Ministers of Justice and Interior from ECOWAS Member States have adopted in Praia, Cape Verde, two main documents strategic to West Africa's renewed fight against illicit drugs and organized crime.
The two documents, to be presented for approval to the next summit of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government in December 2008 in Abuja, are 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.
A statement from ECOWAS made available to the Ghana News Agency said the declaration provided the political commitment needed from member states as well as gives new impetus to the ECOWAS Commission in the fight against the scourge while the Action Plan provided the necessary framework for regional and national actions against drug trafficking, with the support and cooperation of development partners.
The declaration mandates the ECOWAS Commission to coordinate the implementation of the Regional Action Plan, monitor and report to the summits of Heads of State in 2009 and 2010 respectively, on the progress made in the implementation of the declaration and the ECOWAS response action plan.
In addition, it directs the Commission to establish a strong coordination mechanism to forge close links with member states, civil institutions and organizations involved in drug control in order to achieve better coordination in the control of drug trafficking and abuse in the region.
In this regard, the Commission is to set up an ECOWAS Drug Control and Crime Prevention Mechanism.
It will also prepare an ECOWAS convention against illicit drug trafficking and abuse, which should be finalized in 2009.
The ECOWAS Chairman, President Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso, President Pedro Pires of Cape Verde, the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on drugs and Crime (UNODC), Mr Antonio Mario Costa and the representative of the United Nations Office for West Africa (UNOWA), Mr Said Djinnit, addressed the conference.
Some high level representatives of ECOWAS development partners, including Austria, Italy, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom and the European Union also made brief statements.
They stated that drug trafficking and organized crimes were threats to national and regional security and stability and impeded the development of the region.
While expressing concern over the alarming surge in drug trafficking in the region and its consequences on the youth, they agreed that only a holistic and global approach can lead to the eradication of the drug menace in West Africa and called for a closer cooperation between countries of origin, of transit and of destination to effectively tackle the scourge.
In particular, the development partners reiterated their commitment to work very closely with ECOWAS member states and the Commission and pledged to support the implementation of the Regional Action Plan.
Dr Chambas said a strong political engagement will be required from member states to push the response plan of action forward.
He reiterated ECOWAS' commitment to design "an implementation strategy which is time bound, costed with clearly defined performance indicators to enable us to assess our level of progress".
The President of the ECOWAS Commission also pledged to "devise a validated monitoring and evaluation framework to enable us to track performance and deliver our strategies".