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Fresh Impetus for West African Drug Policy

Opportunities for New Partnerships in the Wake of UNGASS

Almost two decades after the proclamation of the goal of a “drug-free world”, the global illicit drug trade is flourishing. The markets and routes, however, are constantly changing, confronting countries and regions with an array of new challenges.

West African countries in particular are no longer merely transit zones for cocaine or heroin. Yet they played virtually no role in the preparations for the Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly on the World Drug Problem (UNGASS) in late April 2016. Nonetheless, the UNGASS process has injected fresh momentum into the drug policy debate within the region. 

This offers starting points for new partnerships, particularly with Europe, since various West African countries and organizations have moved closer to the EU’s comparatively progressive drug policy position. For genuine change, however, there needs to be not only a shift away from the still predominantly repressive approaches applied by national governments in West Africa, but also a rethink of European security sector programmes.

Full paper here

This paper was prepared by Dr Judith Vorrath (an Associate in SWP’s International Security Division.) as part of the project “Illicit economies in African borderlands: A development-oriented analysis for a networked May 2016 response to transnational organized crime”, funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.

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