Arab security officials discuss anti-drug strategy
By Monia Ghanmi for Magharebia in Tunis – 16/10/12
The sale of drugs has become a key financier of terrorism in the Arab world because terrorist organisations sponsor this trade and protect its routes throughout the region.
Heads of Arab anti-drug agencies recently concluded a two-day conference in Tunis with calls for activating co-operation to crack down on the narcotics trade.
Arab Interior Ministers' Council Secretary-General Mohamed Ibn Ali Koumen said at the meeting, which ended on October 4th , "the transformations that have defined the Arab region since last year have left the borders of some countries hazy". "Smuggling gangs including drug cartels benefit from this situation. The insecurity at some of these borders has strengthened the links between organised crime gangs, allowing the drug trade to finance terrorism." He added.
High-ranking officials from Arab states, representatives of the Arab League, the International Criminal Police Organisation (INTERPOL), the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), as well as university professors and security experts attended the event.
Participants recommended enhancing the monitoring of shared borders. They emphasised the need to strengthen the exchange of information and control of smuggling routes of cocaine through West African states, as well as smuggling of precursors across the Gulf states.
The conference called on member-states to accord a substantial role in their national plans to local communities in policing drugs and psychotropic substances. Close partnership between police and local communities is crucial to the fight against narcotics and psychotropic substances.
The drug trade flourished in the region after the Arab Spring uprisings as a result of lax security, according to the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB).
Koumen attributed this to the Arab world's geographical location as a transit area between producing and consuming countries.
In addition, smuggling gangs are exploiting the poverty and deprivation in some areas to promote the distribution and consumption of narcotics, he said. He also noted that the political and security situation in some areas adjacent to the Arab world have led to the emergence of new smuggling routes for drugs and various terror and organised crime gangs.
The INCB report described the African continent a major problem in the drug trade. It is a conduit for all types of drugs coming from South America in the direction of markets in Europe, where these drugs are stored and smuggled through countries such as Morocco, Nigeria and Mauritania.
Morocco is one of the world's largest producers of hashish, 60% of which goes to Egypt, Europe, the Gulf and North America, according to the INCB. If unchecked, drug trafficking and consequent cross-border crimes would undermine the development, stability and security of Africa.
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