Remarks by Jeffrey DeLaurentis, U.S. Alternate Representative to the United Nations, At a Security Council Briefing on Combating Drug Trafficking in the Sahel and West Africa, December 18, 2013

Ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis
U.S. Alternate Representative for Special Political Affairs 
New York, NY
December 18, 2013


Thank you Mr. President. Let me welcome the presence of Foreign Minister Carrera at this morning’s Council meeting. We thank the Secretary General, Executive Director Fedotov, and SRSG Djinnit for their instructive and helpful presentations this morning. The statistics and patterns they highlighted demonstrate the urgency of this issue. The Sahel and West African region is emerging as a hub and corridor for trafficking in hard drugs, as well as a transit and production point for synthetic drugs. We join the international community in expressing alarm over this troubling development.

Drug trafficking in the region has tended to target countries with porous borders, fragile institutions, weak justice and security apparatuses, and limited resources. It has in turn contributed to the violent unrest and instability the region has seen over the past year. When left unchecked, drug traffickers may link up with other illicit networks and, in the most extreme cases, share trade routes and possibly profits with rebel groups and violent extremists.

Not only do drug trafficking networks undermine development and security, they also erode confidence in justice and government institutions. When corrupt leaders profit and traffickers act with impunity, populations lose confidence in the rule of law, illicit economies flourish, and accountable and responsive governance is further eroded. We have seen this in Guinea-Bissau, where drug trafficking has been both a cause and consequence of poor governance.

The destabilizing effects of illicit flows are compounded as governments must now also grapple with the social and policy challenges presented by increased domestic drug use. Illicit trafficking is correlated with higher school dropout rates, increased violence and criminal behavior, lost workforce productivity, and diminished human capital.

In spite of these growing challenges, we strongly encourage regional institutions to face these issues head-on and welcome ECOWAS’s extension in 2013 of its regional action plan to support the work of UNODC, UNOWA and committed governments. We join the international community in emphasizing the importance of regional solutions, which, like the problems themselves, must cross borders, cultures, languages, and economic systems.

Over the past year, we have seen an increase in regional conferences, commissions, agreements, and policies aimed at tackling narcotics trafficking and consumption. Now is the time to translate the agreements and policies into action. The UN has a crucial role to play, particularly on border security, as the international community partners with regional governments to develop the tools to combat drug trafficking and its negative impacts in the Sahel and West Africa.

The United States has committed significant resources to address drug trafficking and its effects in the region and will launch new programs in Mali and Chad in the coming year. Our programs support current efforts to counter drug trafficking, respond to drug use, increase public awareness, and strengthen the rule of law.

For example, the United States has helped develop the training curriculum and the investigative capacity of the Nigerian National Drug and Law Enforcement Agency. In October of this year, the Agency burned over 7,249 kilograms of illicit drugs that it had seized. The United States has also been working with the governments of Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia, and Nigeria to develop a professional substance abuse system that includes a certification board and licensing process and implements evidence-based treatment programs that respect human rights. In Benin, the United States will soon launch programs to address corruption, strengthen rule of law, and raise awareness on issues related to transnational organized crime. We have also provided approximately $2.5 million to UNODC in support of the West Africa Coastal Initiative, which addresses border and corruption issues throughout the region.

Since the Security Council first considered the threat that drug trafficking poses to international peace and security in 2009, much progress has been made on the global fight against drugs. We look forward to continuing and extending this global work in the Council as well as continuing our focus in the Sahel and West Africa region to bolster the capacity of governments and institutions to disrupt transit corridors and deny traffickers the space to operate.

Finally, Mr. President, as this is the last scheduled formal meeting of the Council in 2013, let me say on the part of the United States that it has been an honor and privilege to work with the delegations of the five departing members of the Council over the last two years. I thank you.


PRN: 2013/272