UN Security Council Takes a New and Welcome Approach to Drugs Trade
Rather belatedly, I’d like to point readers to an excellent brief by James Cockayne of the International Peace Institute on last month’s UN Security Council presidential statement on global drugs trafficking. Cockayne calls it a “milestone in the global drug control debate, and a turning point in the world body’s approach to the issue.” He writes:
The presidential statement – a political pronouncement by the Council falling short of a binding resolution, but agreed unanimously by its fifteen members – constitutes the first coherent political commitment by the Security Council to tackle the world drug problem based on “common and shared responsibility.” This is code for the idea that demand reduction is as important as reduction of supply. The statement sends a signal that even if the major security implications of drug trafficking fall on production and transit states in the global South, consuming states in the global North also have responsibilities in tackling the trade. While the Council has previously made similar noises in relation to drug trafficking in specific countries such as Afghanistan and Guinea-Bissau, and even the region of West Africa, this is the first time it has ever made such a commitment on a global scale.
UNODC head Antonio Maria Costa focused on trends in the Sahara/Sahel in his address to the Security Council prior to the statement’s release, arguing for greater regional action:
He described how cocaine trafficking from the West and heroin from the East are creating instability and spreading addiction. He said that “we have acquired evidence that the two streams of illicit drugs – heroin into Eastern Africa and cocaine into West Africa – are now meeting in the Sahara, creating new trafficking routes across Chad, Niger and Mali.” He warned that, like in the Andean countries and in West Asia, “terrorists and anti-Government forces in the Sahel extract resources from the drug trade to fund their operations, purchase equipment and pay foot-soldiers.” He also said that drug trafficking in the region is taking on a whole new dimension – becoming larger, faster and more high-tech.
He urged Member States to create a trans-Saharan crime monitoring network to improve information, monitor suspicious activity, exchange evidence, facilitate legal cooperation and strengthen regional efforts against organized crime.
But as Cockayne points out, one of the more impressive aspects of the presidential statement is its call for greater trans-regional action, in particular greater cooperation between Latin America, West Africa and Europe to tackle the drugs trade and associated ills still rapidly expanding in West Africa. In a further nod to supra-regional collaboration, he notes that international efforts to deal with Somali piracy may be instructive in devising new counter-strategies in other regions of Africa.
Finally, Cockayne breaks down the real significance of the statement in practical terms. It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the next few years, but anything that promotes the consideration of drug trafficking within conflict management has to be taken as a hopeful sign.
[T]he Council “invites the Secretary-General to consider mainstreaming the issue of drug trafficking as a factor in conflict prevention strategies, conflict analysis, integrated missions’ assessment and planning and peacebuilding support.” Cutting through the bureaucratic jargon, what this signals is that in future the UN Secretariat will not need to seek a specific mandate from the Security Council to consider drug trafficking in designing and planning field missions.
Instead, the UN Secretariat is now empowered to consider drug trafficking as a potential amplifier of insecurity around the world – and then to work through a range of demand-side and supply-side approaches to support the efforts of states, civil society and sub-regional and regional bodies to tackle the problem.