Background information

In June 2014, the “Commission on the Impact of Drug Trafficking on Governance, Security and Development in West Africa” – or West Africa Commission on Drugs, for short – launched a ground-breaking new report for the region: Not Just in Transit – Drugs, the State and Societies in West Africa. This flagship report represents 18 months of research and outreach from the Commission, and analyses the situation regarding drug trafficking and use across West Africa. The report also lays out a series of evidence-based recommendations for drug policies across the region.

Seized cannabis being destroyed in Côte d’Ivoire | Credit: AFP/Issouf Sanogo

The report calls on governments and other stakeholders in the region and beyond to: 

  1. Treat drug use as a public health issue with socio-economic causes and consequences, rather than as a criminal justice matter;
  2. Actively confront the political and governance challenges that incite corruption within governments, the security services and the judiciary, which traffickers exploit;
  3. Develop, reform and/or harmonise drug laws on the basis of existing and emerging minimum standards and pursue decriminalization of drug use and low-level non-violent drug offences;
  4. Strengthen law enforcement for more selective deterrence, focusing on high-level targets;
  5. Avoid militarisation of drug policy and related counter-trafficking measures, of the kind that some Latin American countries have applied at great cost without reducing supply;
  6. Ensure that the shared responsibility of producer, transit and consumer countries is translated into operational strategies, including the sharing of experience among leaders from affected countries within and beyond West Africa;
  7. Balance external assistance between support for security and justice efforts on the one hand, and support for public health efforts on the other, particularly with regard to the provision of treatment and harm reduction services;
  8. Invest in the collection of baseline data (including citizen surveys) and research on drug trafficking and drug consumption.

Project description

With funding from USAID, the Kofi Annan Foundation and IDPC will work alongside the West Africa Commission on Drugs in 2014 and 2015 to disseminate the report and its recommendations – ensuring their impact and uptake through strategic outreach, capacity building and advocacy in West Africa. Six high-level country visits by Commissioners will target senior politicians, national policy makers, high-profile public figures, opinion formers and technical experts. At the same time, a series of capacity building workshops will work with local civil society organizations and journalists from across the region. Support will also be given to local civil society advocacy campaigns.

The objective of this work is to support the design and implementation of evidence-based, balanced and effective drug policies in West Africa – policies that are grounded in the principles of human rights and human security, social inclusion, public health, development and civil society engagement.

Updates on the project