Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on Drug Trafficking in West Africa as a Threat to International Security

Rodney Hunter
Political Coordinator
U.S. Mission to the United Nations

New York City
December 19, 2018


Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you, Executive Director Fedotov, for your briefing.

The scourge of drug addiction continues to claim too many lives around the world, including West and Central Africa.

The harms of Illicit drug cultivation, trafficking, and consumption are linked to organized crime, illegal financial flows, corruption, and, in some cases, even terrorism. Regardless of the region or context, it is clear that the corrosive impact of transnational drug trafficking impairs the rule of law, weakens public trust in government, and undermines social and economic development.

While the primary responsibility for international drug control policy belongs to the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs, the Security Council also has a role to play in addressing the links between drug trafficking, terrorism, and international peace and security.

My country is certainly not immune to this threat, as we too are facing a devastating opioid crisis of unprecedented scale. This threat is a global one, and one no country can or should have to face this alone.

In response to this challenge, President Trump announced a “Global Call to Action on the World Drug Problem” on September 24. Endorsed by over 130 countries, the framework called on countries to reduce drug demand; cut off the supply of illicit drugs; expand treatment; and strengthen international cooperation. We urge all countries to work towards fulfilling this important initiative, because we know that successfully confronting this challenge will take effort from every country in the world.

In this regard, we applaud ECOWAS for its regional efforts to address drug trafficking, organized crime, and drug abuse through its Drug Action Plan 2016-2020. We also commend UNODC for its drug-control and anti-crime technical assistance in Africa and throughout the world.

Today, I affirm the United States’ commitment to tackling this challenge as well. The United States is investing significant resources in West and Central Africa to counter drug trafficking and transnational organized crime. I’ll mention briefly a few of these important efforts.

The U.S. International Law Enforcement Academy Program delivers specialized courses for criminal justice officials from West and Central Africa on counternarcotics, anti-corruption, financial crimes, and border security, among other related topics. Through three of its facilities – including the U.S. Regional Training Center in Ghana and the U.S. International Law Enforcement Academies in Botswana, we have trained over 2,100 criminal justice officials in 2018 alone.

In Ghana, the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement is supporting Ghana’s Police Service with $1.7 million to launch Drug Law Enforcement Units in four new strategic regions to strengthen their capacity.

In the Gulf of Guinea, we support the 2013 Yaoundé Process to address illicit maritime activity. Partnering with INTERPOL, U.S. assistance to this regionally owned framework includes nearly $3 million to assist maritime law enforcement agencies in Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin, and Nigeria.

We support these countries’ efforts to investigate maritime-based organized crime, improve information sharing, strengthen maritime interdiction and investigation capabilities. The U.S. Africa Command also partners with these countries to support maritime training and operations such as OBANGAME EXPRESS and the Africa Maritime Law Enforcement Partnership.

In Liberia, the State Department is spending $2.4 million in support of a transnational organized crime project to promote intelligence-led policing and investigations, interdiction and seizures of illicit drugs, organized-crime prosecutions, and capacity building for security and law enforcement agencies. The initiative, in partnership with UNODC, has already led to increased drug-related interdictions and more than 90 arrests associated with transnational organized crime.

In Benin and Togo, the State Department has invested over $4 million since 2012 to build the capacity of magistrates to prosecute drug trafficking and related cases through mentorship, technical assistance, and collaborative training sessions. Also in Benin, we are providing training and equipment to the Republican Police to stem drug trafficking across Benin’s land borders and waterways.

The United States supports the training of evidence-based best practices, as well, for officials who work on drug use prevention, treatment, and recovery services throughout the African continent. Just last week in Nairobi we supported a major international drug demand reduction workshop with participation from more than 40 African nations.

In conclusion, Mr. President, the United States remains committed to fighting the drug epidemic globally, including in West and Central Africa,. We look forward to working with this Council, the region, and partners to strengthen our communities, protect our families, and deliver a drug-free future for all.

Thank you, Mr. President.