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United Nations Security Council/impact of transnational organized crime in West Africa and the Sahel

Published on February 22, 2012
Statement by Edouard Courtial, Minister of State responsible for French Nationals Abroad

New York, February 21, 2012

Naturally, I would like to thank Togo for organizing this debate, which gives us the opportunity to exchange views on the impact of transnational organized crime and international peace and security in West Africa and the Sahel.

I also want to thank Mr Fedotov for his report and to reaffirm my country’s appreciation for his efforts and the organization he leads. I want to express my support for the statement that will be made by the European Union representative.

Mr President,

On a number of occasions, the Security Council has observed the threat posed by transnational organized crime to the stability and security of different parts of the world such as Afghanistan, Haiti and Central America.

But the example of West Africa, which has experienced numerous conflicts during the past decade, clearly demonstrates the diversity of organized crime and, especially, its negative impact on good governance and reconstruction efforts by public institutions when these areas emerge from crises.

The Council has therefore expressed its concern on numerous occasions over the expansion of drug trafficking and its destabilizing effects in Guinea-Bissau.

This phenomenon is affecting the entire West African coast, which is already struck by maritime insecurity and armed banditry on the high seas.

Organized crime networks are forming and using the Sahel region, which is particularly porous, as a transit point on their way towards the rest of the continent and the shores of Europe.

We are also well aware of the fact that drug trafficking in Africa, as elsewhere, attracts other illegal transnational trades, such as weapons, money laundering and human trafficking.

The spread of small arms and heavy weaponry is another challenge characteristic to the West African and Sahel regions.

The infusion of money from trafficking into the economy, the corruption it generates and the violence of criminal groups established to capture markets, undermines governance and socioeconomic development.

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Mr President,

In this context, France is pleased that the Security Council is gauging the consequences of these phenomena, as well as the initial responses provided by the nations of West Africa.

Through its different bodies, the UN supports raising political awareness and establishing more effective cooperation.

On the ground, the synergies between different UN agencies and other international organizations must be maintained.

The instability generated by trafficking, and first and foremost drug trafficking, calls for a concerted response and reconstruction and crisis-prevention policies that incorporate the fight against transnational organized crime.

That is the focus of the West Africa Coast Initiative (WACI) involving Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone, Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia, and which France supports.

I particularly want to applaud the role that the UNODC has played for the past several years in helping the nations of the region.

Since 2008, the UNODC has played a leading role in developing ECOWAS’s action plan (Praia Regional Plan of Action, 2008-2011).
The involvement of African countries, notably the ones hardest hit by the destabilizing impact of trafficking, is crucial.

Their voices must be better heard and their actions supported.
In this regard, we are convinced that ECOWAS has a major role to play.

Given the international dimensions of the crimes we are discussing, some of which have their sources outside West Africa and even outside the continent, strengthening regional cooperation in the areas of policing and the law is more necessary than ever.

It is particularly important to establish national criminal justice systems that are accessible and in line with international standards.

In this regard, the UN conventions on drugs, organized crime (the Palermo Convention) and corruption (the Mérida Convention) have established an appropriate and exemplary framework for fighting drugs. It must be made universal and implemented.

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Mr President,

The nations of West Africa and the Sahel can count on a strong, decisive contribution from France and more broadly the European Union, to strengthen their capacities against transnational organized crime.

The European Union is a major actor and provides a significant amount of assistance to combat drug trafficking and organized crime in West Africa, maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea and of course in the Sahel, where it implements major technical assistance programmes.
France is fully engaged alongside the countries of West Africa. Thanks to her network of partners as well internal security attachés and liaison magistrates, she has been able to strengthen cooperation.

France contributes some €10 million out of her Special Priority Funds (FSP) (1) to cooperative programmes relating to justice and governance in the Sahel countries.

She is also fully engaged in the fight against maritime insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea, developing a three-year project, for example, for Benin, Ghana and Togo and in cooperation with the Economic Community of West African States.

Thus, each year, our internal security attachés in West Africa, often in working closely with the relevant international organizations, implement technical assistance programmes (police training, provision of materials). We must also be sure to strengthen coordination between the UN, regional African organizations, and other particularly engaged sectoral organizations such as Interpol.

Finally, within the UN system itself, there is a need to coordinate organs, agencies, funds and programmes that play a direct or indirect role in assisting with the fight against transnational organized crime, and we believe it is important to be informed of what will be done in this respect.

We are therefore pleased that the Secretary-General will continue to consider the question of cross-cutting threats, and notably transnational organized crime, in the analysis of conflicts, prevention strategies, integrated missions and peacekeeping operations.

Going further, we also hope that the Secretary-General will transmit recommendations to the Security Council that allow it to better comprehend and deal with these cross-cutting threats in the particular case of West Africa and the Sahel. These recommendations should focus on the principle factors of destabilization, with drug trafficking at the forefront.

Finally, the Security Council must remain involved in this issue and continue to debate it on the basis of other regular reports by the Executive Director of UNODC.

Thank you./.

(1) Funds allocated to assist countries in the ZSP – Zone de solidarité prioritaire – a group of countries eligible for bilateral French official assistance.

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