The Impact of Organized Crime and Drug Trafficking on Governance, Development & Security in West Africa

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1 The Impact of Organized Crime and Drug Trafficking on Governance, Development & Security in West Africa Expert Meeting Summary of Proceedings Dakar, Senegal, April 2012

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3 Table of Contents The Impact of Organized Crime and Drug Trafficking on Governance, Development & Security in West Africa Dakar, Senegal, April 2012 Executive Summary 2 Background 2 Main Observations 3 Key Recommendations 5 I. Sustained Political Engagement 5 II. Policy Formulation 6 III. Knowledge 7 IV. Capacity 9 Additional Information 9 The Impact of Organized Crime and Drug Trafficking 10 on Governance, Development & Security in West Africa Tables 16 Table 1: Organized Crime, Drug Trafficking and Related Challenges in West Africa: A Decade of Developments Table 2: Ratification of and Accession to Relevant UN Conventions in West Africa Table 3: Political System and Conditions in West Africa Table 4: Socio-Economic Conditions in West Africa Abbreviations 20

4 2 Summary of Proceedings Expert Meeting The Impact of Organized Crime and Drug Trafficking on Governance, Development & Security in West Africa Dakar, Senegal, April 2012 Executive Summary Over the past decade significant gains have been made in West Africa in terms of peace and democratic consolidation, and some countries have been witnessing an exceptional pace of economic growth. Despite these gains, concerns are mounting regarding the impact of drug trafficking and other forms of organized criminal activity on political governance and economic and social development across the region. The structure of the political economy in even the most developed countries in West Africa continues to attract and nurture illicit activity. Meanwhile, institutions remain weak and easily corruptible; poverty and unemployment, especially among the young remains high, and access to basic services, such as health and education, limited. These vulnerabilities coupled with West Africa s convenient location halfway between drug production and consumer markets, have facilitated the rapid expansion of organized criminal activity. At the same time, West Africa is also facing the harsh realities of consumption, with heroine, crack cocaine and methamphetamines entering local markets. In some countries, laboratories producing methamphetamines have been discovered; in others, the cultivation and subsequent consumption and/or transshipment of cannabis continue to spread. Many fear that increased consumption of hard drugs or competition for control of the transhipment markets could lead to increased levels of crime and violence, particularly in underdeveloped urban areas largely populated by unemployed youth. Given the current situation in the region, the absence of public debate on drug trafficking and organized crime; limited progress on implementing the regional instruments aimed at addressing drug trafficking, organized crime and drug abuse 1 ; increasing levels of consumption of hard drugs; and the dearth of regionallyled policy relevant research, the main recommendation tabled at the expert meeting was the establishment of a mechanism along the lines of the Latin America Commission on Drugs and Democracy. The mechanism would accompany implementation of existing initiatives and serve as a platform for supporting research, public outreach and advocacy on drug trafficking, organized crime, drug abuse, and related issues. A proposal for such a mechanism is currently being drafted on the basis of the meeting outcome. Background Recognizing the need for a better understanding of the impact of drug trafficking and organized crime on governance, security and development across the region, New York University s Center on International Cooperation (CIC), the Kofi Annan Foundation, the ECOWAS Inter- Governmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA), and the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Center [KAIPTC] jointly organized a meeting in Dakar, Senegal, from April 18-20, The meeting brought together some 40 experts from governments, multilateral and civil society organizations, and academia from across West Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, North America and Europe. The purpose of the meeting was threefold. It sought to: i. Garner a better understanding of the perceived impact of drug trafficking and organized crime on governance, security and development in West Africa, and identify gaps in knowledge. 1 In December 2008, ECOWAS Heads of State and Government adopted the Political Declaration on the Prevention of Drug Abuse, Illicit Drug Trafficking and Organized Crime in West Africa and the Regional Action Plan to Address the Growing Problem of Illicit drug Trafficking, Organized Crime and Drug Abuse in West Africa.

5 ii. Assess the effectiveness and/or shortcomings of different policy and operational responses currently pursued by different actors in relation to existing and emerging challenges. iii. Discuss potential entry points and key components of a renewed strategy to address the problems identified (for example, through the establishment of a regionally-led mechanism) and discuss different options for moving forward. Over the course of three days, participants assessed the scope and reach of drug trafficking and organized crime in West Africa and identified areas for practical knowledge-generation and exchange. They took stock of progress made on regional, national and international commitments to respond to the current situation. In particular, discussions focused on: The perceived impact of drug trafficking and organized crime on governance, development and security, and the variation of impact across countries. Tools and mechanisms used by different stakeholders to monitor and assess impact and how these, in turn, influence responses. Challenges to current efforts to build resilience against drug trafficking and organized crime. Concrete steps to support implementation of the current response architecture and overcome existing challenges. Main Observations Despite progress on different fronts, West African states continue to face enormous challenges, including insecurity, fragile political systems, poverty, slow economic growth, health pandemics, and vulnerability to climate change. Recurring violence and political crises have been part of these problems, with Mali and Guinea-Bissau providing the most recent examples. Drug trafficking and organized crime are compounding political and socio-economic challenges, and threatening to reverse important peace and development gains made in recent years. Indeed, countries across West Africa continue to provide criminal networks with a fertile operational environment, serving as bases for the onward transhipment of drugs to other regions. Recent years have seen important drug seizures en route to West Africa, or in different countries in the region (e.g. Sierra Leone, Gambia, Ghana, Mali, Senegal), yet West Africa continues to be used as a transit area for cocaine and heroin from Latin America and South Asia. While most of the drugs are destined for Europe and to a lesser extent the United States, an increasing amount reportedly remains in the region. Cannabis is produced locally and mostly marketed and consumed within the region. In recent years, authorities have discovered production sites for synthetic drugs, such as methamphetamines. Despite a shortage of available systematic data, drug consumption and abuse rates appear to be increasing. Yet, drug treatment and rehabilitation services are sparse, available only in a few countries, notably Ghana and Nigeria, and are predominantly provided through overburdened mental health care systems. On Power, Politics and Illicit Monies A predominant focus of the meeting was on the nexus between public authorities and organized criminal groups across the region. Examples were provided of how government, traditional authorities, political parties, judicial and law enforcement officials have become involved in organized crime for political or personal gain, or through coercion; and the numerous challenges inherent in responding to these links. Underlying many of these challenges is the nature of the political economy and the fragility of political systems across West Africa. Governments have struggled to put in place (or in some cases, avoided) mechanisms to protect politics from patronage and clientelism. Impunity regarding political corruption only serves to exacerbate this situation. West African economies are believed to benefit from illicit financial flows, which, given the predominance of 3

6 4 cash-based economies in the region, is easily hidden or moved into the formal economy. In the context of poor or non-existent delivery of basic services, organized criminal activities are often deemed legitimate sources of funding for services, at times providing income and employment or investment in local communities. The corrosive longer-term effects, however, outweigh these short-term positive gains. In particular, drug money can create false pockets of political legitimacy; it can harm the performance of legitimate economic sectors, distort economic performance, and ultimately enrich a few at the expense of many. In addition, increased levels of money laundering are placing pressure on the financial reputation of countries in the region and can ultimately increase the cost of borrowing for both the public and private sectors in international markets. Another concern is the degree to which legitimate business inadvertently facilitates organized criminal activity, including money laundering, in predominantly cash-based economies. On Crime and Punishment Drug trafficking in West Africa involves both local and foreign criminal networks, which forge alliances to carry out their activities. These networks are highly sophisticated and have access to huge resources, as evidenced by their ability to shift operations in response to effective law enforcement efforts. West African organized criminal networks operate cells worldwide to facilitate the supply of goods, with Diaspora communities playing important roles (e.g. Nigerian diaspora in Brazil). Like criminal groups elsewhere, they infiltrate or threaten political elites and dispirited public servants to protect and expand their business. To launder the proceeds, they often use shell companies, for example, in the construction or mining sectors, or through car rental services. Organized crime-related impunity remains a major problem in West Africa. While political interference in highprofile cases and the general corruptibility of institutions remains significant, like elsewhere, law enforcement and broader criminal justice systems are struggling to adapt to new challenges posed by sophisticated organized criminal networks. Different legal systems within the region pose a barrier to speedy cross-jurisdictional collaboration; porous borders present as many challenges as does working with a welter of border security agencies. Analysis of the few drug-trafficking related convictions has been limited (e.g. cocaine-related cases in Sierra Leone, Ghana and, more recently, Gambia) not least because case files, detainees and sound intelligence are often difficult to access. At the same time, a large number of drugrelated cases involve middlemen or mules, or small-scale cannabis-related peddlers and consumers. Focus on this lower level of operations places enormous pressure on criminal justice systems, shifting much needed attention away from higher level criminals and political corruption on the one hand, and increasing drug consumption on the other. Some countries are making progress in responding to money laundering. Conversely, limited progress has been made in recovering assets. On Responses The region boasts a top-down, multi-layered architecture for responding to drug trafficking and organized crime, covering regional, national and local levels. While the current Praia Action Plan Against Drugs and Organized Crime is comprehensive in scope, implementation and support thereof have lagged behind and limited progress has been registered. Thus, broad consensus was reached at the meeting that a mechanism is needed to track the implementation of international and regional responses. Such efforts need to be accompanied by much more rigorous and cross-disciplinary research. More specifically and in line with the principle of shared responsibility, significant progress needs to be made to monitor challenges to implementing the existing regional architecture and to ensure the necessary level of political engagement for dealing with these challenges within and beyond West Africa. A number of states have taken steps toward addressing the problem of drug trafficking. Examples include reviewing of penal codes, and establishment of anti-drug commissions

7 and anti-money laundering frameworks (see table 1). Yet, in many cases, the implementation of such efforts has been lagging due to lack of political engagement, insufficient human, material, and financial resources, and limited exchange or flow of information. The role of the UN and traditional development assistance was also debated, with strong emphasis placed on the need for ongoing and future initiatives to reflect the multifaceted nature of drug trafficking and organized crime. This would include linking efforts aimed at strengthening the capacity of law enforcement, security and intelligence services to efforts aimed at responding to underlying political, social and economic challenges, including through development assistance. It would also require more targeted political engagement and use of leverage to support on-going efforts in the region. understanding of the dynamics of drug trafficking and organized crime. Academia was singled out as being largely silent on organized crime, especially drug trafficking and consumption, and how these issues relate to governance, development and security. This silence is due in part to the lack of investment in tertiary education in general in West Africa, and the glaring lack of political space for academia and think tanks to set and challenge policy agendas. Key Recommendations Participants tabled a range of recommendations for future action, clustered around four key areas that should be implemented in conjunction with each other. There was broad agreement that unless progress is made on the first recommendation sustained political engagement it will be difficult to make progress on the others. Existing mechanisms for collaboration between regional organizations such as ECOWAS (and its specialised institutions, such as GIABA) and representatives from civil society organizations and academia were highlighted as positive, although much emphasis was placed on the need for closer institutional collaboration to improve information gathering and enhance understanding of the scope of the issues. Strategies should pay attention to agents of change at all levels and seek ways to connect these actors. The meeting further discussed evidence and operational examples from within and beyond the region (Latin America in particular) to determine the benefits and weaknesses of different approaches to tackling drug trafficking and drug consumption. While West African participants noted that countries in the region do not experience the levels of drug-related violence of Mexico, Brazil, Jamaica, and Colombia, Latin American participants cautioned that violence would emerge as the competition for the spoils of trafficking heightens. Participants placed strong emphasis on the capacity gaps within regional organizations, such as ECOWAS and its specialized institutions such as GIABA, government services, donor partners, and civil society in the I. Sustained Political Engagement II. Policy Formulation III. Knowledge IV. Capacity I. Sustained Political Engagement Regional and national efforts to respond to drug trafficking and organized crime should be supported by an independent, regionally-led group of champions along the lines of the Latin America Commission on Drugs and Democracy or the Global Commission on Drug Policies. The group would accompany the efforts of regional and international bodies already underway. It could be charged with advocating on issues pertaining to drug trafficking, drug consumption and organized crime through engagement with political and economic elites across the region, launching awareness campaigns, monitoring progress of the implementation of current initiatives, fund raising for research, information and lessons sharing within the region and between West Africa and other regions, and exploring new and innovative partnerships with the private sector, including social media and information technology companies. Members of the group could include prominent leaders engaged or previously engaged in regional and international affairs, business, the arts, and the media. 5

8 Participants also discussed the feasibility of an international initiative, such as a Panel of Experts, tasked by the UN Security Council to investigate and monitor illegal drug trafficking in West Africa. Such a panel could investigate the involvement of political elites in organized criminal activity. Similar mechanisms have been used in the past to address illegal trafficking of natural resources and sanction violations, among other issues. Issue Area SUSTAINED POLITICAL ENGAGMENT Summary of Core Recommendations Sustained political engagement at the regional and national levels to ensure that the challenges related to drug trafficking and consumption receive the necessary attention and responses based on systematic evidence gathering and support. Recommendations Establishment of a multi-level and multi-faceted consortium like the Latin America Commission on Drugs and Democracy or the Global Commission on Drug Policies. Establishment of an Independent, Council-mandated Expert Group to monitor the involvement of political elites in illicit activity. 6 II. Policy Formulation Although national governments and regional actors in West Africa have signed various protocols and issued ambitious statements (see table 1), implementation is slow and, in some cases, has not advanced at all. There is limited commitment at the regional and national levels to ensure that drug trafficking receives broad public attention. As such, the fight against drug trafficking and organized crime should become a priority. The dynamics of organized criminal groups, their reach, investments and engagement in both legitimate and illicit activities, all point to the need for joint action. Governments must collaborate with all sectors of society through a process of mutual learning, review and assistance. Local authorities, non-governmental organizations, the private sector, academia, regional and international organizations, and the media are all relevant actors. Multisectoral, top-down strategies must be complemented by and coordinated with bottom-up initiatives. merely contribute to the relocation of organized crime. To avoid this unintended effect, local or national responses should consider broader efforts at the regional level and exchange experiences with partners in other regions, such as Latin America and the Caribbean. Organized criminal networks rely on secrecy and depend on corruption to protect their activities from government and law enforcement agencies. Consequently, there is a strong need for increasing transparency and taking a stance against corruption and organized criminal activities (see table 3). Governments and external assistance providers should address the connection between crime reduction and law enforcement initiatives, on the one hand, and social and economic development priorities on the other. Law enforcement efforts should be accompanied by drug treatment and rehabilitation programs. However, external support continues to favour law enforcement approaches. Efforts that are too narrowly focused often give a false impression of progress. Instead of diminishing the scope and strength of criminal networks, some counter measures Finally, and in support of existing ECOWAS initiatives, a comprehensive update of West African international commitments regarding organized crime, drug trafficking

9 and consumption needs to be conducted and made publicly available; a review of penal codes and codes of procedure, judicial action, sentencing for drug-related offences, judicial training, and so forth is also urgently needed. Issue Area POLICY FORMULATION Summary of Core Recommendations Strengthen regional and multi-stakeholder capacity to monitor the effectiveness of policy responses and prepare for unintended consequences. Recommendations Under the principle of shared accountability, develop more effective mechanisms aimed at ensuring accountability of both international and regional actors when policy implementation lags behind. Strengthen policy formulation processes, including through investment in more rigorous and multi-disciplinary research (and researchers) within the region. Strengthen top-down and bottom-up policy links between crime reduction/law enforcement policy initiatives and social and economic development priorities and community needs. Ensure that regional initiatives are coherent with broader international efforts to mitigate unintended effects. Support national and regional efforts underway to review and align current policy responses and ensure they are consistent with other obligations and commitments. III. Knowledge While the expansion of organized crime and drug trafficking is widely acknowledged, little is known about the impact on governance, development and security, and how they differ from one country to another. Thus, there is a need to strengthen and improve the reliability and validity of data. It will also be imperative to address the full spectrum of issues, without focusing exclusively on enforcement or a specific type of narcotic, such as cocaine. Research should be conducted on how the spoils of criminal activity and drug trafficking are infiltrating and influencing various levels of society. There is a need to improve our understanding of the degree to which drug money is influencing calculations made by actors within the political and economic spheres, and how local communities engage with and perceive drug traffickers. The linkages between the collection and subsequent use of data must be improved. State agencies should, where appropriate, facilitate access to databases on drug seizures, arrests and convictions. Researchers, in turn, should move beyond general assumptions as much as possible and conduct evidence-based primary research at the local, national and regional levels, using consistent and transparent sets of indicators. To identify issues for decision-making and priorities for action, stakeholders should seek out or contribute to research on the topics needed for informed policy making. Local knowledge offers useful perspectives and should be systematically included in the research process. Increasing public awareness is key. It can help build pressure and social resilience for political change and also serve as a check against political involvement in drug trafficking and organized crime. Greater efforts should be made to inform citizens about the health, economic and security risks associated with drug trafficking and consumption. This requires working with the media and research institutions to reach and educate a broader audience. 7

10 Issue Area Summary of Core Recommendations Develop a more systematic, regionally-led research agenda on issues pertaining to drug trafficking in West Africa. Current research gaps include: General 8 KNOWLEDGE Systematic, up to date and, above all, accessible information on the types of drugs being trafficked and routes used in West Africa; and the criteria for understanding the vulnerability to drug trafficking and its impact on related challenges such as unemployment, violence and drug abuse across the region. Population-based household surveys on perceptions of drug trafficking (local groups/individuals vs. foreign groups/individuals), drug consumption and drug-related violence are imperative for the development of initial baselines. Governance and the Rule of Law Criteria for assessing the degree to which drug-related money is infiltrating politics and formal and informal governance structures; for determining how the spoils of organized criminal activity and, particularly, drug trafficking are filling gaps in the presence and commitment of the state; and how they are undermining the legitimacy of formal and/or informal state institutions. Criteria for understanding formal responses to drug trafficking and consumption (for example, the motivation and incentives of drug enforcement officials and health officials i.e. how they are setting benchmarks and targets to combat drug trafficking and consumption). Regular monitoring and analysis of trial proceedings, trial transcripts, judicial and administrative commissions of inquiry to better understand gaps in current systems, how responses have been formulated and how they are being implemented. Analysis of the diversity of offences and scales of sentencing in legislation across the region; of witness protection challenges in organized crime, drug trafficking and money laundering-related cases; of challenges related to asset recovery in traditional societies, and the challenges and limitations of capacity building efforts in this area. Economic development Criteria for developing a more informed understanding of the impact of drug trafficking and organized crime on formal and informal economies in West Africa and how these change over time. Systematic information on variations of laundering of drug money within and across countries in the region; how money laundering is nurtured by the informal economy and potential longer-term developmental impacts of money-laundering. Systematic information on how illicit actors interact with legitimate business. General Monitoring and Assessment of Impact Criteria for assessing the mid- and long-term impact of regional, sub-regional and international responses to drug trafficking and related issues in the region. IV. Capacity Despite significant international and regional investments in training and capacity building in West Africa (for fighting organized crime and trafficking or counterterrorism, anti-corruption, anti-money laundering, border control, governance, rule of law, justice and security sector reform or financial management) capacity gaps are still substantial. At a time of dwindling resources and in line with broader international policy shifts, a deeper understanding of challenges and the limited impact of training and capacity building efforts in these areas needs to be achieved to enable the development of more effective responses. Significant investment (human and financial) is required to develop more sustainable capacities within government

11 agencies (for example, developing career enhancement opportunities within specialized policing units, developing specific modules on organized crime, drug trafficking and its consequences for training newly elected officials, political parties, parliamentarians, and civil servants). The mapping of current drug trafficking capacity building initiatives might be an opportune way to go about identifying gaps, challenges and opportunities. Investment in the monitoring capacity of civil society and the media is important for responding to drug trafficking and organized crime. Effective monitoring can help track and advance the impact of policy responses and prepare for unintended consequences. Similarly, strategies should be devised to increase the costs of colluding with criminal networks. Issue Area CAPACITY Summary of Core Recommendations Before making huge investments in additional capacity building efforts, an extensive mapping exercise in necessary to determine the current focus of drug trafficking and organized crime-related capacity building initiatives, where capacity building efforts are perceived to have had an impact, how that impact is measured, and where capacity gaps and challenges lie. Over time, significant investment (human and financial) is required to develop more sustainable capacities within specialized units, parliamentary committees, political parties, civil servants, social service agencies, civil society and the media on drug trafficking and organized crime-related issues. The region needs to develop the capacity to conduct systematic research in different areas (see issue area III), particularly on the impact of drug trafficking on governance and development, and more specifically on drug consumption and variations in impact and response across the region. Such initiatives should be anchored in academic and other research institutes across the region. 9 Additional Information To date, the expert meeting has received coverage in the following media outlets: Agence France Presse ANGOP (Angola Press) Au Fait Maroc Centre Afrique Presse Conakry Times (Guinea) C.R.I.D.E.M. (Mauretania) Dallas Morning News Ibrabiga (Burkina Faso) Jeune Afrique La Libre (Belgium) Radio Netherlands Senego (Senegal) Slate Africa BBC West Africa BBC Radio

12 10 Background Paper The Impact of Organized Crime and Drug Trafficking on Governance, Development & Security in West Africa The cartels have not yet corrupted the government s senior levels, but sooner or later they will, because they have millions of dollars and you need to be a saint to reject them. 1 Summary In less than one and a half decades West Africa has become a major transit and re packaging hub for cocaine and heroine flowing from the Latin American and Asian producing areas to European markets. 2 While organized crime and drug trafficking already existed in the region, the phenomenon rapidly expanded in the mid-2000s as a result of a strategic shift of Latin American drug syndicates towards the rapidly growing European market in part due to the operational successes of U.S. law enforcement agencies in mitigating the flow of drugs into the United States. 3 West Africa presented an ideal choice as a logistical transit center: its geography makes detection difficult and facilitates transit; the region boasts well-established networks of West African smugglers and crime syndicates; and a vulnerable political environment. The latter has its roots in the region s colonial history and includes endemic poverty as well as a combination of weak institutions and systems, instability, and ill-equipped and corruptible political party representatives, law enforcement and intelligence officers, and judicial authorities. In some countries, the legacy of civil wars led to diminished human capital, social infrastructure and productive national development assets. They also gave way to a rise in the number of armed groups operating in the region and the circulation of small arms and light weapons (SALW). Many of these challenges are slowly being overcome, with countries across the region enjoying transitions to, and consolidation of democratic rule in addition to positive economic growth. Yet, at the same time, new threats have emerged, compounding existing political and security challenges in West Africa. These threats include drug trafficking, and increasingly, drug consumption, broader organized criminal activity such as human trafficking, illicit logging, illicit capture of resources, piracy, moneylaundering, and terrorism. Combined with intense urbanization and youth unemployment, these threats and challenges are having a corrosive effect on democratic institutions and processes, security and economic development across the region and driving violence and reemergence of conflict. Conversely, research shows that the evidentiary base underpinning perceptions of challenges remains weak, as do mechanisms to assess and respond to vulnerabilities, threats and challenges that enable organized crime and drug trafficking. Indeed, despite several positive developments, there is still limited evidence of effective, strategic responses to the multi-faceted challenges posed by organized crime and drug trafficking in the region. While declarations and action plans from within and beyond the region abound, many continue to lament the absence of a comprehensive strategic framework that goes beyond mere technical assistance to more effectively encompass the underlying global, regional and national political economy factors that enable organized crime and drug trafficking in the region. Operational level strategies are also said to be weak, not least because they are developed on the basis of weak and siloed analysis. Existing strategies tend to omit the importance of ensuring that security centered efforts are accompanied by efforts aimed at strengthening political institutions and processes, justice and health institutions, and responding to widespread youth unemployment. Even less focus and investment is being placed on developing the capacity of civil society and academia to monitor and analyze trends and effects of organized crime and trafficking across the region. Meanwhile, the private sector remains largely removed from current debates on the issues. In this regard, the objective of the expert meeting will be to focus on the impact of organized crime (and drug trafficking in particular) on governance, security and development across West Africa in order to:

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