AFRICAN GOVERNMENTS RESPOND TO INCREASING
Ministerial Meeting to Map out Drug Control Strategy
VIENNA, 15 April (UN Information Service) -- A new strategy and action plan for drug control in Africa, which is to commit African Governments and regional organizations to stronger and more decisive action against drug trafficking and abuse will be the main focus of the Ministerial Meeting on Drug Control in Africa, to be held from 6-11 May in Yamoussoukro, Cote d’Ivoire. This will be the first ever Ministerial Meeting on Drug Control in Africa organized by the Organization for African Unity (OAU) and hosted by the Government of Cote d’Ivoire.
Several international organizations and donors have pledged support to OAU for this meeting. The United Nations International Drug Control Programme (UNDCP) works directly with the OAU secretariat in the preparation of the conference and an exhibition on drugs in Africa during the meeting.
Three recent incidents highlight the increasing drug trafficking and organized crime problems in Africa. On 16 March 2002, South African law enforcement authorities found, amidst mustard, pepper and cans of fish, 350kg of cocaine on board of a container vessel that came from Latin America through the Caribbean to Cape Town. Just two weeks later, a luxury-cruiser anchoring at Durban port was raided for suspected drug concealment. Also in March 2002, Austrian and Dutch authorities succeeded in the dismantling of African and cooperating international drug trafficking/distribution networks that operated throughout Europe and involved more than 1,500 suspects.
These cases just top up other drugs seizures, including heroin and amphetamines, reported mainly from harbours and airports throughout Southern, East and West Africa. All in all, however, growing drug trafficking, related organized crime, and its destabilizing impact on the young democratization, stability and development process in Africa are still neglected phenomena.
With Africa having turned into a transit and re-distribution point for, inter-alia, cocaine from Latin America and heroin from Asia, local consumption is also rising. Several East and West African countries report growing heroin abuse. Cocaine abuse is rising fast in South Africa and also becoming a problem in several other African tourist and trade regions. Injecting drug use is not yet a major cause of HIV-AIDS in Africa, the continent hit worst by the epidemic. However, initial research in major cities, like Nairobi or Lagos, suggests that the link between drug abuse and HIV-AIDS is stronger than hitherto believed. Growing drug abuse and injection could become another contributor to HIV-AIDS in Africa.
African Governments have demonstrated their commitment for intensified drug control action in, inter-alia, the Political Declaration and Drug Control Action Plan of the Organization for African Unity (OAU), in Cameroon in 1996, and the following regional action plans for West Africa by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and for Southern Africa by the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Nevertheless, stronger action is now required to halt the worsening drug problems, a strategy of which this Meeting is expected to provide.
UNDCP has been maintaining projects against drug trafficking and abuse with several African Governments for the last twenty years. In response to the growing problems, the number of UNDCP Field Offices in Africa has been increased to a total of five, and the programme portfolio for 2002-2003 raised to almost US$ 15 million. Together with African officials and experts, UNDCP has also developed a proposed drug control strategy for Africa which will be the subject of discussion and review during the Ministerial Meeting in Cote d’Ivoire. UNDCP’s new programme for Africa addresses identified drug control priorities in, mainly, the drug abuse demand reduction and law enforcement sectors. For example, a more than US$ 1 million seaport control project for East and Southern African ports has facilitated the recent interdiction and seizure results in these countries. For improved drug abuse demand reduction, UNDCP projects have stimulated the involvement of NGOs and local communities in drug abuse prevention and education programmes in several countries. A major legal assistance project for Southern and East African countries paves the way for better prosecution of identified suspects and, in particular, for functioning regional and international judicial cooperation.
Any new OAU drug control strategy or action plan will depend on improved international and bilateral support to Africa. Cooperation with African authorities against organized drug trafficking involving African networks will improve interdiction results in consumer countries and assist African countries in identifying major organizers operating from the African continent. The sharing of experience and knowledge gained by Western experts, in particular the NGOs and civil society, in their drug abuse prevention and rehabilitation programmes will enable African counterparts to protect their youth - that is more than 50% of the almost 800 million Africans - from growing abuse problems. Ultimately, it remains a shared responsibility to enable African partners to participate fully in global drug control efforts.
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