WEST AFRICA: More funds needed to tackle drug use, NGOs say
Source: [IRIN – humanitarian news and analysis
UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs->http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=75164]
5 November 2007
DAKAR, 5 November 2007 (IRIN) – West and Central African governments and the UN are so focused on reducing the supply of illicit drugs they have ignored efforts to reduce demand, non-governmental organisations say.
“There is total disequilibrium with regards to the means given to different actors [in the fight against drugs],” Cheikh Diop, president of the Federation of Senegalese NGOs Fighting against Drugs, told IRIN. “So much money is invested in the fight against drug trafficking or the reduction of supply; but when it comes to reducing the demand – or the users themselves – organisations working on this approach have almost no financial means.”
At a 3-4 November meeting of NGOs from across West and Central Africa, held in the Senegalese capital Dakar, participants expressed concern over what they considered insufficient funding for organisations focusing on prevention of drug use and treatment for drug users.
“We don’t have the means to do what we want to do,” said Abdoulaye Diouf, local organiser of the meeting and manager of the Senegalese Jacques Chirac drug information and awareness centre. The consultation was part of a global NGO forum called ‘Beyond 2008’, coordinated by the Vienna NGO Committee on Narcotic Drugs. Consultations are taking place worldwide to assess the contribution NGOs have made in the fight against drugs in the last decade and to establish an action plan for coming years.
More than a transit point
While West Africa is increasingly becoming a hub for drugs trafficked to Europe, the region is more than a place of transit. No large-scale studies exist, but NGOs in the region say they believe drug use has increased in recent years – a suspicion confirmed by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). In its World Drug Report, released in July, the UNODC says increased trafficking through the region has also led to increased levels of cocaine, opiate and cannabis abuse in West African countries.
“The fight against drugs will never succeed solely through repression,” the anti-drug federation’s Diop said. “How long have we been putting people in jail? And how long has [the drug problem] continued?”
He said there are few if any treatment facilities available for drug users in West Africa. Poverty-stricken street kids who fall into drugs need to be given alternatives and the general population must be educated about the risks of drug use, he said.
While NGO participation in the fight against drugs has greatly increased since 1998 — when the UN General Assembly convened a special session on the world drug problem — participants at the November consultation identified several constraints they face in their work.
Representatives of NGOs from 13 countries said they lacked training in research, analysis and marketing. According to Diouf, they rarely assess the impact of their work, and thus “it isn’t recognised.” He said some NGOs also complained of lack of expertise in the field.
The organisations also pushed for better cooperation among NGOs, as well as between NGOs and governments and the UN.
“There is almost no collaboration between NGOs and government,” Diouf said. “When it comes to planning and implementing activities, NGOs are ignored in many countries.”
The action plan drafted at the meeting – including more training, better collaboration and increased lobbying for funds – will be presented at a global forum in Vienna in July 2008 – and is intended to influence future UN drug policies.