A regional workshop on transnational organized crime, focusing on the impact of money laundering and terrorist financing in the ECOWAS region, was held from December 12 to 14 in Lomé, Togo. The event was jointly organized by the Intergovernmental Action Group against Money Laundering in West Africa (GIABA) and the ECOWAS Center for Gender Development (CCDG).
In this context, GIABA had requested the participation of an expert from the Timbuktu Institute for Peace Studies, as a resource person. Mr. Babacar Ndiaye, Senior Fellow and former UNODC expert on human security and the prevention of transnational organized crime, took an active part in this important regional workshop.
The workshop followed a meeting of experts on the same theme organized by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) from November 23-24, 2023 in Abidjan, to contextualize its new toolkit on gender mainstreaming in the implementation of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) in West and Central Africa. Mr. Ndiaye’s active participation in the workshop was also decisive.
Objective: The regional women’s round table aimed to raise awareness of the gendered dimensions of money laundering and terrorist financing, and to reach a consensus on the integration of gender issues in the fight against transnational organized economic and financial crime in the ECOWAS region.
Participants and speakers : The workshop brought together 38 participants, including delegates from the relevant sectoral ministries of the 15 ECOWAS member states, representatives of ministries responsible for gender/youth issues, civil society organizations, ECOWAS institutions/agencies and technical and financial partners.
In his capacity as resource person, Mr. Babacar Ndiaye moderated a session and delivered a paper unanimously praised for its relevance and wealth of data and analysis, on the theme of the following session:
Session 2: Transnational Organized Crime, its Impact in West Africa and the Involvement of Women: This session examined the various transnational organized crimes in West Africa and the key role of women in curb the evolution of organized crime, while discussing the root causes of their involvement.
In his presentation, Mr. Ndiaye began by clarifying the international legal framework governing the fight against transnational organized crime (TOC), and exhaustively highlighted the push and pull factors and vulnerabilities of West Africa in the face of the threats posed by transnational organized crime in its protean dimension. He also highlighted the
harmful impact of this phenomenon, which violates the sovereignty of States, undermines the rule of law, jeopardizes the safety of women and children, as well as the stability and economy of States, including by promoting corruption and money laundering.
Lastly, he gave an overview of the types of transnational organized crime that have the greatest impact on women in West Africa, as victims and actors, or on the political or economic stability of states:
Human trafficking: a crime against women and by women
“Migrant smuggling: a contested definition in the Sahel, ‘criminal activity’ or ‘economic survival’?
“Gold trafficking: a mineral highly coveted by many state and non-state actors, including armed and criminal groups.”
“Cocaine trafficking: a threat to the political stability of states and health of the population, in ‘migration’ from coastal states to the Sahel?”
Statistics presented by Mr. Ndiaye highlight the growing role of women in global and sub-regional crime (drug trafficking and human trafficking).
– Global: Of the 714,000 women in prison, 35% are imprisoned for drug-related offences (World Report, UNODC). By comparison, out of 8.6 million men in prison, 18% are for drug-related offences.
– Global level: Human trafficking: 65% of suspects prosecuted were men versus 35% women (UNODC studies, 2016).
– In Nigeria, in 2015, more women were arrested for trafficking than men! (NAPTIP)
Conclusions and Recommendations:
The workshop conclusions highlighted the importance of gender mainstreaming in policies to combat transnational organized crime.
Participants agreed that Member States must address the root causes of transnational crime by effectively implementing AML/CFT regimes to improve the social and economic well-being of their citizens.
Participants agreed that not all those involved in migrant smuggling, sexual exploitation and human trafficking are victims, and that some are perpetrators. It is therefore necessary for countries to take social, economic and development measures to reduce the vulnerabilities that are among the factors encouraging participation in criminal activities.
The participants agreed that women’s involvement in transnational organized crime is on the increase, and that further studies, research and typologies are needed to understand the root causes of the phenomenon in order to improve the effectiveness of the fight against this harmful phenomenon.