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General News of Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Source: Flagstaff House Communications

Kofi Annan, Obasanjo to meet Mahama today

The Chairman of the West Africa Commission on Drugs, Olusegun Obasanjo and Kofi Annan, Chair of the Kofi Annan Foundation, will today meet with Ghana’s President, John Mahama, Chair of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to discuss regional responses to the growing drugs threat in West Africa.

In June, the West Africa Commission on Drugs concluded that drug trafficking, consumption and production in West Africa undermines institutions, threatens public health and damages development efforts.

It called on West African governments to reform drug laws and policies and decriminalizes low-level and non-violent drug offences.

“ECOWAS is uniquely placed to urge West African governments to collaborate and make common cause against the threat posed by drugs”, Chairman Obasanjo said.

He added that “only a concerted regional response has a realistic chance of curbing the pernicious effects of this well-organized trade.”

Kofi Annan on his part noted that West African governments “must look pragmatically at what works and what does not when it comes to dealing with drugs.”

“The report which chairman Obasanjo of the West Africa Commission on Drugs will present to President Mahama, makes a frank assessment of the situation and puts forward concrete policy recommendations which I hope will be heeded across the region and beyond”.

About the West African Commission on Drugs

Chaired by former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, the West Africa Commission on Drugs (WACD) was created in January 2013 to make face to the ever-growing threats posed by drugs in West Africa.

Kofi Annan, in consultation with international and regional partners, national governments and civil Society organizations convened the Commission, which in June 2014, presented its landmark report entitled “Not Just in Transit: Drugs, Society and the State in West Africa”.

The report is the culmination of one and a half years of engagement by the Commission with national, regional and international parties including the African Union (AU), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime

(UNODC). It is informed by a series of background papers, drafted by leading experts from Africa and beyond.

The Declaration of the West Africa Commission on Drugs – Full text:

West Africa can look forward with optimism. Civil wars have receded, democracy has gained ground and our economies are growing. But a destructive new threat is jeopardizing this progress: with local collusion, international drug cartels are undermining our countries and communities, and devastating lives.

After looking at the evidence, consulting experts from the region and around the world, and visiting some of the most affected countries and communities in West Africa, we the Commissioners have reached a number of conclusions – detailed in this report – about how we should tackle the problems of drug trafficking and consumption.

We have concluded that drug use must be regarded primarily as a public health problem. Drug users need help, not punishment. We believe that the consumption and possession for personal use of drugs should not be criminalised. Experience shows that criminalisation of drug use worsens health and social problems, puts huge pressures on the criminal justice system and incites corruption.

We abhor the traffickers and their accomplices, who must face the full force of the law. But the law should not be applied disproportionately to the poor, the uneducated and the vulnerable, while the powerful and well-connected slip through the enforcement net.

We caution that West Africa must not become a new front line in the failed “war on drugs,” which has neither reduced drug consumption nor put traffickers out of business.

We urge the international community to share the burdens created by the rise in trafficking through West Africa, which neither produces nor consumes most of the drugs that transit the region. Nations whose citizens consume large amounts of illicit drugs must play their part and seek humane ways to reduce demand for those drugs.

We call on political leaders in West Africa to act together to change laws and policies that have not worked. Civil society must be fully engaged as a partner in this effort. Only in this way can we protect our people, as well as our political and judicial institutions, from the harm that illicit drugs can inflict.