The seeming recess of national conflicts, particularly civil war, provides a glimpse of hope that West Africa is gaining regional stability. However, a destructive new threat is jeopardizing this progress: with international drug cartels undermining West African countries and communities, and devastating lives. The trafficking of cocaine, estimated at 1.25 billion dollars, alone, exceeds the national budgets of many states in the region.
This was stated in a research published by the West Africa Commission on Drugs (WACD) in 2014, titled Not Just in Transit: Drugs, the State and Society in West Africa. According to the report, drugs pose a new threat to the development of West African countries. WACD notes that the region is being increasingly destabilised not only by the illicit trade but also by the local production and consumption of drugs.
Drug related problems exist on all levels of society. It equally needs to be addressed by the collective efforts of all sectors within the society including civil society and the media. Civil society organisations (CSOs) in West Africa are taking active measures to contribute in current efforts to curb drug trafficking and use in the region. From Wednesday February 11, to Thursday February 12, 2015, CSOs from all member states of the Economic Commission for West Africa will converge in Accra to brainstorm and strategise on practical measures to combat this menace.
The WACD, together with CSOs including international non-governmental organisations such as the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) and the Open Society Foundations will meet to develop the capacity of CSOs in the region on issues related to drug policy, drug prevention and treatment, harm reduction, security and governance, and effective advocacy. This is to empower them to be strategic and influential actors in the war against drugs in West Africa. According to Jamie Bridge, Senior Policy and Operations Manager of IDPC, this workshop will create a space for IDPC to work very closely with civil society in West Africa to raise awareness on drug related issues.
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