Remarks by Ambassador Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, During a Security Council Open Debate on Drug Trafficking in West Africa and Elsewhere

Susan E. Rice
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations 
U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
New York, NY
December 8, 2009


Thank you, Mr. President.  

The United States would like to thank Burkina Faso for its leadership in drawing attention to the threat to international peace and security posed by drug trafficking, particularly in West Africa. Minister Yoda, welcome back to the Chamber. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you, and Ambassador Kafando, and your entire delegation for providing such important voice to this body over the last two years. We also appreciate the update, comprehensive and informative as ever, from Executive Director Costa, and look forward to future briefings from UNODC.

Mr. President, drug trafficking is truly an international problem, and one with very serious consequences for the security and development of societies. Increasingly, the illicit activities of violent criminal networks pay no heed to borders and undermine our common security and our shared economic health. Illicit actors are smuggling billions of dollars of illegal goods into our jurisdictions, thus weakening the rule of law, democracy, and economic development.

Transnational drug enterprises are just that: enterprises. They search constantly for higher profits and new business opportunities, and they are closely linked to other transnational criminal enterprises. They are cutting-edge organizations, and their weapons and other equipment – for communications, encryption, and surveillance – are often better than those available to the law enforcement officials charged with bringing them to justice.

Fighting transnational drug trafficking is not something that any one government can do alone.  We must work closely together on several levels: bilateral, sub-regional, regional, and global. 

Narco-trafficking in West Africa is a serious and growing threat.  It further destabilizes an already turbulent region whose past and present remains punctuated by civil wars and coups.  Drug trafficking robs populations of legitimate sources of economic activity and development, and it tears apart the social fabric.

West Africa has become a major trafficking route for cocaine moving from South America to Europe.  Though most transit states in Africa do not have significant markets yet, for illegal drug consumption, illegal drug abuse eventually takes root and spreads.  The wholesale value of cocaine entering Europe from West Africa is estimated to be $1.8 billion—with perhaps $450 million going to traffickers.  These illicit profits far exceed the resources that regional governments have to combat trafficking.   The wholesale value of just a few months of trans-shipped cocaine can eclipse the GDP of many countries in the region.   Such situations threaten good governance and local and regional stability.

Mr. President, taking effective measures against narco-trafficking requires both increased donor assistance and a clearer demonstration of political will by regional governments.  The key to success is capable, reliable, and transparent institutions. Drug traffickers thrive in poverty-stricken and permissive environments marked by porous borders and weak state authority. Corruption and ineffective governance often create de facto impunity for drug traffickers. 

My government therefore welcomes the Political Declaration and Action Plan adopted by West African leaders a year ago. We also welcome the recently launched West African Crime Initiative, which brings together ECOWAS, the UN, and the International Police Organization.  

The United States further welcomes UNODC’s technical-assistance activities, which will strengthen regional states’ institutional capacity to combat the menace of international drug trafficking.   UNODC’s regional program for West Africa will represent a strategic roadmap for the organization’s activities. Furthermore, we applaud the results of the donors’ meeting that UNODC co-hosted with the Government of Austria in Vienna on December 3, which raised more than 15 million Euros to help ECOWAS reduce the region's vulnerability to drugs and crime. 

For our part, the United States is working as a partner, both bilaterally and multilaterally, to combat the scourge of drug trafficking. The United States provides assistance for counternarcotics and law enforcement and criminal justice capacity-building in more than 90 partner countries.

In particular, we are supporting member states’ efforts to accede to and implement the three UN drug conventions, the UN Convention on Transnational Organized Crime, and the UN Convention Against Corruption—all of which provide the international legal framework and tools to confront this threat.  Implementing these conventions and applying these tools will serve as a force multiplier.     

The United States has already devoted more than $13 million to addressing this challenge in West Africa, in the last fiscal year, and we are working to secure additional funding for bilateral and regional programs.  For example, we are working with the Government of Ghana to further develop an elite counternarcotics law enforcement capacity to investigate drug trafficking organizations and support high-level prosecutions.

Our discussion today focuses on West Africa, but we face growing threats elsewhere too.  In Haiti, for instance, the net flow of drugs has grown recently, and the government, by its own admission, lacks the capacity to counter these flows or fully adjudicate related crimes.  The UN and its member states have invested years of peacekeeping efforts in Haiti; we cannot afford to let narco-trafficking undermine the real successes that the government’s efforts, and the efforts of this body, have begun to yield.  In Afghanistan, the drug trade threatens political stability and economic growth by funding insurgents, feeding corruption, and undermining the rule of law.

While the United States continues to provide funding to UNODC for counternarcotics activities in Afghanistan, we urge others to provide extra-budgetary contributions too.  Over the next year, we will seek to provide together $450 million in direct assistance for counternarcotics in Afghanistan. 

Mr. President, we face enormous challenges as we seek to curb the increasing power of ruthless transnational crime and drug groups that threaten our communities.  The United States is committed to combating these threats by working to dismantle criminal networks, develop law enforcement capabilities, and help strengthen institutions and governance.  This is a serious challenge, but we are intensifying our work with other fellow member states and our international partners to meet it.    Thank you very much.   


PRN: 2009/301