Illicit arms and organised crime threaten Africa’s development

2017-11-14

Dakar, Senegal – Transnational organised crime (TOC) has become a global risk to peace and security, but the focus tends to be on priorities for the developed world rather than on Africa’s efforts, goals and challenges.

A side event today at the Dakar International Forum on Peace and Security in Africa highlights two critical issues for Africa. These are the challenges facing the continent and the African Union (AU) in controlling illicit arms flows, and the threat that organised crime poses to achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The side event is hosted by ENACT – a new European Union-funded project launched in 2017 that works to enhance Africa’s response to transnational organised crime.

‘While one reckons there can be no development without security and vice-versa, the specific impact of organised crime on socio-economic development has yet to be fully grasped in order to be properly estimated and addressed,’ says Antoine Gouzée de Harven, representative of the European Union delegation to Senegal.

‘In front of this common global threat, the EU strives to do so internally and is committed to contribute to the same efforts from its African partners through the ENACT project, which complements many bilateral and regional cooperation actions at the continental level.’

Transnational organised crime is divisive and destructive. It is poison in the water of global sustainable development, and a cross-cutting threat that undermines each of the five core priorities of the SDG agenda – namely people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership.

Not only does organised crime threaten specific SDGs and efforts to reduce poverty and promote economic growth; it also compromises sustainable environments and the building of safe and inclusive societies.

This is recognised by the SDGs and – though to a lesser extent – Africa’s development Agenda 2063. However, statements of high-level policy have, as yet, failed to translate into implementation in a systematic way. 

‘Africa is rapidly moving forward with a focus on stimulating economic growth, investment and infrastructure,’ says Tuesday Reitano, Deputy Director of the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime. ‘But this means we need greater awareness and a mitigation strategy to counter and respond to organised crime.

Development actors need to understand not only how organised crime will undermine their objectives, but also that development itself presents opportunities for organised crime to flourish.

‘Existing interventions must be crime-proofed so that that future investments are crime sensitive,’ adds Reitano, who will present an overview of a forthcoming ENACT continental report, The crime-development paradox: organised crime and SDG achievement in Africa, at the side event.

The event also brings into sharp focus the challenge of illicit arms flows, which has become ubiquitous in Africa’s fight against transnational organised crime.

Illicit arms intensify conflicts and facilitate organised crime. Even when they don’t occur in tandem, arms trafficking abets crimes like drug trafficking, human trafficking, illegal mining, fishing, wildlife trade and oil theft.

‘The AU and the UN have, for years, sought to address this challenge,’ says Nelson Alusala, a senior researcher with ENACT. ‘The AU, in particular, has taken great strides to combat illicit arms flows – in line with its vision of “Silencing the guns by year 2020.” So too have the regional economic communities and mechanisms.’

At the ENACT side event, Alusala will explore these various measures, presenting the findings of new ENACT research. ‘The recent declaration, in September 2017 of the Africa Amnesty Month is one such initiative. These are encouraging steps but many hurdles stand in the way of effectively curbing illicit arms flows,’ says Alusala.

He explains that Africa’s journey towards effective arms control is marked by successes and challenges in equal measure. The successes lie in the continent’s many efforts to domesticate international arms control regimes, while the challenge is to implement these regimes amid a rising tide of illicit arms flows.

About ENACT

ENACT is implemented by the Institute for Security Studies and INTERPOL, in affiliation with the Global Iniative against Transnational Organised Crime. For more, visit www.enact.africa.

For enquiries and to arrange media interviews, contact:

Jacqueline Cochrane, ENACT Communication and Evaluation Specialist, jcochrane@issafrica.org

Photo © Guy Oliver/IRIN

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