The African Union Commission Department of Health, Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development (HHS) through the Social Welfare, Drug Control and Crime Prevention Division, organized a 3-day, Continental capacity building workshop on synthetic drug supply reduction, followed by an intergovernmental experts’ meeting, to facilitate the implementation of comprehensive and integrated strategies to address drug trafficking and related transnational organized crime as well as enhance international cooperation and collaboration.
The consultation was held in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire from 19 – 22 July under the theme “Strengthening Synthetic Drug Supply Reduction efforts towards addressing drug trafficking and advancing crime prevention, criminal justice, and rule of law in Africa”. The Continental Consultation on Synthetic Drug Supply Reduction was strategically formulated under the implementation of the African Union (AU) Plan of Action on Drug Control and Crime Prevention (2019-2025) which aims to improve the health, security, and socio-economic well-being of people in Africa by addressing drug trafficking and problematic drug use in all its forms and manifestations and preventing the onset of drug use.
During the opening, H.E. Amb. Minata Samate Cessouma, Commissioner for Health, Humanitarian Affairs, and Social Development revealed the AU continental drug sentinel surveillance network – the Pan African Epidemiology Network on Drug Use (PAENDU) has long drawn attention to the seriousness of the problem that synthetic drug use and trafficking pose for our Continent. She asserted that the main focus must therefore be on how to respond, with an emphasis on accelerating coordinated multisectoral approaches to prevent illicit drug manufacturing, detect emerging drug threats, disrupt trafficking and associated organized crime, and promptly address impacts on public safety and public health. She also affirmed that the continental consultation on synthetic drug supply reduction is undoubtedly an opportunity to forge ahead in the above-mentioned regard.
General Seydou Touré, the Diplomatic Advisor at the Ministry of Interior and Security, Republic of Cote d’Ivoire, spoke on behalf of H.E. General Vagondo Diomandé, Minister of Interior and Security, and expressed the country’s immense honour in hosting such an important gathering. He also reaffirmed Cote d’Ivoire’s commitment to fully participate in the continental and global coalition to address illicit drug trafficking, drug abuse and organized crime, with a focus on adapting to the new and emerging trends of activities to tackle drug trafficking and related transnational threats.
Madam Ruth Aurelie, the representative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) emphasized the importance to reflect upon the achievements, challenges, and lessons learned in the collective efforts to tackle drug abuse in Africa and also took time to highlight the significant steps made by UNODC on areas of Drug Abuse Epidemiology, Drug Demand Reduction, Forensics as well as Law Enforcement. She indicated that significant steps have been taken amongst which are the organization of a high-level scientific consultation on prevention and treatment of drug use disorders in Côte d’Ivoire and the launch of the first University Degree in Addictology in West Africa by the Faculty of Medicine in Senegal.
Mr Brian Morales, Chief of the Counternarcotics Branch for the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs / Office of Global Programs and Policy (INL/GPP), remarked that every region around the globe is experiencing a rapid rise of synthetic drugs supply and use, which are frequently more potent and more lethal than plant-based drugs, and, unlike plant-based drugs, synthetics are relatively easy to produce and traffic. He emphasized that the harms of synthetic drugs impact the economic, public health, and security sectors, among others. Therefore, interconnected efforts need to be made in order to address this global challenge, sooner than later.
Prof. Jallal Toufiq, the President of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) stated that while indicators suggest a potential worsening in what concerns illicit synthetic drug manufacture and use globally, there is still significant potential to enhance national, regional, and global collective efforts for coordination, timely data-sharing and, above all, use of existing systems and platforms. He reiterated the importance of preventing drug use and ensuring access to evidence-based treatment, rehabilitation and social reintegration services that respect human rights. ‘’At the same time, there is an urgent need to further strengthen supply reduction efforts, as recognized in pillar III of the African Union Plan of Action on Drug Control and Crime Prevention’’ the President noted.
The Continental Consultation was marked with presentations of member states reports on illicit drug seizures at the national level, drug control legislation, policies and strategies including forensic capacities; accompanied by panel discussions and recommendations. Presentations on thematic areas such as the global coalition against synthetic drug threats; awareness of emerging threats in new psychoactive substances, opioids, and related synthetic drugs; roadmaps for strategic implementation of synthetic drug control programs in member states among others, were also part of the program and led the course of the sessions bringing up productive interventions from all participants.
AU member states, AUC staff, development partners and representatives of international organizations expressed their commitment to identifying new responses to jointly work toward synthetic drug supply reduction on the continent, at the concluding sessions.
The workshop was attended by nominated focal points from law enforcement agencies, police, customs, maritime security, INCB, INTERPOL, UNODC, TASC, PTACC, U.S. INL/GPP, the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime, Universal Postal Union, World Customs, ECOWAS, Eastern and Southern Africa Commission on Drugs and representatives from relevant directorate of the African Union Commission.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of African Union (AU).