Guinea-Bissau: UN official calls for multilateral cooperation to combat organized crime


Regional and global partnerships are urgently needed to combat organized crime in Guinea-Bissau and other countries in West Africa affected by the illegal drug trade, a United Nations official has said, calling for a more integrated approach in the region.

“The issue of illicit drugs is not the problem of just one single country, but rather a predicament that the entire international community must deal with,” said Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), on his arrival yesterday in the country.

Trafficking is a major threat to Guinea-Bissau’s development and has led to a drastic increase of illicit drug use in the country. According to UNODC, an estimated 13 tons of the cocaine trafficked through West Africa in 2009 were consumed or stored in the region, leading to severe drug-related health concerns.

During the same year, about US$800 million was spent on drug use alone, which contrasts sharply with the country’s gross national income (GNI) of US$400 million.

UNODC has been working with Guinea-Bissau’s authorities to tackle the issue in several ways, including increasing the number of investigations into drug trafficking, strengthening the country’s justice system by providing training to judges on drug-related cases, and working on prison reform to provide offender rehabilitation.

However, Mr. Fedotov stressed that these policies need to be accompanied by multilateral efforts. “Organized crime is just that – organized. We can only respond to this by ensuring that our own efforts are also structured, well planned and cohesive,” he said.

During his visit, Mr. Fedotov met with President Malam Bacai Sanhá and Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Júnior to discuss drug-related security issues. He also visited the country’s Transnational Crime Unit (TCU) and emphasized its value in breaking organized crime groups and their operations.

The TCU is part of the West Coast African Initiative (WACI), a partnership between UNODC, the UN Office for West Africa (UNOWA), the UN’s Department of Political Affairs (DPA), the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) to support regional efforts to address organized crime, drug trafficking and drug use.

Another important aspect to combat drug trafficking was to adopt a firm stance against corruption, Mr. Fedotov said.

In remarks to the final session of a week-long UN anti-corruption conference in Marrakech, Morocco, delivered by John Sandage, the head of the agency’s treaty affairs division, he stressed the importance of governments, the private sector, civil society and the media rejecting corruption at every level of their society and urged all States to ratify the UN Convention against Convention (UNCAC).