By Leandre Banon

In 2014, the debilitating effects of punitive drug laws across West Africa triggered an urgent need for reforms grounded on human rights and public health. This call for reform was timely as the precarious situation threatened good governance, peace and stability, economic growth and public health in West Africa, a region that is still emerging from decades of violent conflict and economic instability.

The West Africa Commission on Drugs (WACD), in its 2014 report titled, Not Just in Transit: Drugs, the State and Society in West Africa, openly called for the decriminalisation of drug use and possession for personal use. The report provided evidence to show that criminalisation of drug use worsens health and social problems, puts undue pressure on the criminal justice system and fosters corruption.

The 2016 United Nations General Assemblies Session (UNGASS) provided an opportunity for various stakeholders to evaluate and adjust their current drug policies to ensure that it responds to national and regional realities. Before the UNGASS, the West Africa Drug Policy Network (WADPN) supported by the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI) and Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) organised national and regional multi-sectoral forums to facilitate a candid discourse on drug policy in West Africa.

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Thumbnail Flickr CC Tomas de Aqumo