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ECOWAS statement on World Drug Day

Jun 29, 2011, 1:03 PM

Working For a Drug-free, Healthy, Prosperous ECOWAS Community

It is no longer a secret that drug trafficking through West Africa is a billion-dollar trade.  Many of the 15 ECOWAS Member States are cited in various international reports relating to the sharp increase, not only in cannabis cultivation but also in the trafficking of cocaine from Latin America and heroin from Asia destined for more lucrative markets outside the region.  

The dangerous dimension is that this illicit trade has become more sophisticated and, if unchecked, could hasten West Africa into a drug consumption hub. For a region with a fast growing young population - almost 70 per cent of the estimated 280-million population is under the age of 35 years - the drug problem should be of serious and priority concern to all.  

A huge number of the youth who are outside of the economic mainstream, and therefore with no opportunity to make a living for themselves, resort to drug abuse as an escape. The results are not only an exponential rise in violence, AIDS infections and other health risks, but also a serious threat to the economic progress, peace and stability in the region.  It is in a realization of these potentially dangerous consequences, especially on its integration process, that ECOWAS had in the late 1990s developed a Regional Plan of Action, aimed at providing the necessary framework for national efforts and actions against the drug problem.  

The Authority of Heads of State and Government, at its 21st Summit in October 1998 in Abuja, issued a declaration titled: “Community Flame Ceremony – the Fight against Drugs.” This has been followed by other Decisions of the Authority on drug control including a Resolution on Prevention and Control of Drug Abuse in West Africa; a Recommendation on the establishment of a Regional Fund for Financing of Drug Control activities in West Africa and the Decisions on the Establishment of the Inter-Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA).  

As a fillip to its anti-drug war efforts, ECOWAS in 2008 adopted a Regional Action Plan against Drug Abuse, Trafficking and Organized Crime, which aims at addressing the drug problem in an integrated manner.  In collaboration with its partners in the UN system, regional and bi-lateral groups, ECOWAS is canvassing regional anti-drug interventions, such as support for the up-scaling of human resources in drug demand reduction and prevention activities, support for the conduct of national and regional training, mentoring and treatment interventions in Member States.  

It is therefore heartening to the ECOWAS Commission that the 2011 World Drug Day is devoted to “Global action for healthy communities without drugs.” The Commission calls on all Member States to assume their responsibilities by putting in place effective mechanisms and providing adequate resources to complement the regional anti-drug initiatives and programmes. We cannot afford to remain indifferent to the sufferings of the youth, their families and the communities they live in.

The well-being and good health of our communities are central to the Commission’s goal of an ECOWAS of people. All hands must be on deck to provide drug abusers and others affected by the drug problem unfettered access to treatment and rehabilitation and the opportunity to rebuild their lives. Working together, the ECOWAS Commission, Member States, citizens and partners can make West Africa a drug-free, healthy, peaceful, prosperous and united Community.