BRUSSELS, Belgium – Sharing and managing police data related to organized crime is the aim of the INTERPOL West African Police Information System (WAPIS) Programme, which held its inaugural workshop on 21-22 November.
Developed by INTERPOL, the WAPIS Programme is an EU-funded project initiated during Belgium’s presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2010. The project facilitates the collection, centralization, management, sharing and analysis of police information among countries belonging to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and Mauritania.
The event marked the beginning of the first planning phase of the WAPIS Programme and was attended by senior law enforcement officers from West Africa, including INTERPOL’s Vice President for Africa, Adamu Mohammed from Nigeria, together with representatives of the European Union, ECOWAS and CIVIPOL. The two-day workshop also brought together the points of contact of the five pilot countries (Benin, Ghana, Mali, Mauritania and Niger) and Sierra Leone.
The Special Representative of INTERPOL to the EU, Pierre Reuland, said: “WAPIS is an ambitious programme and unique in its genre. WAPIS will become a regional system, compatible with European countries and the rest of the world through the INTERPOL I-24/7 secure global police communications system.”
The workshop focused on evaluating the existing police data and flows in the five pilot countries in order to assess their needs, and concluded with a visit to the data centre of the Belgian Integrated Police and a demonstration of their systems.
The WAPIS Programme forms one of the pillars of the EU’s Cocaine Route Programme and is financed through the Instrument of Stability. During the opening, Adriaan van der Meer, Head of Unit, Instrument for Stability, Nuclear Safety, of the European Commission DG Development and Cooperation – EuropeAid stated: “The WAPIS Programme will enhance the exchange of criminal information between West African countries themselves and the rest of the world using modern policing tools to fight threats posed by organized crime as well as terrorism."
Besides the EU and the pilot countries, ECOWAS is a crucial partner for the WAPIS Programme, as it will be the final owner of the police information system. Colonel Dieng, Head of Regional Security Division of ECOWAS, underlined the importance of early involvement and ongoing cooperation between all partners.
In 2013, five other workshops will follow in West African countries in order to assess in detail the needs of the countries and to establish a detailed plan for the second and third phases of the WAPIS Programme.