|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6717th Meeting (AM & PM)
Security Council Presidential Statement Calls for System-Wide UN Action to Combat
Transnational Crime — Drug Trafficking, Piracy, Terrorism — in West Africa, Sahel
Secretary-General Warns Inaction by World Community Could Be Catastrophic;
Togo’s President, Head of UN Drug Office, Some 40 Other Speakers Address Meeting
Strongly concerned by the impact of transnational organized crime on West Africa and the Sahel region, including the corruption and indiscriminate violence often associated with it, the Security Council today called for system-wide United Nations action to help combat the spread of illicit weapons and drug trafficking, piracy and terrorist activity in a cross-section of fragile countries already struggling to overcome the consequences of years of civil war and instability.
Concluding a ministerial-level debate chaired by Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé, President of Togo, which holds the Council’s presidency for the month, the 15-nation body adopted a statement (S/PRST/2012/2) expressing “serious concern” about the threats posed by transnational organized crime in West Africa and the Sahel region, and stressing that such threats undermined governance, social and economic development and stability, created difficulties in the delivery of humanitarian assistance, and threatened to reverse peacebuilding advances.
The Council also expressed concern about the increasing violence perpetrated by armed groups, exacerbated by the spread of weapons from within and outside the region, and it welcomed regional initiatives such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons. Encouraging coordination of the activities of the United Nations and its Member States, the Council encouraged international long-term capacity-building and commended in that regard the important work of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
Further by its statement, the Council commended the leaders of West African and Sahelian countries for the important national and regional measures they had adopted to tackle transnational organized crime. It urged regional States to extend their support to the African Union Plan of Action on Drug Control and Crime Prevention (2007-2012) and to renew the ECOWAS action plan on illicit trafficking, organized crime and drug use. In addition, it requested the Secretary-General to provide specific recommendations on how the Council could deal with the question of organized crime, including trafficking, in West Africa and the Sahel.
Speaking in his national capacity, President Gnassingbé said security in West Africa and the Sahel was tenuous, especially as piracy and terrorism were becoming increasingly prevalent. He said that the confluence of those trends with ongoing transnational criminal activity had made the region susceptible to trafficking of all kinds. Further, countries emerging from conflict often had to cope with high levels of poverty, making them easy prey for outside criminal networks. Worse, the struggle against the combined ills was siphoning off vitally necessary intellectual, human and financial resources, which should be devoted to development.
While pleased the Security Council and the wider United Nations were not indifferent to threats to peace and security in West Africa and the Sahel, he said that due to the scope of the problem “our States need more help, both material and financial,” to combat often heavily armed criminal groups that have focused on our region. Calling for consistent, common and coordinated strategies in that regard, he also said that the major way the global community could contribute would be to seriously consider setting up an international contact group on transnational crime, similar to that on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia. “We should not allow organized crime to destabilize West Africa and the Sahel,” he said, cautioning that failure to act would undermine hard fought development gains.
In his opening remarks, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said organized crime, drug trafficking and piracy were on the rise in the region and that last year’s upheaval in Libya had sparked an influx of weapons. Fears were mounting that the situation could worsen further still for millions of people due to a growing food crisis rooted in drought, high food prices and conflict. “There is even fear that we could see in this region a crisis of the magnitude of the one in the Horn of Africa,” he warned, urging: “We must not allow this to happen”.
Further, as West Africa remained a transit point for drug traffickers between South America and Europe, the potential for instability would continue to grow and seriously challenge the peace operations in the region authorized by the Council. To address the issue, the United Nations, he said, was working closely with the authorities in Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia and Sierra Leone in the context of the West African Coast Initiative, and it had begun to build Transnational Organized Crime Units trained by the United Nations Police.
Next drawing the Council’s attention to reported terrorist activity in the Sahel, Mr. Ban said the assessment mission he dispatched in December 2011 to look at the effects of the Libya crisis there had found that groups such as Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb had begun to form alliances with drug traffickers and other criminal syndicates. Such alliances had the potential to further destabilize the region and reverse hard-won democratic and peacebuilding achievements.
Since the consequences of inaction could be catastrophic, the United Nations was already deeply engaged in helping the countries of West Africa and the Sahel combat crime, drug trafficking, piracy and terror. “We have seen this toxic brew in other regions, in Africa and elsewhere. We must now be ready to do even more to keep the situation from escalating,” he said, adding that the warnings were there; the trends clear. “We have a responsibility to cooperate even more closely with Member States, as well as with regional and international organizations.” The common goal must be to ensure durable peace and stability in West Africa and the Sahel.
Echoing the Secretary-General’s strong concern, UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov said the West African transit route, which fed the European cocaine market, was now thought to generate some $900 million a year. South American drug cartels were exploiting regional vulnerabilities in West Africa: poverty, unemployment, lack of border control, weakness of law enforcement structures, and endemic corruption. For those criminals, he said, West Africa represented not only the shortest, but also the most cost-effective, channel for trafficking illicit drugs to Europe.
Yet, he said, drugs and increasing incidents of piracy were not West Africa’s only concern: trafficking in human beings, arms, and counterfeit medicines had also been reported; the smuggling of migrants and other illegal activities were growing. In the face of those transnational issues, UNODC’s approach had been strategic and tactical. It represented a multidimensional effort that acknowledged the multifaceted nature of the challenges. Its approach recognized that, while the problems in West Africa were local in nature, the solutions were often global.
He cautioned, however, that international efforts would be ineffective if they were not based on a clear understanding of the nature and scope of existing challenges. A new threat assessment in the region was being undertaken by his Office. To be completed soon, it would be focused on the trafficking routes across the Atlantic Ocean. He stressed the need for continued political commitment and commended the countries in the region for the efforts being undertaken to combat the threats. However, additional resources were needed to sustain reforms in the long-term and contribute to security-sector reform.
Among the nearly 40 delegations who participated in the day-long debate, most speakers urged comprehensive and coordinated action to break the backs of well-funded, tech-savvy and opportunistic criminal networks taking advantage of weak institutions and porous borders in West Africa and the Sahel. Diplomats from the region called specifically for the Security Council and the wider international community to help them identify and root out terrorist groups, such as Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, allegedly involved in trafficking and other illegal activities throughout the region, and Boko Harem, which had allegedly carried out deadly attacks in northern Nigeria.
Many speakers believed that violent activity from armed groups in the region had been exacerbated by the proliferation of weapons smuggled out of Libya after the fall of Muammar al-Qadhafi. While the representative of the United States said her Government was providing some $40 million to help Libya recover and secure stockpiles and components, including man-portable air defence systems (MANPADS), Alexander Zmeevskiy, Special Envoy of the President of Russian Federation said that pressing concerns about the “leak” of such dangerous weapons into the Sahel region had led his country’s delegation to press for the adoption of Security Council resolution 2017 (2011), which established the responsibility of the new Libyan authorities to take the necessary steps to prevent proliferation of portable surface-to-air missiles, chemical weapons stockpiles and other small arms.
Francisco Caetano Jose Madeira, Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission for Counter-Terrorism Cooperation, said failure to comprehensively, effectively, and collectively address the threats posed by transnational organized crime and terrorism in West Africa and the Sahel region put at risk the very foundations of viable democratic States continent wide. In recent years, he said, the concerned regions, and the continent as a whole, had undertaken commendable efforts to combat crime, terrorism and piracy. Such endeavours deserved international support.
But, as efforts were redoubled to confront transnational organized crime, institution-building and reform were crucial, as well as strengthened rule of law and accountability. Confronting crime was not only about patrolling borders and waters, he said — alternative economic opportunities should be created for the most vulnerable sections of the population by addressing the underlying socio-economic conditions that gave rise to crime, poverty, environmental degradation and social exclusion. The world community must now determine what could be done, in a spirit of shared responsibilities, to confront those menaces.
Also speaking were senior Government Ministers from France, Morocco and Benin.
The meeting was also addressed by the representatives of the China, Colombia, Germany, United Kingdom, Guatemala, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, South Africa, India, Portugal, Côte d’Ivoire, Brazil, Italy, Turkey, Finland, Egypt, Japan, Tunisia, Norway, Canada, Luxembourg, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Israel, Mauritania, Australia, Nigeria, Mali, Algeria, Sudan and Uganda.
The Deputy Secretary-General of the External Action Service of the European Union also spoke.
The meeting began at 10:14 a.m. and was suspended at 1:10 p.m. It resumed at 3:25 p.m. and was adjourned at 5:35 p.m.
The full text of S/PRST/2012/2 reads as follows:
“The Security Council reaffirms its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.
“The Security Council expresses concern about the serious threats to international peace and stability in different regions of the world, in particular in West Africa and the Sahel Region, posed by transnational organized crime, including illicit weapons and drug trafficking, piracy and armed robbery at sea, as well as terrorism and its increasing links, in some cases, with transnational organized crime and drug trafficking. The Council stresses that these growing international threats, particularly in West Africa and the Sahel Region, contribute to undermining governance, social and economic development and stability, and creating difficulties for the delivery of humanitarian assistance, while threatening to reverse peacebuilding advances in the region.
“The Security Council is also strongly concerned by the increasing violence perpetrated by armed groups in the region, which has been exacerbated by the proliferation of weapons, from within and outside the region, that threaten peace, security and stability of States, recalls in this context its resolution 2017 (2011) and its previous resolutions and presidential statements on the impact of the transnational threats mentioned above and welcomes regional initiatives such as the ECOWAS Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons, Their Ammunition and Other Related Material.
“The Security Council acknowledges the importance of system-wide United Nations action, in order to offer coherent and coordinated responses to transnational threats mentioned above, including through the use of best practices and exchange of positive experiences from relevant initiatives in other regions of the world, such as the Paris Pact.
“The Security Council notes with concern that the threats mentioned above may threaten the security of countries on its agenda, including post-conflict States, and encourages the coordination of United Nations actions as well as Member States' actions in fighting these threats. The Security Council encourages international long-term capacity-building efforts and regional initiatives. In this regard, the Security Council commends the important work of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and encourages the UNODC Executive Director to further assist States of the region, in collaboration with other relevant UN entities, and calls on UNODC to brief the Council as necessary.
“The Security Council calls on States that have not yet ratified or implemented the relevant international conventions, such as the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961 as amended by the 1972 Protocol, the Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971, the United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988, the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime of 2000 and the Protocols thereto and the United Nations Convention against Corruption of 2003, to do so.
“The Security Council recognizes the support provided by bilateral and multilateral actors, including the European Union, African Union and ECOWAS, to efforts aimed at combating transnational organized crime and calls on the international community and the United Nations system to strengthen their cooperation with regional organizations, and initiatives such as the Bamako Ministerial Conference on Impunity and Human Rights in West Africa, the Ministerial Conference of African Atlantic States, the Group of Eight Paris Conference on Transatlantic Trafficking of Cocaine and the Transatlantic Symposium on Dismantling Transnational Illicit Networks.
“The Security Council commends the States and leaders of West Africa and the Sahel Region for the important initiatives and measures they have adopted, at national and regional levels, to tackle the threat of organized crime in their region. The Security Council urged States of the Region to extend their support to the African Union Plan of Action on Drug Control and Crime Prevention 2007-2012 and the “ECOWAS Regional Action Plan to address the Growing Problem of Illicit Drug Trafficking, Organized Crime and Drug Abuse in West Africa (2008-2011)” and to renew the ECOWAS Action Plan into 2012 and beyond. The Security Council also urged them to extend their support to the West Africa Coast Initiative (WACI). The Security Council calls on the international community to continue to support these initiatives, including border control.
“The Security Council reaffirms its commitment to international law and the Charter of the United Nations, and to an international order based on the rule of law and international law, which are essential for cooperation among States in addressing common challenges, thus contributing to the maintenance of international peace and security. In this regard, the Security Council stresses the importance of implementing relevant international agreements, and of strengthening international, regional and transregional cooperation including capacity-building in justice and security institutions in order to investigate and prosecute, as appropriate, persons and entities responsible for these crimes.
“The Security Council invites the Secretary-General to consider these threats as a factor in conflict prevention strategies, conflict analysis, integrated missions’ assessment,planning and peacebuilding support and to consider including in his reports analysis of the role played by these threats in situations on the Council’s agenda, in view to strengthen a coordinated and synergetic effort by relevant United Nations entities and requests him to report on specific recommendations on ways and means in which the Council may deal with the question of transnational organized crime including drug trafficking in West Africa and the Sahel region, taking into account the views of Member States, recent experiences in the field and the contents of this statement”.
The Security Council met this morning to consider matters related to peace and security in Africa, focusing on the impact of transnational organized crime on peace, security and stability in West Africa and the Sahel region. Council members had before them the report of the assessment mission on the impact of the Libyan crisis on the Sahel region (document S/2012/42), which was the subject of a briefing on 26 January (See Press Release SC/10533).
Also before the Council was a concept note on the subject at hand, prepared by the representative of Togo, which holds the 15-nation body’s presidency for the month. That document (S/2012/83) emphasizes that classic transnational organized crime and piracy are intertwined and reciprocally fuel each other in areas such as arms supply and drug trafficking, among others, to compromise security, political stability and the development of West Africa and the Sahel.
As part of such a holistic approach to the matter, the Council, over the past three years, has repeatedly raised awareness about the potential security threats created by the trafficking of drugs, arms, oil, humans, counterfeit goods and other goods. For example, in West Africa, drug trafficking is increasingly intertwined with other forms of criminal activity in the region, including oil bunkering. These trafficking networks are, in turn, financing armed militancy and terrorism in the Sahel region and piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.
According to the note, while the tremendous efforts of countries in West Africa and the Sahel region to fight organized crime have yielded some success, such progress was being outstripped by criminal networks that were transforming rapidly and playing host to ever more sophisticated criminal, as well as militant, collaboration and innovation. Transnational trafficking networks now appear to be deep-rooted and more dangerous than ever, establishing alliances with both non-State armed actors.
“As a result, there have been flagrant innovations in the West African criminal markets,” the note says, as the revenues of criminal service providers — arms traffickers, document forgers, pharmaceutical and DVD counterfeiters, couriers and protection providers — intertwine with the transatlantic cocaine trade and other forms of lawless activities in the region. “At this juncture, it appears that the underlying problem is not geographical but rather one of governance,” states the note. More broadly, global trafficking networks have exploited the regions’ favourable environment for creating political-criminal partnerships, generating what the note calls “an entirely new scale of illicit financing.”
The note says that despite the ongoing efforts of regional actors such as the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), without considerable external assistance, States in West Africa and the Sahel will not be able to eradicate illegal trafficking networks any time soon. Indeed, it was increasingly clear that concerned regional officials were often thwarted by individuals and criminal networks more powerful than they were. The primary obstacle to holistic action appears to be a lack of strategic coordination, not only within, but outside the United Nations, which has a wide range of expertise to offer in tackling the complex issue.
The Secretary-General’s representative in the United Nations Office for West Africa has called for consolidated strategic direction in international efforts. In addition, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs also recently suggested the need for a single mechanism that would “bring together all the affected countries and major outside actors in a coordinated manner to discuss the issues and devise solutions”. The note says that the advantage of such an approach might be its greater inclusivity, since it would ally the United Nations with partners such as the African Union and INTERPOL, among others, to develop tailored programmes and action plans. Another alternative might be to explore how the United Nations could facilitate scaled-up investigative and judicial assistance to the regions through the international community.
Council President FAURE ESSOZIMNA GNASSINGBÉ, President of Togo, Speaking in his national capacity, said the issue of the impact of transnational organized crime on West Africa and the Sahel was of the utmost importance. The security situation in those regions continued to be unstable, as there were several “tenuous” States and new threats, such as piracy on the high seas and terrorism, were becoming increasingly intense, putting pressure on efforts to promote social progress and democracy. Terrorist groups in the Sahel had only increased in intensity following the Libyan crisis, which had also unfortunately led to an influx into the region of illegal weapons of all types.
He said that the confluence of all those trends had made the region susceptible to trafficking of all kinds. Indeed, recent reports compiled by United Nations agencies indicated that the regions porous borders and tenuous situation also made it a preferred hub for the trafficking and synthesis of drugs. Further, countries emerging from conflict often struggled with high levels of poverty, making them easy prey for international criminal networks seeking to benefit from corruption and weak institutions. The Governments of the region and the wider international community had only the most meagre idea of what it would take to tackle such crimes. “What is known is that transnational organized crime is a major obstacle to the development of the economies of our States,” he said, stressing that that struggle was siphoning off vitally necessary intellectual, human and financial resources which should be devoted to development.
He said that organized crime also compromised efforts to tackle poverty, and the Governments of the regions had taken major political and legal steps to address it. To that end, he hailed the strategy put in place by the Economic Community of West African States as the appropriate framework to fight organized crime in the region and he was pleased that the United Nations and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) cooperated with the regional body to reinvigorate that plan. Turning to the situation in his own country, he said that Togo tackled organized crimes on all fronts, including through the adoption of a national strategic framework to combat drugs and crime. That integrated strategy 2009-2013 was based on key priorities, from the strengthening of coordination activities to capacity-building to thwart criminal activities. He thanked the partners that had helped make that plan a reality and hoped they would continue.
Continuing, he was pleased the international community, including the Security Council and the wider United Nations, were not indifferent to threats to peace and security in West Africa and the Sahel. To that end, he highlighted recent decisions and resolutions dealing with piracy off the coast of Somalia and ongoing support for ECOWAS efforts. Nevertheless, due to the scope of the problem “our States need more help, both material and financial, to combat often heavily armed criminal groups that have focused on our region,” he said. Along with strengthening and better equipping security structures, he called for enhanced legal services and cooperation with INTERPOL. He also said that a consistent, common and coordinated effort by the States was indispensible, along with international support, to vanquishing organized crime and other criminal activities. Illicit drugs must be combated, including in the countries where they were consumed.
“Our countries are aware of the responsibility that falls to them when it comes to political governance and strengthening the rule of law,” he said, stressing in that regard that those Governments promoted education, job creation and the work of civil society organizations. A major way the international community could contribute to that effort would be to seriously consider creating an international contact group on transnational crime similar to that on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia. “The challenges are of such size and scope that international actions must be intensified,” he reiterated, urging broader support for States of West Africa and the Sahel. He was convinced the Council would spare no effort in continuing to consider the issue. “We should not allow organized crime to destabilize West Africa and the Sahel,” he said, cautioning that destabilization would undermine hard fought development gains.
Secretary-General BAN KI-MOON, noting the growing concern about stability in West Africa and the Sahel region, said organized crime, drug trafficking and piracy were on the rise. The upheaval in Libya was having side effects, such as an influx of weapons. A growing food crisis rooted in drought, high food prices and conflict currently affected millions and had raised fears that the situation could worsen further still. “There is even fear that we could see in this region a crisis of the magnitude of the one in the Horn of Africa,” he warned, urging, “we must not allow this to happen”. The meeting, therefore, was very timely.
He said that transnational organized crime, including drug trafficking, affected peace, security and stability wherever it occurred, undermining the authority and effectiveness of State institutions, eroding the rule of law and weakening law enforcement structures. As West Africa remained a transit point for drug traffickers between South America and Europe, the potential for instability would continue to grow and seriously challenge the peace operations in the region authorized by the Council. To address the issue, the United Nations was working closely with the authorities in Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia and Sierra Leone in the context of the West African Coast Initiative, and it had begun to build Transnational Organized Crime Units trained by the United Nations Police.
“But this is merely the beginning of what we must do,” said Mr. Ban. The Governments of the region would need the support of regional organizations and the wider international community to build and sustain the required capacity in information-sharing, prevention, investigation, law enforcement and border management. That should unfold in parallel with creating alternative sustainable livelihoods and addressing the challenges of poverty, human insecurity and underdevelopment. Also crucial was to strengthen the capacity of peace operations in the region by embedding specialized units in the missions to complement the efforts of host State police and other law enforcement agencies.
He said he was especially disturbed by reports of terrorist activity. The assessment mission he had dispatched in December 2011 to look at the effects of the Libya crisis on the Sahel had found that terrorist groups, such as Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, had begun to form alliances with drug traffickers and other criminal syndicates. Such alliances had the potential to further destabilize the region and reverse hard-won democratic and peacebuilding achievements. The growing incidence of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea exacerbated the situation.
The consequences of inaction could be catastrophic, especially for oil-producing nations frequently targeted for their high-value petroleum assets and for countries — both coastal and in the hinterland — that relied extensively on their ports for national revenue. Just last week off the coast of Nigeria, a piracy incident had resulted in the murder of the ship’s captain and engineer. In November 2011, he had deployed an assessment mission to the Gulf of Guinea to assess the threat and to help the Government of Benin to formulate its response. It had highlighted that any comprehensive maritime security strategy should be encompassed within a wider transnational organized crime response, which included drug trafficking, illicit fishing, illicit toxic waste dumping, and illegal or clandestine immigration or migration. He reiterated the mission’s recommendation for a regional summit of Gulf of Guinea Heads of State as early as possible in 2012, with a view to developing a comprehensive regional anti-piracy strategy.
The United Nations was already deeply engaged in helping the countries of West Africa and the Sahel to combat crime, drug trafficking, piracy and terror, he said, adding, “We have seen this toxic brew in other regions, in Africa and elsewhere. We must now be ready to do even more to keep the situation from escalating. The warnings are there; the trends are clear. We have a responsibility to cooperate even more closely with Member States, as well as with regional and international organizations”. The common goal must be to ensure durable peace and stability in West Africa and the Sahel region.
YURY FEDOTOV, Executive Director, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, said the transnational challenges in the region had evolved from social and criminal problems into threats to security, stability, and development. The West African transit route fed a European cocaine market, which, in recent years, had grown four-fold, reaching an amount almost equal to the United States market. He estimated that cocaine trafficking in West and Central Africa generated some $900 million annually. South American drug cartels were exploiting regional vulnerabilities in West Africa: poverty, unemployment, lack of border control, weakness of law enforcement structures, and endemic corruption.
For those criminals, he said, West Africa represented, not only the shortest, but also the most cost-effective channel for trafficking illicit drugs to Europe. In doing so, they used a range of different transportation methods: second-hand aircraft, large and small ships and container shipments. West Africa was not only a cocaine transit area. The local consumption market was growing fast, and drug use was increasing across the region. There were up to 2.5 million drug users in West and Central Africa. It was also important to understand the extent to which drug trafficking in the region might be linked to the piracy.
However, he said, piracy and drugs were not West Africa’s only concern: trafficking in human beings, arms, and counterfeit medicines had also been reported; the smuggling of migrants and other illegal activities were growing. In the face of those transnational issues, UNODC’s approach had been strategic and tactical. It represented a multidimensional effort that acknowledged the multifaceted nature of the challenges. Its approach recognized that, while the problems in West Africa were local in nature, the solutions were often global.
In promoting an inter-agency approach, for example, with the United Nations Office for West Africa and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), UNODC tried to deliver practical action through regional programmes, while designing activities that complemented each other across different regions. Its overall goal was to support local institutions and encourage partnerships among States and regional organizations, such as the Economic Community of West African States. He added his voice to the need to renew the ECOWAS Praia Political Declaration and Regional Action Plan beyond 2011, as one of the best means of united local and international responses. The West African Coast Initiative, operating under UNODC’s umbrella, supported the ECOWAS regional action plan, and he thanked UNODC’s partners for their financial support of the initiative.
Highlighting other important initiatives, he drew attention to the Global Container Control Programme operating on both sides of the Atlantic and complemented by a similar programme, AIRCOP, for both region’s airports. UNODC’s development of Transnational Crime Units was also a role model for the future; those had been established in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea-Bissau. The units in Sierra Leone and Guinea-Bissau had both reported seizures, and the unit in Sierra Leone had investigated 50 cases of crimes between January and August 2011, resulting in 25 convictions and seven referrals to the High Court for trial. In the same period, more than 1,800 kilos of cannabis had been seized.
However, he cautioned, that work could not be effective if it was not based on a clear understanding of the nature and scope of existing challenges. A new threat assessment in the region was being undertaken by his Office. To be completed soon, it would be focused on the trafficking routes across the Atlantic Ocean. The November 2011 United Nations inter-agency mission to Benin and Nigeria had defined piracy in the Gulf of Guinea as a major threat and the report had recommended better coordination. UNODC planned to use its West African programme to translate the report’s recommendations into firm action. In the Sahel region, where concern remained about the security situation, UNODC was assisting with implementation of a regional initiative on judicial cooperation, including in Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Burkina Faso.
Concluding, he stressed the need for continued political commitment and commended the countries in the region for the efforts being undertaken to combat the threats. However, additional resources were needed to sustain reforms in the long-term and contribute to security-sector reform.
EDOUARD COURTIAL, Secretary of State attached to the State Minister, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of France, said that West Africa, with its numerous conflicts, was facing diverse challenges from transnational organized crime, which were negatively impacting good governance and reconstruction. The entire West African coast was affected by maritime and armed robbery incidents, and organized crime networks were being formed in the Sahel region, as a point of origin. Weapons trade, money laundering and human trafficking, and its spread, including to Europe, were other challenges. The “penetration” of the money reaped into various economies, and the violence of criminal groups “captured” markets, undermined Governments and threatened economic development.
He said that the instability caused by those “various traffickings” required a coordinated response and a policy of reconstruction and crisis prevention that included combating transnational organized crime. France supported the West Africa initiative and UNODC’s efforts to assist States in the region; their voices must be heard and actions buttressed. It was also convinced of ECOWAS’ central role, and enhancing cooperation in the context of the police and judiciary was more important than ever. In that, he urged the establishment of national criminal justice systems and access to them. The United Nations conventions represented an exemplary framework, which should be universalized and implemented. The States of West Africa and the Sahel could count on the strong support of France and the European Union, which also supported the Secretary-General’s continued attention to the challenge of transnational organized crime, he said. The focus should be on the destabilization’s main factor, namely drug trafficking.
SUSAN RICE (United States) said organized criminal activity was a scourge everywhere, but West Africa and the Sahel were plagued by a “particularly insidious version” that preyed on societies that were struggling to emerge from years of civil conflict. The Security Council must help those countries combat such criminal activity, working in tandem with the African Union, ECOWAS and other regional and subregional organizations. The United States supported the ongoing activities of the West Africa Coast Initiative, ECOWAS and numerous other bilateral and subregional partnerships. Yet, despite the success those mechanisms had had, the threats continued to grow, and the countries in the regions faced increasingly complex criminal activities, such as trafficking in counterfeit goods and illicit arms and drugs.
Such activities threatened regional stability by fomenting conflict and undermining development. Continuing, she said that drug trafficking was becoming increasingly intertwined with other forms of trafficking and criminal activity in the regions. The United States continued to support the concerned States’ efforts to bolster their border security, particularly since it was estimated that more than $1 billion in cocaine had been trafficked through West Africa last year. She said that kidnapping was being used to support terrorist networks in the Sahel, and it was becoming more evident that such groups were able to plan and carry out criminal activities and attacks against soft targets across vast distances.
Another major cause for concern was poorly secured stockpiles of weapons, which were a potential source of income for arms smugglers in the region. “We encourage States to assist, where possible, efforts to destroy poorly secured or obsolete stockpiles,” she said, specifically noting the fallout from the Libyan crisis in that regard. The United States was providing some $40 million to help Libya recover and secure stockpiles and components, including man-portable air defence systems. The United States also supported the work of sanctions committees on man-portable air defence system (MANDPADS) and other proliferation threats and encouraged States to help Libyan authorities and assist them in that effort.
ALEXANDER ZMEEVSKIY, Special Envoy of the President of Russian Federation on Countering Terrorism and Organized Crime, said recent events had shown that globalization presented both new potential, and new challenges for development, and the way the international community responded to the challenges could have implications for entire regions. One of the key challenges was ensuring security and stability in West Africa and the Sahel, especially in the face of the increase in piracy, an illegal trade in drugs, small arms smuggling and terrorism. The problem of the continuing “leak” of weapons out of Libya into the Sahel was also a pressing matter and the Russian Federation was concerned by the intersection of terrorism in the Maghreb, with the smuggling of oil, weapons and diamonds.
He went on to say that old threats remained equally troubling, including human trafficking and widespread corruption. Mounting tension between religious communities was also a breeding ground for instability. In light of all that, major efforts should be made by countries in the regions, especially towards adoption of a well-coordinated strategy to address the flow of Libyan weapons. With that in mind, the Russian Federation had promoted Security Council resolution 2017 (2011), which established the responsibility of the new Libyan Government and the wider international community to urgently tackle that problem. He said that the spread of MANPADS posed a “particular danger,” and combating it required regional efforts, backed by broader initiatives carried out within the context of a global counter-terrorist forum.
“We need to enhance [the efforts] of countries of a region to strengthen border security, protect airports, and promote the training of law enforcement bodies,” he continued, adding that it would also be useful to establish a broad regional platform for tackling such challenges and to support the ECOWAS strategy. More attention must be paid to de-radicalizing the population, through addressing employment and education. Countering extremism would undermine efforts to find new recruits. It was also extremely important to ensure strict respect for demands for international law and the Charter, including through ensuing that States in the region fully participated in the major United Nations anti-terrorism and anti-corruption treaties.
YOUSSEF AMRANI, Minister Delegate for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Morocco, said that transnational organized crime — a real challenge to the stability of the West African and Sahel regions — threatened State sovereignty and all efforts to consolidate peace and development. Today, those regions must respond to increasingly complex challenges, stemming from, above all, drug trafficking and a new generation of transnational organized crimes, which featured major acts of robbery, piracy and terrorism. The criminal networks were intertwined and fed each other; they were global in nature and had destabilizing and destructive consequences. The increasingly clear link between transnational organized criminals and armed groups and separatist movements, as well as small terrorist groups in the region, was worrying, and must be given great attention by the international community.
He lauded regional and national efforts, and acknowledged current initiatives under way to respond to new challenges in the Gulf of Guinea. Morocco had brought together 22 countries in 2009, following which a ministerial conference had created a platform to help the coastal countries face the challenges stemming from the Atlantic Ocean, through flexible cooperation and coordination mechanisms that complemented existing institutions and were free of “institutional weight”. The first follow-on meeting of security ministers would take place soon, with the aim of assessing measures to be implemented in connection with the action plan adopted in November 2010. But, the problems could not be addressed by a single State or region acting on its own; enhanced concerted international action was crucial, as were comprehensive mechanisms that bridged the West and North African subregions. A shared responsibility was also needed to combat transnational drug trafficking, namely of cocaine, and he called on the international community to assist in that regard. Sharing expertise, intelligence and know-how in that fight would help developing countries shore up capacity.
WANG MIN (China) said the rise in illegal drug and arms trafficking, piracy and terrorist activities seriously threatened peace and stability, eroded economic and social development, and negatively impacted the humanitarian situation in the affected regions. He hoped the countries of West Africa and the Sahel would learn from the successful experiences of other regions and improve their strategies and strengthen capacity-building to combat those challenges. But, those countries were developing nations and urgently needed the active support of the international community. Indeed, a lack of resources, technical support and capacity-building formed the “bottleneck” in their struggle, and he implored the international community to provide effective assistance.
The Council, he said, should remain seized of the issue of transnational organized crime and adopt actions at an appropriate time. From the long-term perspective, the root causes of poverty and lagging social and economic development must be addressed. The security situation and weapons proliferation in West Africa and the Sahel region exacerbated the problem and he hoped the relevant parties in the international community would help deal with those crises, prudently and through dialogue.
NÉSTOR OSORIO (Colombia) said West Africa and the Sahel were now encountering a “critical security situation” driven by, among others, an increasing terrorist presence, an illicit trade in drugs, and the spread of small arms and light weapons. Such threats required intensified international support to assist States in those regions, through the adoption of coherent, focused measures against transnational organized crime. The international community must help the communities in the region address immediate challenges, while working to develop long-term solutions. To that end, Colombia supported calls to tackle youth unemployment and to promote education and opportunity for all. State institutions must be bolstered, so that basic services were provided to all, and in that endeavour, the help of United Nations agencies would be invaluable.
At the same time, he said, the scope and complexity of the phenomenon required the attention of the entire international community, and to that end, the General Assembly must continue to be a forum for comprehensive discussion of the issue. He was concerned that the Assembly’s decisions on counter-terrorism and transnational organized crime were routinely ignored, which could be seen as a “step backwards”, to the detriment of the countries of West Africa and the Sahel. He went on say that the international community must help the countries of the concerned regions establish effective judicial systems, promote information exchange and implement international legal agreements. Finally, he reiterated his call for international support, and stressed that isolated actions would not be enough to help the countries of those regions combat such complex challenges.
PETER WITTIG (Germany) said the international community had been watching the situation in West Africa and the Sahel with growing concern. Indeed, piracy, drugs and arms trafficking, people and migrant snuggling and other criminal activities were being facilitated by weak governance and corruption. In recent years the “partnerships of convenience”, which had become breeding grounds for terrorism and other criminal activity, had become major concerns. Most States in the regions lacked the equipment and capacity to tackle threats of such scope. Yet the very term “transnational organized crime” meant that no country should be left alone to address them.
With that in mind, he said that strong political will and regional activities were necessary, as well as global support through, among others, broad implementation of UNODC frameworks. Those included treaties against the smuggling of migrants and other important legal tools “to counter these scourges against humanity”. The ECOWAS plan to combat illegal drug trafficking represented a promising framework, and he called for it to be extended through 2012-2013. In addition, the West African Coast Initiative could serve as an example for other regions.
He said that effective regional strategies relied heavily on the stability and capacity of local partners, and to that end, the root causes of criminal activity must be addressed, through promotion of rule of law, good governance and socio-economic development. For its part, his Government had been an active partner in such areas, including providing support for the Global Container Programme, and helping to bolster justice systems throughout West Africa to enhance police capacity in post-conflict situations. It had also supported Côte d’Ivoire in controlling the spread of small arms and light weapons, and supported the Sahel regional development strategy. Recently, the cooperation agreement on establishing the West African Science Service Centre on Climate Change had been signed. That centre would aim at preserving livelihoods in the region and would prove a vital mechanism in the future, especially since climate change was certainly one of the root causes of the emerging food security crisis in that region.
MARK LYALL GRANT (United Kingdom) said it was right that the Council had recently focused on the potential threats to West Africa and the Sahel stemming from all forms of trafficking, which undermined stability and economic development, fuelling conflict and terrorism. He shared the view that many West African countries appeared to be leaving behind a long and troubled period of civil war, but the region still faced a network of interlinked challenges, as well as a growing humanitarian crisis and the growing influence of Al-Qaida, among other challenges — making the area one requiring an international focus. The United Kingdom was working closely with its partners to ensure a coherent approach. A key vehicle was the European Union Sahel strategy, which his country was pleased to support.
Last year, he noted, saw a significant increase in the volume and impact of armed robbery and piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, linked to illegal fishing, oil bunkering and trafficking in narcotics, people and weapons, which appeared concentrated off the coasts of several regional countries. It was in everyone’s interest, therefore, to address those threats to prevent further destabilization. Action must be taken now, and he hoped the West African Heads of State would prioritize such activities. The United Kingdom strongly welcomed the leadership shown by ECOWAS and the Economic Community of Central African States to work together on a maritime strategy and an industry-led initiative to create a maritime trade information-sharing centre, similar to the one in his country aimed at tackling piracy off the Somali coast. He said drug trafficking impeded economic development and directly threatened those countries battling illegal drug use. The traffickers regularly passed from West Africa to Europe, and he cited statistics of recent seizures to illustrate the scope of the problem.
GERT ROSENTHAL (Guatemala) described transnational organized crime as a universal problem that transformed especially low and medium-income countries into transit points of illicit activities, mainly drug trafficking, human trafficking, contraband of stolen durable goods, trafficking in precious stones and others. Since that illicit activity was of a transnational nature, it needed to be addressed by a robust response in each country, combined with strong international cooperation. Such cooperation needed to include the building of local capacities to meet international covenants and norms. In that respect his country had an interesting experience in joining with the United Nations to establish the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala.
He said combating transnational crime was a propitious field for international cooperation, whether it was in West Africa or Central America, because logic dictated closing ranks and cooperating to face a common challenge, particularly when it involved a group of small States. He cited the example of Central American Governments that had adopted a Regional Security Strategy based on four components: combating crime, preventing crime, strengthening and rehabilitation of institutions, and rehabilitation and management of penal systems. Concluding, he stated that because transnational crime was a cross-cutting issue that, among other aspects, had the potential of disrupting international peace and security, it was necessary to address the phenomenon with a determined approach, including a strong component of alternative strategies that encouraged economic agents to dedicate themselves to profitable and lawful activities. Finally, it required a holistic approach and should be attacked from the supply and demand side of the goods and services traded.
ABDULLAH HUSSAIN HAROON (Pakistan) said his country had a long-term commitment to security and stability in West Africa and, over the years, its peacekeepers had been deployed in Sierra Leone, Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia. The significant challenges facing the countries of that region were underpinned by complex causes, which included illegal exploitation of natural resources, foreign interference and intervention, as well as small arms and light weapons proliferation. Recently, those difficulties were exacerbated by transnational organized crime, weapons trafficking, piracy and terrorism. Several United Nations reports had highlighted the worsening situation; the report of the assessment mission to the Sahel highlighted the impact of the Libyan crisis on the already precarious security situation, noting that large quantities of weapons and ammunition had been smuggled into the Sahel region.
Noting that transnational organized crime in general and narcotics trafficking in particular flourished in the absence of State capacity and regional and international cooperation mechanisms, he urged development of a regional approach for West Africa and the Sahel. Organizations such as ECOWAS and ECA (Economic Commission for Africa), as well as the African Union, could foster political will and create ownership for strategies. Plus, there were successful examples of countries acting jointly to combat transnational organized crime, he said, pointing to the Triangular Initiative involving Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran. Combating drug trafficking also required addressing the issue of drug demand. The volume of cocaine consumed in Europe had doubled in the last decade, while drug trafficking through West Africa had registered a substantial increase. The international community must devote adequate resources to combat transnational organized crime, and the United Nations itself should act coherently to address the diverse requirements of dealing with that and other challenges.
AGSHIN MEHDIYEV (Azerbaijan) said growing transnational threats continued to undermine governance, economic development, stability and peacebuilding activities in West Africa and the Sahel. While the countries of the regions were making strides in overcoming serious challenges of the past, such threats required “continued serious attention”. Azerbaijan was seriously concerned by the terrorist and separatist activity, as well as the increasing violence of armed groups, aggravated by the illicit proliferation of weapons from inside and outside the regions. “Stronger commitment with respect to an international order based on the rule of law is essential for cooperation among States in addressing common challenges,” he said, stressing that it was clear that countries of West Africa and the Sahel must be supported by the United Nations and the wider international community.
He said that the rise of piracy was another challenge requiring a concerted effort by countries and organizations of the regions, with support from the international community. Indeed, pirate attacks in the Gulf of Guinea had increased in recent months and were undermining peace and stability, as well as political and socio-economic development in surrounding countries. He looked forward to the Council’s debate on that issue, set to take place on 27 February. He went on to urge more action to promote inter-community and interreligious dialogue, which Azerbaijan believed would bolster broader efforts to ensure peace, security and stability in the regions. Finally, he said that overall success against transnational crime would depend on greater coherence between all stakeholders, and called on all countries to work together in a more coordinated manner.
BASO SANGQU (South Africa) said in recent years, West Africa had made significant progress in overcoming conflict that had devastated the region for decades. Yet, such progress was being negatively impacted by the rise of transnational organized crime and a raft of localized criminal activities. The international community should, therefore, support regional initiatives to combat drug trafficking and organized crime. The United Nations should support initiatives already being carried out by ECOWAS and UNODC. He said that South Africa supported the West African Coast Initiative, which was a prime example of an integrated and coordinated strategy.
He went on to say that countries in the regions must develop an integrated strategy, which would strengthen and better-coordinate their efforts. He stressed that the Libyan crisis had added a dangerous wrinkle to the situation, heightening the challenges faced by an already vulnerable area. Indeed, literally overnight, the Sahelian region was forced to cope with the effects of huge numbers of migrants and a sharp spike in the flow of weapons. While the fallout from those events was manifesting itself in different forms in the respective countries, it was already clear that these could be unprecedented consequences in a region where Governments were already dealing with porous borders, active terrorist groups and drug trafficking. That posed an obvious threat to international peace and security. He said that clear political will existed among the countries of West Africa and the Sahel to find common solutions to problems, and the United Nations must support such efforts in a comprehensive and coordinated manner. Doing so would prove a sound investment in the long-term stability of the subregion.
HARDEEP SINGH PURI ( India) said problems in the region had grown over the last year, with the Libyan conflict creating new arms proliferation issues alongside piracy issues in the Gulf of Guinea. In addition, military operations carried out ostensibly for the protection of civilians had resulted in millions being adversely affected, and there had been a deterioration in the security, economic and humanitarian situations, in addition to an influx of half a million returnees and weapons. Those increased burdens had strained Governments’ capacity to deal with transnational organized crime efficiently.
As a result, solutions needed to be tackled through regional cooperation with constructive assistance from the international community, he said. A comprehensive strategy to deal with existing problems should include, among other things, the creation of effective government institutions, particularly in the field of security, law enforcement, security sector reform and disarmament and demobilization, it should also facilitate regional cooperation under the auspices of relevant regional and subregional organizations, such as African Union and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). In conclusion, he said the United Nations should also become a more effective partner of the African Union in the resolution of African conflicts. The United Nations offices in the region should look into practical and concrete ways to strengthen the efforts of national Governments and regional institutions to bring greater coherence and coordination.
JOSÉ FILIPE MORAES CABRAL (Portugal) said efforts aimed at tackling organized crime issues from a purely bilateral level were not only insufficient, but could also be counterproductive. Success in combating transnational crime in one single country could easily lead to increased trouble for its neighbours. A regional perspective must lead responses, he said, adding that “unless there is an effort not simply of coordination, but of pooling resources, chances of long-term successes in combating transnational crime are rather slim.”
With Sahel countries, Governments had demonstrated the political will to jointly address growing instability in the region, and that had been an important point, as it highlighted the centrality of locally-owned solutions for problems facing West Africa. The international community’s role should, therefore, be that of assisting existing initiatives, especially by enhancing institutional capacity and promoting more cooperation. He suggested that linkages between the range of challenges, among them arms trafficking, corruption and terrorism, should be examined through more systematic reporting and greater information sharing. In addition, an appropriate balance should be found between repressive measures against organized crime and the need to address the social and economic context of situations. There was also a need to address the legal and institutional gaps in the region.
To be successful, international involvement required coherence and a coordinated and integrated approach, building on experience gathered, solutions and lessons learned in similar situations of concern in other regions, he said. Such an approach would help prevent the risk of duplication and ensure that international responses effectively addressed the multiple dimensions of such a complex phenomenon as organized crime.
The Security Council president then drew attention to the statement agreed upon by the 15-member body, to be issued as document S/PRST/2012/2.
FRANCISCO CAETANO JOSE MADEIRA, Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission for Counter-Terrorism Cooperation, said the impact of transnational organized crime was converging with other transnational threats, such as extremism and terrorism. Failure to address those threats comprehensively, effectively, and collectively put at risk the very foundations of viable democratic States in Africa. The continent was particularly vulnerable to transnational organized crime. Porous borders, weakened State institutions resulting from prolonged civil strife, poverty, environmental degradation and challenges to securing natural resources were but a few of the vulnerabilities. A response to the threat, therefore, should be comprehensive and multidimensional, and a strong commitment from all stakeholders was an imperative.
In recent years, he said, the West Africa and the Sahel regions and the continent as a whole had undertaken commendable efforts to combat crime, terrorism and piracy. Those endeavours deserved the international community’s full support. But, as efforts were redoubled to confront transnational organized crime, institution building and reform were crucial, as well as strengthened rule of law and accountability. Confronting crime was not only about patrolling borders and waters — alternative economic opportunities should be created for the most vulnerable sections of the population by addressing the underlying socio-economic conditions that gave rise to crime, poverty, environmental degradation and social exclusion. Following on the various reports and studies of recent years on the growing threat of transnational organized crime in West Africa and the Sahel region, and Africa as a whole, the world community must now determine what could be done, in a spirit of shared responsibilities, to confront that menace.
HELGA SCHMID, Deputy Secretary-General, European External Action Service, providing what she called a “short diagnosis” of the situation in West Africa, said that “governance shortcomings” were being used by some criminal networks to increase their activities within the area, and that there existed very serious security threats. In that, she cited, among others, the presence of “AQIM” (Al-Qaida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb) in northern Mali and the escalation of terrorist attacks perpetrated by Boko Haram in northern Nigeria. The threats, especially in combination, could send the region’s security and humanitarian situation into a deteriorating spiral. Indeed, across the Sahel region, a combination of drought, poverty, high grain prices, environmental degradation and chronic underdevelopment threatened to plunge millions of people into a new food and nutrition crisis this year; 12 million people were at risk of hunger. The Union had already taken rapid and determined action to prevent famine in the Sahel.
Indeed, she continued, the European Union had well-established and highly substantial cooperation with the region. For the Sahel, it had recently adopted a comprehensive strategy of security and development to support Mali, Mauritania and Niger, which have been especially plagued by insecurity, particularly the threats of terrorism and drug trafficking, internal conflict, poverty, weak capacities and poor governance. In the fight against drug trafficking, she urged the region to implement its Praia Declaration, which she called a “promising action plan”. The Union had made clear its firm support of West Africa’s efforts in that regard. As for the growing piracy problem, the Union was funding INTERPOL’s development of a police information system for Benin and Ghana, and other possibilities to support the subregion were being explored. It also backed the increasing involvement of ECOWAS in confronting West Africa’s security and development challenges. Significant improvements in good governance and human rights were essential in addressing the root causes of insecurity. Overall, the Union remained deeply committed to helping West Africa in its building of peaceful, stable and prosperous societies.
ISSIFOU KOGUI N’DOURO, Minister of State for National Security of Benin, said the collapse of the old regime in Libya had led to massive population movements and the wide dispersal of the former Libyan army’s arsenal of weapons. That fact was posing particular challenges, including the resurgence of pernicious activities. The countries of the region must also be concerned with the injections of “dirty money” into the region. He said that while the Governments of the regions were working assiduously to ensure the protection of their people, they were finding it difficult to carry out that duty in the face of growing terrorist activity, drug trafficking and money laundering. For its part, Benin, had established canine units to combat illicit drug trafficking, and had also been strengthening its institutional structures to tackle other criminal activity. Those efforts had led to the capture and imprisonment of a number of local “godfathers” and to the implementation of major new anti-corruption laws.
He went on to pay tribute to the support provided to his country and others in the region by United Nations agencies to enhance synergies that were necessary to implement their policies and ensure the best use of resources. In the face of ongoing challenges posed by transnational organized crime, he said the international community must provide greater support to individual States and regional actors, especially to counter the spread of small arms and light weapons. The spotlight must be thrown on the links between security and development, as well as on issues such as youth employment and the demobilization and integration for ex-fighters. Indeed, it was necessary to ensure that those people did not fall prey to extremist actors. Finally, he appreciated that the Council planned to hold a special debate on piracy in the Gulf of Guinea at the end of the month, and he thanked neighbouring Governments and others that were helping his country protect its coast and combat transnational crime.
YOUSSOUFOU BAMBA (Côte d’Ivoire) said the major challenges facing his subregion must be tackled along with efforts to strengthen institutions and build administrative capacities. Indeed, the Governments of the region must carry out simultaneous efforts to reinforce joint regional military strategies, including through reactivation of the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Observer Group (ECOMOG), to combat transnational organized crime. The United Nations must also strengthen its ties to the African Union and other regional and subregional bodies. He supported the call set out in the Secretary-General’s report to improve such cooperation and believed that the current meeting should be seen as a first step in bolstering cooperation towards an integrated strategy, in collaboration with ECOWAS, to tackle organized crime in West Africa and the Sahel. Along with strategic coordination mechanisms, he called for similarly targeted strategies to address poverty and underdevelopment in the regions. The international community should carry out actions that involved Member States of the African Union and the United Nations, drawing on the expertise of the world body’s agencies and funds.
REGINA MARIA CORDEIRO DUNLOP (Brazil) said that while transnational organized crime was an issue of increasing concern to all, it was not always a threat to international peace and security. The current debate was relevant, and in cases where the organized crime did pose an international threat, the Security Council must be focused on fostering greater coordination of existing initiatives on the ground, as well as on strengthening national institutions and the rule of law, particularly in peacebuilding contexts. It was, therefore, necessary to recognize the primacy and importance of efforts being carried out by the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council, UNODC, and the World Bank, among others.
She said that the United Nations, in its turn, should cooperate and coordinate closely with regional and subregional organizations such as the African Union and ECOWAS. She also said that transnational criminal networks operating in West Africa and the Sahel took advantage of the frail socio-economic realities of the countries in the region to “lay roots and prosper”. That was why it was important to avoid addressing the issue merely from a security angle. Indeed, an effective and long-lasting solution would require attention to the social and economic factors, such as poverty and unemployment, especially for youth.
The problem of illicit drug and arms trafficking in the regions was mostly imported, and it was therefore important to recognize that those regions had become transit points for drug trafficking and a destination for weapons not manufactured there. The Council, she said, must adopt an integrated approach that took into account the consumption patterns that fuelled the drug trade, and the need for arms control at all levels. Finally, she said that the relationship between transnational crimes and terrorism “must be seen with caution”, as there was no unequivocal information that confirmed a direct link between criminal trafficking networks and the financing of terrorist activities. Moreover, the two phenomena followed different logic and must be tackled on a case-specific basis and through different means.
CESARE MARIA RAGAGLINI (Italy), fully associating with the statement of the European Union, said that transnational organized crime and illicit trafficking were not only security issues, but multifaceted threats that demanded an integrated response. While it was crucial to stop criminals and drug traffickers, that should not be the sole policy-driver. It was essential to address the root causes of those problems and implement a comprehensive strategy, which fostered security and long-term socio-economic development. Organized crime affected every country in the Sahel and West Africa, but to different extents, making it necessary to develop a regional approach. Italy supported the Secretary-General’s five-year action agenda and felt that the appointment of a Special Representative for West Africa was a first step in the right direction. The Council’s 2010 decision to extend and streamline United Nations Office for West Africa’s mandate would further promote synergies at the regional and subregional levels.
He provided some concrete examples of Italy’s comprehensive approach, noting the country was actively involved in programmes in West Africa and the Sahel in the fields of rule of law, institution-building, and training. Among other things, Italy had recently hosted 20 Nigerian police officers for a three-week training course in financial investigation techniques and was administering customized police-training programmes on border-control techniques and had trained Nigerian officials at border postings in Italy. Three key elements should be emphasized in fighting transnational organized crime: political will was a long-term, decisive factor; drug trafficking still represented the single most profitable criminal industry worldwide; and the distinction between producer, transit and consumer countries was becoming blurred. Last, but not least, transnational organized crime operated as a global business that sought to reap big profits, and curbing its financial power would affect its raison d’être.
HÜSEYIN MÜFTÜOĞLU (Turkey) said that organized crime, coupled with emerging threats, such as the piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, necessitated political mobilization with integrated national and regional responses. While all the parties concerned — regional and international bodies, including ECOWAS and UNODC among them — had been undertaking relentless efforts to eradicate transnational crime and criminal networks in the region, there still remained important tasks to be done and responsibilities to be shared on everyone’s part. First, he called on the countries of the region to increasingly demonstrate their political will to consolidate rule of law and to fight corruption. Second, given the importance of regional cooperation and coordination, he urged ECOWAS to renew the regional action plan beyond 2011. Turkey welcomed the UNODC regional programme for West Africa for 2010 to 2014, which was devised to underpin the ECOWAS plan.
Third, he said, it should be borne in mind that it was difficult to decouple the regional dimension of transnational crime from its global dimension, and that the countries of origin, countries of transit and countries of destination were all affected. Drawing from that, the international community needed a more coordinated effort and, thus, Turkey called on all Member States to step up their technical, financial and logistical support to the countries of the region, as well as to the regional organizations. It was also necessary to address the challenges from a holistic perspective, and in that regard, initiatives at all levels were needed to confront the development challenges of the concerned countries. Achieving long-term success in the fight against transnational crime was only one aspect of the broad strategy required to eradicate poverty and unemployment, and promote decent living conditions for all.
RITVA VILJANEN, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of the Interior of Finland, said that Finland was involved in the international efforts to combat the illicit trade in drugs and human beings, organized crime, and illegal immigration, and she cited decisions and actions of the Government in support of those endeavours. The United Nations was at the heart of international cooperation to combat organized crime. Due to the global nature of the threat posed by organized crime and terrorism, effective counter-terrorism measures required continuous and consistent cooperation between different actors, including civil society. Cooperation between law enforcement and judicial authorities was an essential element of the prevention and combating of drug trafficking and terrorism, but it was also important that the actions of authorities were consistent and transparent. In Finland, target prevention was a national concept, which helped focus of the scarce resources of the law enforcement authorities “on the right place at the right time”.
She said that one of Finland’s operative strengths was cooperation between police, customs and border guards. Criminal intelligence gathered by the relevant authorities was analyzed in order to make a common picture of the criminal mind. Finland also had joint crime investigations with other countries. Given the link between development and security, security must be consolidated and the negative effects of development concerns, such as climate change, should be reversed. A strong commitment to rule of law and human rights protection were preconditions for stability and peace, as were combating social exclusion and ensuring equal opportunities in society. The worsening humanitarian situation in the Sahel was a major concern, and Finland would provide assistance to the region in 2012. In 2011, it provided 5.1 million euros in humanitarian aid to Niger, Mali and Chad. The security and stability of West Africa and the Sahel directly impacted the internal security of Europe, and one of the European Union’s priorities was reducing the capacity of organized crime groups to traffic drugs to, and within, Europe.
MAGED A. ABDELAZIZ (Egypt) said that, despite the efforts of many African countries to promote and ensure peace, stability and development, many were still unable to meet the aims of the Millennium Development Goals. Along with traditional challenges, some African countries faced emerging threats, such as terrorism, acts of piracy and transnational organized crime, especially in West Africa and the Sahel region. Egypt remained deeply concerned by the terrorist threat posed by Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, and he emphasized the dire need to address such threats through a comprehensive subregional counter-terrorism action plan supported by the United Nations and which included a capacity-building component. Such a strategy should aim to break the links between Boko Haram in West Africa and Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb by bolstering measures to prevent terrorists from moving freely across borders, through enhancing law enforcement, and strengthening monitoring of coastal and inland areas.
He went on to say that existing socio-economic challenges, exacerbated by recurrent drought and, in the wake of the Libya crisis, a massive influx of migrant workers and increased arms smuggling, made West Africa and the Sahel fertile ground for criminal networks. Egypt, therefore, believed that coordinated action must be taken that took into consideration the links between the fight against organized crime and peacebuilding efforts under way in a number of countries in the region, especially as many of those countries were struggling to overcome weak institutional capacity and poor governance. The international community must also support the efforts of countries in the region to address economic, social and humanitarian challenges, particularly low growth rates and unemployment. He also called for the support provided by the United Nations system, including the Peacebuilding Commission and the United Nations Office for West Africa, to be directed towards addressing the urgent needs of countries in the region and helping them build their capacities to combat organized crime.
JUN YAMAZAKI (Japan) said countries in the region had made strenuous efforts to overcome the difficulties of terrorism, small arms proliferation and illicit drug trafficking over the years, with some notable engagements, including the ECOWAS efforts to control illegal flows of drugs and arms. Recent discussions had also highlighted emerging challenges. Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, the influx of returnees following the Libyan crisis, Al-Qaida activities and recent clashes between the Government of Mali and the Tuareg rebels, alongside repeated attacks by the Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram, were posing significant threats to the region. Effective action must be taken to prevent the region from retreating from the progress made thus far. A multi-faceted approach must be taken that supplemented existing national efforts and allowed ownership to remain in the hands of the affected countries, he said.
For its part, Japan had provided support at national, regional and multi-lateral levels, including collaborating with UNDP to manage small arms proliferation in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Côte d’Ivoire, providing capacity-building for counter-narcotics efforts in Guinea, and contributing to security-sector reform and strengthening of the rule of law in countries on the Peacebuilding Commission’s agenda. He encouraged the Security Council to utilize the outcomes of Peacebuilding Commission discussions as one of the tools for formulating its policies in that area. The international community must give serious consideration to those pressing issues. Transnational organized crime not only spanned across different countries, but issues such as trafficking, terrorism and piracy were also closely linked. In order to fully utilize existing resources, the international community must strengthen efforts, and better coordinate among relevant regional and international actors.
OTHMAN JERANDI (Tunisia) said the countries of West Africa and the Sahel region were facing “very serious problems”, which constituted a continent-wide threat to peace and security and hampered efforts to promote democracy. Indeed, the situation in the Sahel exacerbated the “already shaky” security situation there, particularly in the wake of the crisis in Libya. The current security situation in the Sahel made it very difficult to provide humanitarian aid to communities in need. One negative impact of that trend had been that, in some areas, criminal networks had taken over relief activities, making it more urgent than ever to counter such threats.
He said that even when and where the African Union and its related agencies had been able to launch relevant initiatives, they were often outstripped by savvy, fast-adapting criminal networks. As such, the international community must help the countries in the region enhance their law enforcement infrastructure, including through providing access to new information and communications technology. He called for a global strategy to deal with the impact of transnational crime, which included capacity-building, so that West African and Sahelian countries could tackle border issues and promote at the country level measures to deal with unemployment and other socio-economic ills. He called for greater cooperation among United Nations agencies, especially since none of those working there had a mandate to tackle the issue from a global standpoint.
MORTEN WETLAND (Norway) said that transnational organized crime threatened peace, security and stability in West Africa and the Sahel and, ultimately, the rest of the international community. Cocaine smuggled from Latin America through West Africa might end up in Norway, but it left drug abuse, corruption and violence in its path. Pirates in the Gulf of Guinea might target Norwegian vessels, but they also undermined economic activity in the region. Furthermore, the aftermath of the Libyan crisis had accentuated some of those challenges and highlighted the need to counter them. In recent years, several West African States had made important strides towards greater political stability and freedom, yet the situation remained tenuous.
He said that terrorism and weapons proliferation, increasing piracy along the coast, and a burgeoning drug trade not only posed serious threats to the safety of individuals, but they also seriously challenged the governance, peace and stability of the States in the region, both fragile and post-conflict States and stable democracies. Despite great efforts already being made to address the challenges, much closer cooperation was needed in the region, as well as stronger political commitments from the Governments there. Law enforcement cooperation was important, but there must be sufficient political will to tackle organized crime. Important initiatives of the African Union and ECOWAS should be supported by the international community. INTERPOL had a key role to play, and Norway welcomed the initiative to strengthen collaboration between the United Nations and INTERPOL in West Africa and the Sahel. He hoped the Secretary-General’s task force and action plan would create a sorely needed focus on regions such as West Africa.
GUILLERMO RISHCHYNSKI ( Canada) said his country was concerned by the destabilizing effects of illegal drug flows. Transnational organized criminal groups and their trafficking in drugs, persons and weapons attacked democracy and the rule of law, fed corruption, disturbed free markets, reduced national wealth, and slowed the development of stable societies, he said. Latin American transnational criminal organizations were extending their networks to new territories, which risked creating narco-States in West Africa and gravely threatened public security on both continents. In addition, he was concerned about the potential for partnerships between organized crime and terrorism. His country was committed to working on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean to battle those scourges. Canada’s action in that respect could be seen in its role as Chair of the Sierra Leone configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission and its cooperation with other configurations, regional governments and other stakeholders to facilitate a more coordinated approach.
The ECOWAS Regional Action Plan and the West African Coast Initiative were useful steps towards developing a truly regional response to transnational crime. For goals to be achieved, however, ECOWAS needed to redouble leadership, Governments needed to build sustainable national capacity with stronger financial and technical support from donors, and the United Nations needed to deliver a more integrated approach, he said. The Security Council should also continue to identify that issue as an important part of post-conflict mission mandates, just as the Peacebuilding Commission should continue to develop a more robust, concrete approach to supporting relevant countries on its agenda. In addition, the humanitarian impact of the food and nutrition crisis in the Sahel was of concern, given that 12 million people were at risk. To stop the food insecurity cycle, the underlying causes, including transnational threats, would need to be addressed.
SYLVIE LUCAS (Luxembourg), fully subscribing to the European Union’s statement, said the report of the Secretary-General’s assessment mission confirmed an alarming situation: the countries of the Sahel region were facing a situation of chronic poverty, an imminent humanitarian crisis, as well as serious security problems, which predated the Libyan crisis, but were also exacerbated by it. She advocated a concerted security response in the short-term, as initiated by some States of the subregion. Given the transnational nature of organized crime and terrorist networks, border control and the presence of the State in the most outlying regions of the territories in question should be at the heart of strategies and operations — national, regional and multilateral — to ensure that the security vacuum was not filled by criminal and terrorist organizations.
She said that a sustainable stabilization of the region should be based on the socio-economic development of the countries of the region, with a particular emphasis on vocational training and job creation for young people. Luxembourg agreed with the need to reinforce international cooperation and improve its coherence, and felt that the strategy for the Sahel adopted by the Union was such an integrated approach. She trusted that the new leadership of ECOWAS would prioritize renewal of its regional action plan on illicit drug trafficking and organized crime. She encouraged UNOWA to continue to bring together the activities of the United Nations system and establish synergies with relevant regional, subregional and national initiatives. The United Nations Peacebuilding Commission had a role to play and, in the context of its Guinea Configuration, which she chaired, important progress had been made in reforming the judiciary, and security and defence sectors. Similarly, the recent charges issued by the panel of judges tasked with investigating the atrocities of 28 September 2009 confirmed the strong will of the Guinean authorities to advance the fight against impunity. She strongly hoped that Guinea would soon contribute actively to the West African Coast Initiative and the fight against transnational organized crime.
ANTOINE SOMDAH (Burkina Faso) said issues of insecurity and an uptick in organized crime had become a challenge for countries of West Africa, the Sahel region and the international community as a whole. Those challenges, exacerbated by piracy, and drug and weapons smuggling, clearly demonstrated the links between security and development. Indeed, security challenges threatened development and could undermine socio-economic progress. The fallout from the increases of transnational criminal activity was “shaking the very foundation of a region where a number of States were still struggling to overcome the effects of multiple crises”.
He said that it was appropriate that the Council stressed the importance of implementing a coordinated and coherent United Nations-backed approach to tackling criminal and terrorist activities in the regions. He applauded the activities of UNODC, INTERPOL and others working to support the implementation of such subregional initiatives as the ECOWAS Action Plan and the West African Coast Initiative. He said that it was the duty of leaders in the region to step up their efforts to combat “indiscriminate threats”. Burkina Faso was an active participant in all regional and subregional activities to combat transnational organized crime. Finally, he urged the Council to remain mindful of the impact of the emerging food crisis in the Sahel, and he called on the international community to help alleviate the suffering of affected countries there.
ABDOU SALAM DIALLO (Senegal) said that because of the many and multifarious threats of transnational organized crime, it was appropriate to focus on it. Bold measures should be taken to match the danger, lest social and economic development be jeopardized. The danger was even greater as UNODC reports had established that organized crime was fuelled by trafficking in weapons and human beings, piracy and money laundering. Thus, combating it required that “all the tentacles of this monster” be tackled. A major concern remained the proliferation of light weapons in the subregion, which jeopardized the social and economic development of those countries, with the spectre of peace agreements crumbling and violence and crime worsening. The ECOWAS convention on small arms and light weapons, adopted in 2006, provided some hope that real progress could be made against the spread of those arms, which could “be the spark that set on fire a volatile region”.
He drew attention to an ECOWAS unit for cooperation and shared intelligence, aimed at combating drug trafficking and transnational organized crime, as well as to an action plan adopted in Dakar. That multisectoral response was aimed at reducing supply and demand and operationalizing mechanisms to provide intelligence and improve border control, among others. Combating money laundering globally was also part of the desire to dissolve all activities linked to organized crime, but strategic support should be buttressed by efforts to financially cripple the scourge. The United Nations Palermo Convention was the main international legal instrument, which had given rise to real hope that the spread of those crimes could be halted. He was also seriously worried about the increase in piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, asserting that more must be done to counter it. It was not enough to enhance national and regional capacity to suppress transnational organized crime. It was also crucial to embrace good governance and support the efforts of the countries in the region to combat poverty and preserve ecological balance.
RON PROSOR (Israel) said the alarming rise in terrorism throughout West Africa was part of a global trend, made possible by an increasingly linked network of smuggling rings, transnational criminals, and terrorists. The latter group understood that if narcotics could be smuggled into a European capital, it was possible to do the same with an anti-aircraft missile. They understood that lawless environments were fertile ground for radicalization. And, they recognized that selling drugs could pay for bombs. Working together, criminal-terrorist networks in West Africa were not only a local problem; they were a global one. “ West Africa’s battle is our battle. Their enemies are our enemies. And their future is our future,” he stressed. Israel understood that all destinies were intertwined with the nations of West Africa and the Sahel. “Today we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with these nations, as well pursue common opportunities and face common threats.”
He said his country was particularly concerned about Hizbullah’s activity in the region, which had served as a hub for the terrorist organization’s activities for more than two decades. Hizbullah used West Africa as a transit point for funnelling money, arms, and drugs to far-reaching corners of the globe. Those criminal enterprises strengthened Hizbullah’s ability to create sleeper cells in the region and to garner support from the local population. The world could not afford to stand by and give Hizbullah a base of operations in West Africa. Hizbullah and their Iranian sponsors posed a threat to innocent people everywhere — as the world saw last week in New Delhi, Bangkok and Tbilisi. The security challenges in West Africa called for a two-track approach: the international community must work with African nations to root out terrorism and crime, while it nourished the roots of development and prosperity. Israel had long worked hand-in-hand with African nations to combat transnational crime and terrorism, in collaborative efforts that spanned a range of issues, from terrorist financing to aviation security; from money laundering to border protection.
AHMED OULD TEGUEDI ( Mauritania) said the twinned challenges of security and development had been a major issue for the Sahel region since the 1970s. Organized criminal networks had long preyed on the region’s porous borders, remote locations, fragile institutions, and weak economies to build their nefarious enterprises. Effective security mechanisms in Mauritania had made that country harder to infiltrate than many of its neighbours, and today, it harboured no terrorists. The Government would continue to promote a strategy based on prevention and territorial security, including immigration controls; effective awareness raising and communication, and identification and punishment of those participating in terrorist activities.
He said that Mauritania also periodically met with its neighbours to review their joint counter-terrorism strategies. Meetings had also taken place with partners outside the region — including in Washington, D.C., and in Brussels — to mobilize funding for local anti-terrorism efforts. In all this, Mauritania, with its well-trained security personnel and its detailed database on terrorist actors, had disrupted several terrorist networks and derailed a number of planned attacks. Finally, he said that the terrorist phenomenon should be taken seriously because it was a “real” threat for countries of the region. Everyone knew that terrorist groups were well-funded and well-equipped, and the entire international community must step up its efforts to help affected countries mount — and maintain — effective responses.
GARY QUINLAN (Australia) said today’s meeting provided an opportunity for Member States to examine the root causes of the impact organized crime and other criminal activity had on West Africa and the Sahel, and to identify ways to mobilize international support to help concerned countries respond to such threats. Transnational crime flourished in environments that faced governance challenges; where law enforcement and judicial infrastructure was weak; and where unemployment was rampant. Even in that light, the challenges confronting the Sahel, where fallout from the Libya crisis had resulted in an upsurge in the flow of both weapons and migrants, were particularly acute. The Secretary-General’s assessment mission to the Sahel had clearly set out the appropriate actions, including multisectoral initiatives to reintegrate returnees, bolster conflict prevention programmes and build the capacity of local governments, through coordination and joint activities.
“Australia seeks to be part of the solution,” he said, noting that his Government was working closely with the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED) to enhance border control capabilities in the Sahel and Maghreb regions. Preventing the spread of weapons there was the immediate challenge, but in the longer term it would be necessary to promote full implementation of the United Nations Action Plan on Small Arms and Light Weapons, and to press ahead with negotiations on a legally binding arms trade treaty. Finally, he said that it was time to seriously address the socio-economic factors that enabled transnational crime and terrorism to thrive. Prevention programmes needed to be quickly mobilized to deal with poverty, unemployment, and lack of education. It was time to stop pretending that such factors did not feed violence and extremism; everyone knew that they did. Indeed, those vulnerabilities, combined with the increased flow of weapons into the region, were a “toxic combination” which must be tackled head on.
RAFF BUKUN-OLU WOLE ONEMOLA (Nigeria) said that the activities of criminal networks transcended borders, and in West Africa, organized crime was negatively impacting the ability to achieve economic stability. The maritime dangers were also having severe consequences, threatening coastal countries and beyond. Drug trafficking had increased violent crimes, arms proliferation, human trafficking, money laundering, and political and economic instability. Trafficking networks and the surge in terrorist attacks in the Sahel deserved critical attention by the Council and international community. There was also an influx into the region of hundreds of thousands of returnees. Organized crime was growing and destabilizing an already tenuous region still grappling with weak governance structures, high youth unemployment, poverty, and lack of security. Council resolution 2017 (2011) drew attention to the risk of destabilization posed by the illicit small arms and light weapons movement in Sahel, but more could be done.
He welcomed the assessment missions to the Gulf of Guinea and the Sahel and hoped those would inspire a comprehensive approach to addressing the challenges. The countries of the region had demonstrated strong political will, but fighting international crime required close coordination at all levels. Vigilance and concrete international commitment were needed to address the expanded scope of drug trafficking. He drew attention to the naval plan by Benin and Nigeria to combat piracy along the Guinean coast, which had met with some success, but still faced logistical constraints. He urged international assistance for the sustainability of that “productive enterprise”. He commended the ECOWAS action plan in addressing drug trafficking, but encouraged its broader scope and more far-reaching implementation. The United Nations system should recommit itself to assisting the subregion in achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.
OUMAR DAOU (Mali) noted the Council’s growing interest in the Sahel, which was facing growing insecurity due to the presence of Al-Qaida and criminal networks. Transnational organized crime, terrorism, and the activities of rebel groups had eroded peace and security in the Sahel. Following the Libyan crisis, the presence of those groups had grown, as had the large weapons to the region. Since January, several security units and armed forces of his Government had been the targets of armed attacks perpetrated by the Mouvement National de Liberation de l’Azawad (MNLA). Those attacks were directly tied to the Libyan crisis, as the arrival of several elements of the Libyan forces with extensive arsenals and vehicles had changed the Movement’s objective.
For example, he continued, in November 2010, the Movement had simply called for recognition based on a peaceful approach, but in the second half of 2011, it had come forward as a freedom movement, using armed combat. Its leaders, having left Libya, said their aim was to wage war on Mali’s Government and people. That explosive situation, along with the increased spread of weapons and equipment, bore the imprint of the Libyan crisis, fuelling rebellion and a deterioration of the humanitarian situation. Additionally, internally displaced persons and refugees were fleeing to neighbouring countries. On 18 February, a tribal chief had been shot. He called on the Council and the international community to condemn the “almost ongoing” attacks of rebels and terrorists “hoping to tarnish the reputation of Mali, which is a democratic and stable country”. He underscored his Government’s intention to resolve the situation in the north through dialogue, upholding respect for the country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.
MOURAD BENMEHIDI (Algeria) said the regions under discussion possessed all the conditions for providing a fertile ground for terrorism. Indeed, the region in recent months had been characterized by an increase in weapons smuggling, and was becoming more unstable. Algeria had long called for broad cooperation among the countries of the subregion, including through bolstering joint law enforcement and intelligence-sharing activities. The countries of the Sahel were clearly committed to launching an integrated and coordinated approach to tackling transnational crimes, particularly in remote areas. Algeria welcomed the strong support provided by the Council in its earlier presidential statement for regional efforts to combat transnational crime.
He said that Algeria also believed that the activities of the United Nations were an important complement to those being carried out by ECOWAS and other regional and subregional actors. He said that his Government had been unwavering in its efforts to combat terrorist funding, as well as the practice of kidnapping, which funded all sorts of criminal activities. There were many challenges facing the Sahel, including those posed by groups such as Boka Harem, which made it necessary for the States of the region and the wider international community to take coordinated, comprehensive action.
DAFFA-ALLA ELHAG ALI OSMAN (Sudan) said transnational organized crime had links to the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, smuggling of rare gems and metals, and terrorist activity. Those phenomena had flourished due to open borders and tribal links among the States of the region. Against that background, all West African and Sahelian States were directly affected by the stability of their neighbours. Many of the Governments in the region had taken extensive measures to tackle the activities of armed groups. In that regard, he highlighted an initiative undertaken by his Government, the Central African Republic and Chad to monitor and curtail illegal activities along their shared borders. He said that initiative closely mirrored the ECOWAS Action Plan against Organized Crime.
He went on to stress that the fall of the former regime in Libya had exacerbated the already-tenuous situation in the region. Indeed, that regime had backed many terrorist elements and had fostered criminal activity that was now filtering into other countries, including Sudan. Specifically, he recalled that its delegation had come to the Council to inform it that such a group, backed by the former Libyan regime, had crossed into Sudan and was now located in South Sudan. He urged the Council to translate its words into deeds and take steps to address the impact of the activities of such groups on States in central and West Africa.
ARTHUR SEWANKAMBO KAFEERO (Uganda) said that transnational organized crime had reached alarming proportions and constituted a greater threat than ever before to international peace and security. The challenge of combating those crimes was more formidable today, because the networks were increasingly using advanced information and communications technology. West Africa and the Sahel had proven to be fertile ground for international trafficking networks, which had taken advantage of porous borders and weak law enforcement capacities. Challenges relating to economic development and unemployment, especially among youth, and poverty exacerbated the situation. If not addressed properly and immediately, the surge in transnational organized crime could jeopardize democratic governance in the region, support the expansion of criminal gangs and terrorist networks and further threaten peace, security and development across the entire continent.
He said that in order to deal effectively with the challenges, a mechanism should be developed that brought together all affected countries and external actors to discuss the issues, with an emphasis on devising solutions and implementing them. Also essential was to strengthen national institutions and cooperation among Member States. The relevant international conventions provided a firm legal framework for international action against organized crime; intensified efforts towards implementing their provisions now were needed. The international community’s collective response to organized crime could be more effective through universal participation in those instruments. Given the deterrent effect of organized crime on investment and economies, the afflicted countries would find it difficult to overcome the combined effect of the various threats. Thus, it was critical for the responses to be comprehensive and well-coordinated.
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