12 March 2009The United Nations anti-crime agency and the African Union (AU) today launched a joint initiative to support an African plan to fight burgeoning traffic in illicit drugs and related criminal activity on the continent over the next five years. Support for the AU Plan of Action on Drug Control and Crime Prevention (2007-12) was announced at the current session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), as a segment devoted to high officials ended in Vienna, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). As the high-level segmented concluded, heads of State and ministries mapped out cooperative strategies to confront the world drug problem.The UN-AU project aims to strengthen the ability of the AU Commission and regional organizations, particularly the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), in the areas of policy-making, norm-setting and capacity-building at all levels, UNODC said. According to the agency, the international community is concerned about the growing use of West Africa as a transit route for narcotics bound for Europe from Latin America, due to the African region’s porous borders and weak State and security institutions. UNODC’s October 2008 report “Drug trafficking as a security threat to West Africa” highlights these concerns, stipulating that cocaine seizures in the sub-region had doubled every year for the past three years. The European Union has already lent its support to the implementation of the AU Plan of Action and the ECOWAS Regional Action Plan, following the 2007 Lisbon Declaration and the Africa-EU strategic partnership, UNODC said.In the global Action Plan approved today at the CND, Governments proposed measures to reduce the illicit supply of drugs as well as remedies for abuse and dependence and ways to control precursors and amphetamine-type stimulants.They also agreed on the need for international cooperation to eradicate the illicit cultivation of drug-related crops and the importance of alternative development opportunities in areas that grow such crops.The meeting of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs runs through 20 March. Over 1,400 participants from 130 countries and numerous organizations are taking part in the session.