And thank you in particular for convening this important debate on the impact of transnational organized crime on peace, security and stability in West Africa and the Sahel region. I want to thank as well Secretary-General Ban and Executive Director Fedotov for their briefings today.
Transnational organized crime is a scourge everywhere, but West Africa and the Sahel are plagued by a particularly insidious version. Criminal networks corrupt societies that face pressing developmental challenges in a region emerging from years of conflict. The Security Council must address the situation using a holistic approach, in tandem with the African Union, sub-regional organizations and other actors.
Governments in West Africa and the Sahel have made significant efforts to fight organized crime, through the Economic Community of West African States, the West Africa Coastal Initiative, and numerous other bilateral and sub-regional partnerships. However, the dangers continue to grow. West Africa and the Sahel face increasingly complex and sophisticated criminal activities, including terrorism, embezzlement of public funds, and the illicit trafficking of drugs, arms, oil, people and counterfeit goods, which threaten regional stability by inflaming conflicts and undermining development.
Drug trafficking remains a principal threat. As we have heard, according to UNODC, the UN Office for West Africa, and reports provided to the Security Council, drug trafficking is increasingly intertwined with other forms of trafficking in the region. The United States continues to support the West Africa Coastal Initiative through UNODC in order to address border and corruption issues in an area of the world where an estimated $1 billion in cocaine is trafficked annually - a number more than twice the GDP of many West African nations.
Criminals that conduct kidnap-for-ransom operations have substantially supported terrorist networks in the Sahel. Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has demonstrated its ability to carry out criminal activities and attacks against soft targets across significant distances.
Illicit arms trafficking is another serious aspect of transnational crime in West Africa and the Sahel. Poorly secured stockpiles of conventional weapons and ordnance are a potential source for arms smugglers in the region. In October 2011, the United States completed a project in Guinea-Bissau that destroyed over 80 metric tons of obsolete military ordnance at the request of the host nation.
We encourage states to assist, where possible, governments in North and West Africa to destroy surplus, obsolete or poorly secured weapons and ammunition stockpiles. The Libyan crisis has introduced a new set of cross-border challenges. We remain concerned about the risk of weapons, including man portable air defense systems or MANPADS, moving across borders. As Secretary of State Clinton announced in Tripoli last October, the United States is providing $40 million to assist Libya in securing and recovering its weapons stockpiles. So far, we have scoured over 1,500 bunkers and helped to identify, recover, and secure approximately 5,000 MANPADS and components.
We appreciate the financial and technical assistance provided, including by the UK, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, France, and Italy. We support the work of the United Nations Sanctions Committee Panel of Experts assessment on MANPADS and other proliferation threats, and we encourage states that have exported MANPADS to Libya in the past to share information with the Libyan authorities to assist them in accounting for unsecured missiles.
Finally, we note with appreciation the decision by this Presidency to hold a separate session on piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, since piracy and armed robbery at sea also increasingly threaten the peace, security and stability of West Africa and the Sahel. And we look forward to that discussion about this topic on February 27.
Thank you, Mr. President.
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