008

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York



Following is the text of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Ministerial Conference on Drug Trafficking as a Security Threat to West Africa, delivered by Said Djinnit, Special Representative for West Africa, today, 28 October, in Cape Verde:

It is a pleasure to send greetings to all the participants in this important Ministerial Conference.

Like you, I am deeply concerned by the illicit drug trade that continues to gain ground in West Africa.  The related crimes of arms and human trafficking and money-laundering are having a detrimental impact on many countries in the subregion, inflicting violence on people’s daily lives, distorting economic and commercial activity, undermining respect for the rule of law and threatening peace and security, and sustainable development.

Youth in particular suffer the damage.  They are an invaluable resource for the future, yet are already vulnerable owing to high unemployment.  We must keep them from turning to crime, and protect them from becoming victims of drug abuse and addiction.  It is especially regrettable to see traditional values that have for generations served as unifying and stabilizing forces become degraded, overshadowed and undertaken by the easy attractions of illegal drug profits.

The alarming surge in drug trafficking and organized crime in West Africa comes at a particularly volatile juncture.  The subregion has only recently begun to register commendable, yet still fragile, progress in turning the page from the destructive conflicts of the past to a more promising future of democratic governance.  At the same time, many countries, like others around the world, face the destabilizing impact of galloping increases in food and fuel prices and the effects of the global financial crisis.  Against the backdrop of those serious external challenges, the illegal drug trade, unless tackled promptly and vigorously, could further weaken West Africa’s prospects for consolidating peace and pursuing sustainable development.

The problem you will be examining over the next two days is not limited to West Africa.  That is why it is important for the international community as a whole to work together to find a comprehensive solution that tackles all stages of the problem, from source through transit points to destinations.  I urge the international community to support the efforts that West African States have already initiated, as well as the proposals that you may agree upon at the end of your conference, to put in place an effective subregional strategy to eradicate this menace.  Through its various presences in the region, and in particular through the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the United Nations will continue to work closely with your countries, and with ECOWAS, to build and strengthen capacity and help mobilize resources and other assistance for the implementation of your regional strategy.  In that spirit of partnership, please accept my best wishes for the success of your deliberations.

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For information media • not an official record