The threat of terrorism and organized crime is increasingly entrenched across Africa, the head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime told the Security Council on Thursday, warning that illegal trafficking deprives million people of a decent livelihood.
UNODC chief Ghada Waly said there were around 3,500 victims of terrorist acts in sub-Saharan Africa last year, nearly half of those recorded worldwide.
The vast Sahel region in particular has become home to some of the most active and deadly terrorist groups, and it is essential to better understand the links between organized crime and terrorism, through rigorous data collection, a she added.
The proof is there that the illegal mining of precious metals and minerals such as gold, silver and diamonds provides extremists with significant revenue streams and benefits groups who control the extraction and trafficking routes. .
She said that, based on UNODC research, “we have established that illegally mined gold and other precious metals enter the legitimate market, yielding huge profits to traffickers.”
Wildlife trafficking has also been flagged as a possible source of funding for militias, she added, with the illegal ivory trade alone generating $400 million in illicit revenue each year.
With a population of around 1.3 billion, nearly 500 million Africans were living in extreme poverty in 2021, she told the ambassadors.
“This criminal exploitation deprives Africans of an important source of income. It deprives the millions of people who depend on these natural resources for their livelihoodss. And that fuels conflict and exacerbates instability.
The climate emergency and the COVID-19 pandemic have also wreaked havoc on already fragile economies across Africa, and illicit trafficking is only further undermining development and stalling progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.
She said sustainable development would be impossible without peace and stability for the continent, noting that UNODC is “the guardian” of the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, the main international bulwark against black merchants.
Fight the networks
“We are helping member countries put in place the policies, legislation and operational responses needed to better address terrorist threats… In 2021 alone, we implemented 25 counter-terrorism projects in sub-Saharan Africa, with more than 160 activities carried outand trained 2,500 people.
She told the meeting that in the Sahel today, the United Nations training workshops are organized with the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute, in order to strengthen the understanding and skills of officials. of criminal justice to work across agencies, share intelligence and “bring down terrorist networks and those who finance them.”
UNODC is also supporting ten countries in the sub-Saharan region to improve their counter-terrorist financing and money-laundering frameworks, including in the Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Niger and Somalia.
Ms. Waly said UNODC was also working to strengthen inter-agency coordination between intelligence services, law enforcement agencies, financial intelligence units and prosecutors.
She said conflict zones in Africa were disproportionately affected by illegal mining and the trafficking of precious metals.
“Mineral supply chains are often linked to child abuse, human trafficking, forced labor and other human rights abuses. With 60% of Africa’s population under the age of 25, young people are both the continent’s future and its most vulnerable citizens.
But she said that once empowered, young people can become powerful agents of change: “They can creating a better future and advocating on their own behalf and their communities and protect their natural resources.
Empower young people
Ms. Waly said she was particularly proud of the UNODC Peacebuilding Project, which, in partnership with UNESCO, enables young people to become “weavers of peace” in the cross-border regions of Gabon, Cameroon and Chad.
The goal, she said, was to create a network of 1,800 young “peacemakers”. Enable them to become actors in conflict prevention and peacebuilding in cross-border regions, and to identify alternative ways of earning a living for vulnerable cross-border populations.
Defund the terrorists
“UNODC remains fully committed to supporting Africa’s fight against the criminal trade in wildlife and natural resourcesshe assured the ambassadors, adding that she welcomed the Council’s engagement, “in the face of growing concerns that these illicit revenues are financing terrorist activities and armed groups”.
She said the UN’s crime-fighting effort stands ready to help all Africans secure their “right to peace, stability, justice and prosperity – for present and future generations.” . Don’t leave money for terrorists. Don’t leave anyone behind. »