For information only - not an official document
28 October 2011
Re-issued as received
UNODC Executive Director, Guinea-Bissau's Leaders Address Concerns about Drug Trafficking in West Africa
BISSAU/ VIENNA, 27 October (UN Information Service) - As West Africa, a major gateway for moving cocaine from South America into Europe, continues to attract traffickers, Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) today arrived in Guinea-Bissau, a country being targeted by organized crime groups. Accompanied by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa Said Djinnit, during his visit, Mr. Fedotov discussed several drug-related security issues with President Malam Bacai Sanhá and Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Junior.
Trafficking is a major threat to Guinea-Bissau's development and has led to a sharp increase of illicit drug use in the country. In 2009, an estimated 13 tons of the cocaine trafficked via West Africa were consumed or stored in the region leading to severe drug-related health concerns. Gross profits derived from wholesale and retail sales of cocaine in the region itself are devastating. An estimated US$ 800 million was spent on drug use in 2009 alone in West Africa. Tragically, in the same year, the Gross National Income (GNI) for Guinea Bissau was US$ 400 million.
To tackle illicit drugs and organized crime UNODC has been working with Guinea-Bissau and regional authorities on several key areas.
Since 2008, the Office has been helping to set up a specialized unit within the Guinea-Bissau Judicial Police to increase the number of investigations into drug trafficking and organized crime. Earlier this year, this was expanded to establish branches of the Judicial Police in two key remote locations of the country: the Island of Bubaque in the Bijagós Archipelago and Catió in the south of Guinea-Bissau. In related work, UNODC has been working to strengthen the justice system and rule of law structures in Guinea-Bissau, most notably by training judges and prosecutors specializing in cases related to drug trafficking and organized crime as well to support the implementation of a Central Authority for International Judicial Cooperation and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters.
Prison reform has also been a central part of UNODCs work in the country. Offender rehabilitation and staff training are seen as critical in ensuring a fair, rights-based justice system and in July 2011 the country opened two detention centres in Mansoa and Bafatá, which were upgraded to meet international standards with the help of UNODC.
In December 2010, UNODC launched its Regional Programme for West Africa for the period 2010 - 2014 designed to support the efforts of West African States, regional organizations and the civil society to respond to evolving security threats and to promote the rule of law and good governance.
Acknowledging the importance of multilateral cooperation, Mr. Fedotov encouraged enhanced partnerships at regional and global levels. "The issue of illicit drugs is not the problem of just one single country, but rather a predicament that the entire international community must deal with."
While in the country Mr. Fedotov also visited Guinea-Bissau's Transnational Crime Unit (TCU) which is part of the West African Coast Initiative (WACI). This partnership between UNODC, the United Nations Office for West Africa (UNOWA), the Department of Political Affairs (DPA), the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and INTERPOL supports regional efforts in addressing drug use, trafficking and organized crime.
Founded last December, Guinea-Bissau's TCU is in the process of becoming fully operational, and joins Units in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Mr. Fedotov encouraged authorities to continue their efforts and called on the international community to recognize the value of TCUs in breaking organized crime groups and their operations. On the importance of the Units, the Executive Director noted: "Organized crime is just that - organized. We can only respond to this by ensuring that our own efforts are also structured, well planned and cohesive."
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For further information please contact:
In Bissau, Guinea-Bissau:
Legal Adviser and Project Coordinator
Mobile: (+245) 6109101
In Vienna, Austria:
Associate Public Information Officer: UNODC
Telephone: (+43-1) 26060-5575
Mobile: (+43-699) 1459-5575