Olusegun Obasanjo, Chairman of the West Africa Commission on Drugs and Kofi Annan, Chair of the Kofi Annan Foundation, will meet with John Dramani Mahama, Chair of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and President of Ghana on Wednesday, 20th August, to discuss regional responses to the growing drugs threat in West Africa.
In June, the West Africa Commission on Drugs concluded that drug trafficking, consumption and production in West Africa undermines institutions, threatens public health and damages development efforts. It called on West African governments to reform drug laws and policies and decriminalize low-level and non-violent drug offences.
“ECOWAS is uniquely placed to urge West African governments to collaborate and make common cause against the threat posed by drugs”, Chairman Obasanjo said. “Only a concerted regional response has a realistic chance of curbing the pernicious effects of this well-organized trade”.
“We must look pragmatically at what works and what does not when it comes to dealing with drugs”, Kofi Annan said.
“The report which chairman Obasanjo of the West Africa Commission on Drugs will present to President Mahama, makes a frank assessment of the situation and puts forward concrete policy recommendations which I hope will be heeded across the region and beyond”.
The Commission comprises a group of distinguished West Africans from the worlds of politics, civil society, health, security and the judiciary.
The meeting among others, will analyse the problems of trafficking and dependency in order to deliver an authoritative report and comprehensive policy recommendations by the end of 2013.
In preparing its report and recommendations, the Commission will undertake wide-ranging consultations with governments, regional organizations, international institutions and concerned citizens of the region.
To ensure that its findings and recommendations are widely discussed and acted on, the Commission will engage in a follow-up advocacy campaign with governments, regional and international bodies, civil society and the media.
Drug consumption and the impact of trafficking on governance, security and development in West Africa was highlighted this week at an event organized by the West Africa Commission on Drugs (WACD) and the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC).
Discussing the vulnerability of West Africa to illicit drug trafficking, and as a spillover effect, increased drug use in the region, Mr. Fedotov noted: “The trafficking of cocaine remains a serious challenge and there has been an increase in the amount of heroin trafficked into the region, especially since 2010. Methamphetamine production in West Africa is rising while trafficking of ephedrine is a matter of serious concern. Meanwhile, local drug use appears to have intensified, including the growing use of crack cocaine, heroin and amphetamine-type stimulants. This has become an issue for public health and safety, with an attendant rise in the number of new HIV infections attributed to injecting drug use”.
President Obasanjo meanwhile warned of “developments (that) pose serious threats to peace and security in West Africa”, referring to the organized crime syndicates who use the region as a hub to transit drugs to other parts of the world.
He additionally noted the importance of stepping up actions to end drug-related user problems in the region, calling for funding to be more proportionately directed towards health, treatment and rehabilitation services, which are lacking. This was similarly expressed by Mr. Fedotov who, while calling for additional support to stop drug trafficking, pointed to the urgent need “to address demand and facilitate quality treatment and rehabilitation services.”
Dr. Ould Mohamedou also discussed the health repercussions of drugs in West Africa and noted that while the region has historically been considered a transit destination, indications show that consumption is climbing, particularly among youth, as is the local production of drugs such as cannabis.
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