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West African stability still endangered by global traffickers warns new UN report

The report, a threat assessment issued by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and entitled Transnational Organized Crime in West Africa, cautions that the profit from cocaine trafficking alone may still be larger than the national security budgets of several West African countries, causing difficulties for local law enforcement.In addition, it notes that West African criminal groups have become increasingly independent and enterprising in their ability to bring drugs into the region.“Transnational organized crime is clearly a serious threat to West Africa,” Pierre Lapaque, the UNODC Regional Representative for West and Central Africa, said in a press statement marking the report’s release. “State institutions and the rule of law are weak in most of these countries and unless these organized crimes are tackled, instability is likely to persist and increase.”According to UNODC estimates, at least 50 tons of cocaine from the Andean countries transit through West Africa every year, heading north to Europe where they are worth almost $2 billion in street value. Most cocaine entering Africa from South America makes landfall around Guinea-Bissau in the north and Ghana in the south and are shipped to Europe via drug mules on commercial flights.The new report points out, however, that cocaine is not the only illicit drug affecting the region. In particular, it cites the “worrying” emergence of methamphetamine production in Nigeria, where two methamphetamine labs were detected in the 2011-2012 biennium, and a growth in trans-regional trafficking with some 3,000 methamphetamine couriers alleged to have transported an estimated $360 million worth of drugs from West Africa to East Africa in 2010. The report says that this is an indication that West African criminal groups are becoming increasingly influential in the transnational drug market. Last July, Yury Fedotov, the UNODC Executive Director, confirmed to the UN Security Council that with the increased trafficking, production and consumption of drugs, as well as piracy and insecurity, West Africa represented one of the key challenges for his agency as it had steadily transformed from being simply a transit route into a final destination of illegal substances as well.“The complex challenges West Africa faces represent a severe test for the individual countries and for the region as a whole,” Mr. Fedotov said. “UNODC will continue to work with its partners to build the commitment and develop the necessary solutions in this extremely fluid and fast-moving environment.”Other criminal markets are also discussed in the report, including the smuggling of migrants from West Africa to Europe, the trafficking of fraudulent pharmaceuticals from Asia to West Africa, and maritime piracy in the region.The report warns that while the trends and profits for these diverse markets tend to vary, their potential for sowing corruption, political instability, hampering development and promoting conflict remains “too large for the region to deal with on its own.”“West African States need to do more in terms of data collection and sharing, regional coordination in law enforcement and enhanced drug treatment and rehabilitation services, to mention some recommendations,” admits the UNODC report, while noting that the countries in the region are unable to fight the crime epidemic alone.“They will need support from the international community to make substantial progress in reducing the negative impact of transnational organized crime on the region’s development.” read more

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A dark day in a bleak year for children UNICEF condemns attack

According to media reports, a school bus carrying the 15 school girls was hit by a car bomb as it passed a checkpoint in the Yemeni province of Al Bayda, south of the country’s capital of Sana’a. The deaths come on a day already marked the mass killing of children in a school in Peshawar, Pakistan where 132 children were murdered by Taliban militants earlier this morning. “There can be no justification for such unspeakable savagery against children as they go about the simple act of going to school, or against teachers as they work to educate them,” UNICEF declared in a statement. “Each life taken in Peshawar and Al Bayda is a future lost forever.”The UN agency pointed out that in 2014 schools had repeatedly become the targets of violence with students, teachers, and school staff caught in the crosshairs and “paying a terrible price.” In addition, the statement said, children had been affected as never before in recent memory by violence and extreme hatred, with some 230 million children living in countries affected by conflict. Just last week, UNICEF Executive Director, Anthony Lake, lamented that 2014 had been “a devastating year” for the world’s children and that protracted crises in countries like Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan, Pakistan, and Yemen, continued to claim “even more young lives and futures” without any indication of stopping. “These tragedies underscore why 2015 must be the year when protecting our children against violence of every kind, whether in conflict or in peace, whether in school or at home, and in every circumstance, becomes a global priority,” the statement concluded. read more