UNV and UNODC: a transformative partnership benefiting peace and security in West Africa
The United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme has been partnering with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) since 1999. Since a new Memorandum of Understanding was signed in 2013, more than 100 UN Volunteers have served with UNODC in 25 countries.
UNV has developed a successful partnership with the UNODC Regional Office for West and Central Africa based in Dakar, especially in the mobilization of youth volunteers. Over the course of three years, 21 UN Volunteers and UN Youth Volunteers have supported UNODC in Senegal in the fight against illicit drugs and transnational organized crime in the region. They especially contribute in the cross-cutting areas such as programme management, communications and monitoring & evaluation.
We started recruiting UN Volunteers in 2015. I quickly appreciated their value, because they are motivated, technologically savvy and have innovative profiles with high-quality work experience, which brought a fresh wind to UNODC. UN Volunteers contribute technical inputs, and also produce attractive content for our multimedia platforms that give visibility to what we do throughout the region. --Mr Pierre Lapaque, UNODC Regional Representative
In the UNODC Regional Office, each UN Volunteer engages in communications for the office in addition to their official assignment. "Through the initiative of UN Volunteers, the Regional Office has launched Twitter in two languages, develops regular press releases and publishes articles on our website to inform the general public about our activities which is highly appreciated by our partners. All UNODC Volunteers are also communication focal points of their own section so they play a key role in UNODC communication," explains Maïa Mendjisky, UN Youth Volunteer in Programme Coordination in Dakar.
Based on the pioneering vision of Mr Lapaque to deploy UN Volunteers and UN Youth Volunteers in a strategic way to develop, monitor, document and communicate about projects, the number of UN Volunteers has dramatically increased in the last three years at UNODC in Senegal. Today, almost every project of the UNODC Regional Office for West and Central Africa benefits from the contributions of a UN Volunteer. Based on this positive partnership in Senegal, UNODC has started engaging UN Volunteers in other counties in the region.
One strong example is how UN Volunteers are key assets in the judicial system and safeguarding human rights in Niger, as outlined below in an excerpt from an article originally published by the UNODC Regional Office.
UN VOLUNTEERS AS KEY ASSETS FOR THE JUDICIAL SYSTEM IN NIGER
In July 2017, UNODC appointed and trained 10 UN Volunteers in Niger (five of them women), as part of its US-funded support project to the judicial system. UN Volunteers have provided legal aid to more than 600 detainees in the prisons of Niamey, Kollo and Koutoukalé since the beginning of the programme in July 2017. They brought these cases to the attention of the Specialized Judicial Unit, which treated and judged nearly 200 of them between September and January 2018. Since September 2017, 59 persons were released, 18 of whom beneficiated from temporary release.
It is certain that the work of the UN Volunteers has significantly contributed to holding hearings in February 2018, firstly, through an effective and accelerated follow-up of cases with the counter-terrorism Specialized Judicial Unit, and secondly, by preparing the detainees and best behaviors to adopt during the hearings. --Ali*, UN Volunteer Lawyer based in Niamey
UNODC organized an assessment mission in Niger between 22 and 26 January 2018. During the mission, UNODC officials met with the UN Volunteers, magistrates from the Specialized Judicial Unit, the focal point of the Bureau of Counterterrorism of the US Department of State as well as Ms Amadou Bibata, Secretary General of the Ministry of Justice in Niger, to discuss the project's progress, successes and shortcomings, as well as its possible further development. Ms Bibata took this opportunity to express the strong will of the Government of Niger to continue the cooperation with UNODC.
We wish to thank UNODC for its support, which has been crucial and we guarantee that the State of Niger will undertake everything to see this partnership continue. --Ms Amadou Bibata, Secretary General of the Ministry of Justice in Niger
On 5 February, Mr Lapaque and Mr Erik Van der Veen, Coordinator of the UNODC Sahel Programme, met with the UN Volunteers during the planning meeting for the new phase of UNODC support project in order to congratulate them on their excellent work. The experience is being considered as a good practice to be replicated in other Sahelian countries.
Starting in Senegal, the engagement of UN Volunteers by UNODC has been expanding in the region tapping into the energy, unique strengths and perspectives of youth, which could be a role model for the mobilization of UN Volunteers in other UN agencies.
*To ensure his security, the UN Volunteer is not referred to by his real name.