As we begin to see a number of drug policy developments in the African region, the side event at the Commission on Narcotic Drugs was an opportunity to present and discuss two recent initiatives: the African Union Plan of Action on Drug Control for 2013-2017 and the West Africa Commission on Drugs.
Mr. Olawale Maiyegun presented the AU Plan of Action which is the 4th revised plan for the region and aims to improve the health, security and socioeconomic status of Africans. Notably, in contrast to previous Drug Control plans adopted by the AU that were primarily focused on supply, the revised plan follows a balanced and integrated approach to drug control.
As drug consumption continues to increase in the region, the plan also focuses on treatment and acknowledges the rapid socio economic changes and challenges to urban youth that an increased availability of drugs cause.The plan also takes into consideration the political-criminal nexus and creates synergies with AU plans on organised crime, and seeks to increase continental and international cooperation.
Mr. Adeolu Ogunrombi is a member of the West African Commission on Drugs (WACD). The WACD was inaugurated in January 2013 in a response to the increase in drug trafficking and consumption issues in the region. West Africa has been a place of transshipment for a number of years, and organised crime groups operate to ensure safe passage of drugs through the region. Beyond trafficking, there is also a significant increase in local drug consumption, with young people most vulnerable due to a number of predisposing factors. A wide range of drugs are now used and there remains a dire lack of research on drug consumption and health challenges in the region.
The aims of the WACD are to mobilise public awareness, develop evidence based policy recommendations, and capacity building for responding to drug trafficking and dependence. It is not trying to reinvent the wheel, but to compliment current initiatives in the region including the AU Plan. It comprises of distinguished West Africans from the world of politics, civil society, health, security and the judiciary, and is chaired by the former President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo.
In response to questioning, Mr. Maiyegun assured that the AU Plan of Action allows for supportive drug policy and supports comprehensive services that aim to reduce drug related harm. The AU will support member states to implement the plan and ensure monitoring and accountability to commitments made, whilst civil society will also play an important role in implementation of the plan. The AU also welcomes international cooperation from the EU which has synergies and overlapping priorities.
As Africa continues to develop its response to complex drugs issues on the continent, there is hope that the AU Plan of Action and WACD are two positive initiatives that can help move Africa towards evidence based policy and practice.