SC: The impact of transnational organized crime in West Africa and the Sahel region

Last updated: 2/21/2012 // This statement concerning the impact of transnational organized crime on peace, security and stability in West Africa and the Sahel region, was delivered by police counselor Odd Berner Malme on the 21th of February 2012.

Transnational organised crime represents a threat to peace, security and stability in West Africa and the Sahel region, and ultimately to the rest of the international community. This calls for renewed and more coordinated international efforts, with the UN in the lead. Norway supports the Task Force on Transnational Organised Crime set up by the Secretary General last March.  We have provided ear-marked funds for its start-up face and Norway’s support enables Vienna to have a Task-Force liaison officer here in New York.

Cocaine smuggled from Latin America through West Africa may end up in Norway, but it leaves drug abuse, corruption and violence in its path. Pirates in the Gulf of Guinea may target Norwegian vessels, but they also undermine economic activity in the region.

Furthermore, the aftermath of the Libyan crisis has accentuated some of these challenges and highlighted the need to address and counter them, as recently pointed out by the United Nations inter-agency assessment mission to the Sahel region and the report of the United Nations Office for West Africa.

Several West African states have over the past few years made important strides towards greater political stability and freedom.

Yet, the situation remains tenuous. Terrorism and weapons proliferation, increasing piracy along the coast and a burgeoning drug trade not only pose serious threats to the safety and lives of individuals. They also seriously challenge the governance, peace and stability of the states in the region, both fragile post-conflict states and stable democracies.

Transnational organised crime is not just a judicial matter. It undermines the very foundations of states by penetrating deeply into the political sphere and the public and private sectors through corruption, money laundering and illicit financing. 

Great efforts are already being made by the states in the region, with international support, to address these challenges. However, there is an urgent need for much closer coordination and cooperation between states in the region.

There is also a need for stronger political commitments from governments in the region. Law enforcement cooperation is important, but there must also be sufficient political will to tackle organised crime.

Important initiatives taken by the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) need to be strengthened and supported by the international community. The International Criminal Police Organization – Interpol - has a key role in supporting the member states in the region addressing the threats from transnational organised crime. Norway welcomes the recent initiative to strengthen the collaboration between United Nations and Interpol in West Africa and Sahel Region.
The heightened focus on threats posed by organised crime deserves the place it has been given in the Secretary General’s five-year action agenda. We look forward to working with the UN to mobilise collective action and develop new tools to address this problem. We expect that the Secretary General’s Task Force on Transnational Organised Crime will significantly contribute to integrating responses to transnational organised crime into the peacekeeping, peace-building, security and development activities of the UN.

We hope the task force and the five-year action agenda will support relevant global and regional initiatives and create a focus that is sorely needed in regions such as West Africa.

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