Efforts are being conducted to raise awareness of the threat to peace and stability posed by drug trafficking and organized crime in West Africa, including the terrorism threat — especially in the Sahel band.
The continuing scourge of drug trafficking in West Africa and the increasingly sophisticated operations launched by drug cartels is an issue of great concerns. The use of the Sahara desert as transit route for narcotics, in particular cocaine and cannabis, heightens insecurity in an already volatile region, which mostly remains outside the control of national security and defense forces. Terrorist networks and rebel groups could derive significant economic benefit from criminal activities, including drug and arms trafficking. The frequent instances of the kidnapping of foreigners in the Sahel band in exchange for ransom payments are a reflection of this worrying trend.
In that regard, the ongoing efforts to implement the ECOWAS Regional Action Plan to Address the Growing Problem of Illicit Drug Trafficking, Organized Crime and Drug Abuse in West Africa, with the strong backing of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and UNOWA, have gained momentum with the donor conference held in Vienna on 3 December 2009. As an initial step in international support for the Regional Action Plan, the West Africa Coast Initiative (WACI) project has been implemented in the four countries in West Africa through the UN Peace Keeping operations.
Moreover, increasing trends in the local consumption of cocaine indicate that the subregion is also becoming a consumption area. In places where unemployment is massive and the political situation is volatile, drug consumption among youths could serve as a trigger for violence
UNOWA plays an important role in promoting cohesion and mobilizing support at all levels, in liaison with other stakeholders, so that that the Initiative can achieve its ultimate goals. UNOWA is the United Nations entity charged with mentoring and monitoring the implementation of the WACI project on behalf of the UN Organization.