Civil society organisations (CSOs) in West Africa have resolved to increase efforts towards the fight against drug trafficking and use in the region.

 They re-iterated their commitment during a two-day workshop from February 11 to 12, 2015 in Accra.

The workshop convened forty participants from CSOs from all countries in the region except Togo and Mauritania. They revisited international policies and institutions that exist to back-up efforts to combat the drug menace.

The workshop gave participants an opportunity to acknowledge the strong factors in West Africa that can pave way to significantly minimise the current threats posed by the drug menace in the region.

Firstly, the West Africa Commission on Drugs established by Former United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, and secondly, the research published by the commission in 2014 that exposes the magnitude of the drug problem and opportunities to tackle the problem.

Jamie Bridge, Senior Policy and Operations Manager of the International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) urged CSOs in the region to make use of these instruments. He urged CSOs to leverage on these tools to raise awareness on the drug menace.

“We [CSOs] need to take a different approach. The war on drugs has not worked. It has a damaging impact on communities”, he said.

Mamadou Diallo, Outreach, Communications and Advocacy Consultant for the West Africa Commission on Drugs (WACD) urged all stakeholders to change their perception of the problem and the approach in resolving the problem. He encouraged stakeholders to focus on the human element in every strategy utilized to tackle the problem.

CSOs used this workshop to take a unified stance in increasing their efforts to tackle this menace in their respective countries.

Christian Lokko, Public Relations Officer of REMAR, a CSO in based in Tema, Ghana explained that the current drug menace calls for a lot of advocacy, education and raising public awareness by CSOs. “We [CSOs] need to get lawmakers, people in government and society to take a critical look at the scourge of drugs”, Lokko stated.

This two-day Civil Society Workshop on Drug Policy in West Africa was organised by the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI), in collaboration with WACD and IDPC, with support from the USAID, the Open Society Initiative for West Africa and the Kofi Annan Foundation (KAF).