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West Africa Drugs trade threatens progress

Dakar, Senegal – In a joint declaration, the West Africa Commission on Drugs concludes that drug trafficking, consumption and production in West Africa undermines institutions, threatens public health and damages development efforts. This is the key finding of the Commission’s report Not Just in Transit: Drugs, the State and Society in West Africa.

The scale of the cocaine trade alone through West Africa (estimated at $1.25 billion) dwarfs the combined state budgets of several countries in the region.

“We call on West African governments to reform drug laws and policies and decriminalize low-level and non-violent drug offences”, Olusegun Obasanjo, Chair of the Commission will say.

“West Africa is no longer just a transit zone for drugs arriving from South America and ending up in Europe but has become a significant zone of consumption and production” Mr Obasanjo will say. “The glaring absence of treatment facilities for drug users fuels the spread of disease and exposes an entire generation, users and non-users alike, to growing public health risks.”

Kofi Annan, who initiated the West Africa Commission on Drugs, will say: “Most governments’ reaction to simply criminalise drug use without thinking about prevention or access to treatment has not just led to overcrowded jails, but also worsened health and social problems”.

“We need to gather the required political will to go after the organized traffickers while reforming outdated laws and policies that no longer fit reality”, Pedro Pires, of the West Africa Commission on Drugs will say. “We call on West African States to collaborate and make common cause against a trade that knows no borders.”

“We need the active support and involvement of civil society and of the international community”, Edem Kodjo, a member of the West Africa Commission on Drugs will say. “South America, where most of the drugs smuggled to West Africa come from, and Europe, which is the main consumer market, must take the lead to deal with both production and consumption at home. We cannot solve this problem alone; governments and civil society have to come together in West Africa to help prevent the drug problem from getting completely out of hand”.

For further information, please go to: or follow the Commission on Twitter at: @WACommission

The launch event will be live streamed from 10.30 Dakar time / 11.30 UK time – watch the event here