Drug Law Reforms: a Necessity in West Africa
West Africa has become a hub in the global drug trade and a transit point for narcotics from Latin America to the rest of the world. Drug trafficking has hence become a new threat to the development of West Africa.
Mindful of these growing threats, the West Africa Commission on Drugs (WACD) from 19 – 20 September 2017, organised an expert drug law model workshop with forty global experts at the Mensvic Grand Hotel, in Accra.
With support from the Open Society Initiative in West Africa (OSIWA), the Global Commission Drug Policy (GCDP) and in partnership with the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI), the workshop sought to plug gaps and build on the strengths of the various drug laws in West Africa.
“There is the need to develop standards and guidelines for new drug laws within the region based on collated evidence to support advocacy and policy influencing efforts and facilitate the work of West African governments that will help to improve their drug related legislation,” said Nana Asantewa Afadzinu, the Executive Director of WACSI shared at the opening ceremony.
Over the years, drug laws in West Africa have held a strong criminal stance without considering a public health approach. With this in mind, Kofi Annan, the former UN Secretary General, convened the West Africa Commission on Drugs (WACD), chaired by the former President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo on the need for drug law reforms.
“We must have the courage to change policies that no longer fit the reality,’’ Barbara Goedde, Global Advisor at the Global Commission Drug Policy (GCDP) reiterated.
The meeting centred on mapping existing drug laws and to strategising on the way forward. Recommedations from the meeting will be used as the basis to develop an evidence-based model drug law that can be used by governments and advocates across West Africa.
At the end of the two-day meeting, participants concluded that harm reduction policies and laws that are inimical to drug users should be removed from drug laws in West Africa.