Experts and ministers on drugs from the 15 ECOWAS countries met in Abuja, Nigeria on 5th September as part of an on-going effort to address the drug problem and organised crime within the region. The meeting sought to appraise and review the implementation of the current ECOWAS “Regional Action Plan on Illicit Drug Trafficking, Organised Crime and Drug Abuse within West Africa”, and to approve its successor.
Governments within the sub-region have always made efforts to address the drug problem through the adoption of various methods and strategies over the years. ECOWAS initially put in place, adopted and endorsed its Political Declaration and Regional Action Plan on drugs for 2008 to 2011, which was then extended until 2015.
Prior to the ministerial meeting, experts on the subject matter – as well as stakeholders from member states, the African Union (AU), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), INTERPOL and the European Union (EU) – deliberated on strategies to address the drug problem in West Africa, and to agree a new Regional Action Plan for 2016-2021.
The new Action Plan has seen some improvements in terms of the strategies to be adopted by Governments of the sub-region in addressing the global drug problem. For example, it specifically targets high and middle-level drug offenders, while offering alternatives to incarceration for people who use drugs – including treatment, rehabilitation and reintegration services where needed.