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The West Africa Commission on Drugs (WACD) has urged West African governments to ensure that West Africa does not become a new frontline in the failed “war on drugs”.
The Commission has also urged political leaders in West Africa to act together and fully engage Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) to change the laws and policies on drugs that have not worked, while urging the international community to share the burdens created by the rise in drug trafficking through West Africa which neither produces nor consumes most of the drugs that transit the region.
The calls were contained in an independent report released by WACD in June 2014, entitled ‘Not Just in Transit: Drugs, the state and society in West Africa’.
According to the report, even though civil wars have receded and democracy has gained ground, and the economies of West African countries are growing, a destructive new threat—international drug cartels, with local collusion— is jeopardizing the progress being made by destroying communities and devastating lives.
The report notes that drugs pose a new threat to the development of West African countries as the region is being increasingly destabilized, not only by the illicit trade, but also by its local production and consumption.
WACD, the report says, has, therefore, come to the conclusion that drug use must be regarded primarily as a public health problem and that the consumption and possession of drugs for personal use should not be criminalized.
WACD, the report concludes, is of the view that drug traffickers and their accomplices must face the full force of the law but that the law should not be applied disproportionately to the poor, the uneducated and the vulnerable, while the powerful and well-connected slip through the enforcement net.
It is, therefore, against this background a Civil Society Workshop on Drug Policy is being held in Accra.
The two-day workshop, the first of two proposed workshops (the second taking place in September or October, this year), forms part of a regional project to outreach and disseminate the recommendations from the WACD report, as well as being part of the collaborative efforts to create a West African CSO Drug Policy Network.
The overall objective of the workshop is to strengthen the capacity of CSOs to engage and advocate on issues of drug policy, drug prevention and treatment, harm reduction, security and governance in West Africa.
About 40 participants including representatives from CSOs, professional associations, Coalitions and Networks, among others, are attending the workshop.
It is being organized by WACD, West Africa Civil Society Institute (WASCI) and the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) in partnership with the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), Kofi Annan Foundation and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
In an address at the opening of the workshop, yesterday, Mr Guillo Cintron, Senior Program Management Specialist, Regional Peace and Governance Office, USAID, pledged the commitment of USAID to supporting the Kofi Annan Foundation, WACD and the IDPC in their efforts to raise awareness of the issues of drug trafficking and consumption in West Africa.
Other speakers included Nana Asantewa Afadzinu of WASCI, Jamie Bridge of IDPC and Mathias Hounkpe of OSIWA.
Source: ISD (G.D. Zaney)