Working together against crime
Conference of the States Parties of the UNTOC
Vienna, 13 October 2008
Ladies and Gentlemen,
My apologies for not being with you at the opening of the Conference last week. I was in Mexico City to attend the first ever meeting of the Ministers of Public Security of the Americas. On my way back, in New York I briefed the General Assembly on UNODC's work. In this regard, I noted high appreciation from the Third Committee as well from the UN Secretariat, about this Conference and the unanimous expectation that it produces tangible results. Let's not disappoint them.
To make up for my late arrival I have brought with me a very special guest, Ronald Noble, Secretary-General of Interpol: Ron, thanks for joining us. In a few minutes, you and I will make an important announcement.
First let me say a few words about the issues under discussed here.
First: the rotten heart of globalization
It is trite by now to state that organized crime has globalized as much as economic, financial and trade activity: it impacts on almost all aspects of our lives. The affected, or should I say the infected areas are many, so please bear with me.
• To begin with, organized crime is an individual security issue. Until a few weeks ago, namely before the financial meteorite hit the northern hemisphere, around the world people regarded crime and violence as their biggest fears. This was certainly the sentiment at the meeting in Mexico City, where Ministers stressed also the macro (nation-wide) aspects of crime.
• Indeed, organized crime can be a national security issue. Look at the many major cities, even regions, that are out of government control: you'll find organized crime. Look at the spoilers of peace-keeping: they are mostly criminals, with links to the underworld. Look at the many hard to settle post-conflict situations, where warlords and rag-tag militias set up crime groups.
• Organized crime is a health issue. World-wide, perhaps a tenth of the drug supply is fake or counterfeited; in some developing countries it may as high as a third. Drug trafficking itself is a massive health threat. The trade of human organs is another gruesome mafia specialization.
• At a time of great concern about climate change, let's recognize that organized crime is an environmental threat, from mafia control of garbage disposal and the dumping of hazardous waste, to the destruction of primary forests, illegal logging and the trafficking of endangered species.
• Organized crime can cause human rights violations. Many of the products we consume or the services we enjoy are, in some way, stained by the blood, sweat and tears of modern-day slaves: the victims of human trafficking.
• Above all organized crime is also an economic issue: it exploits resources like blood diamonds, precious metals, or by bunkering oil. Piracy and banditry disrupt trade and prevent aid delivery. Fake or pirated luxury goods cost reputable companies huge sums.
• What about financial mafias? Unregulated financial markets, tax havens and offshore banks intermingle with law firms, auditors and accountants to enable international mafias to launder money and give credibility to their assets. Identity-theft and cyber-crime steal the most private information, violate intellectual property, skim financial transactions and display child pornography.
• Most of all, organized crime is a development issue. As UNODC has documented in reports on crime and development in Africa, the Caribbean, Central America and, more recently the Balkans, there is a correlation, even causality, between weak rule of law and weak economic performance. In countries ravaged by crime and corruption, development cannot take hold. In turn, underdevelopment perpetuates these societies' vulnerability to crime.
In short, ladies and gentlemen, if we look at organized crime in isolation we miss the point. As Parties to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, your job is not just to tick the boxes of ratification, file questionnaires and complete checklists. Your duty is to recognize the links between global crime and global issues. I therefore urge you to act swiftly in the implementation of the Convention to prevent crime from threatening the realization of the Millennium Development Goals, and therefore human security and peace.
Since organized crime has become so pervasive, we must mainstream crime prevention into as many relevant areas as possible. The foremost onus is on governments, to criminalize the offences covered by the Palermo Convention and its 3 Protocols, and to take full advantage of the measures in the TOC.
The fact that there are 148 Parties to the Convention is a good sign. But it is less obvious if, how, and for what, the Convention is actually applied. Some countries use some provisions, particularly for international cooperation, like extradition and mutual assistance. But we need a more scientific way to measure performance - and progress, if any. I therefore urge you to agree this week on an UNTOC review mechanism, emulating your peers at UNCAC.
Some news is good. This morning you'll discuss human trafficking - an issue that has received a lot of attention of late, thanks partly to our UN.GIFT initiative. We need as much focus on the two other, neglected Protocols: (a.) the anti-trafficking of firearms, and (b.) anti-smuggling of migrants. I am encouraged by the increased attention to the threat of firearms to development and to the links between arms trafficking, drugs and terrorism. The UN Firearms Protocol is the only global legal instrument to combat this threat, and yet only 76 States - and none of the major players in the arms trade - are a Party to it.
So let me prick your back, to keep you going.
The TOC Convention entered into force a few years ago. Although, ever since, the earlier Conferences of the Parties have not made much progress, we at UNODC have not remained idle. We have promoted cooperation by conceiving, mid-wifeing and nursing the regional crime intelligence centres in Central Asia and in the Gulf. We have also built operational bridges to the OAS, the OSCE, the African Union, CARICOM, and ECOWAS. Cooperation will deepen further with the implementation of regional strategies to fight drugs and crime that we are developing together with these institutions. We have deepened partnership with Interpol of course, and with the World Bank to fight corruption.
At UNODC One UN is not a slogan: UN.GIFT and StAR are concrete initiatives. Nor do we limit ourselves to working with UN agencies: in dealing with drug mafias' attacks against West Africa, we have prodded the Security Council, the Peace-building Commission and SG Representatives. I could also mention our work with DPKO and DPA in peace-keeping operations as well as our visible contributions to UNAMA (Afghanistan) and UNAMI (Iraq).
UNODC has also developed practical tools to make international crime-fighting more effective. Take, for example, the Online Directory of Competent Authorities. This one-stop source shows you whom to address for cases of legal assistance, extradition, transfer of sentenced persons, and when smuggled migrants are intercepted. This tool will soon be expanded to include competent authorities on trafficking in persons and firearms. There is also the Mutual Legal Assistance Request Writer Tool - a means for cutting through bureaucracy to speed up requests for legal assistance.
These are just two examples of a growing number of UNODC software products that strengthen national capacity and stream-line cooperation - as highlighted in presentations by our ITS experts throughout this Conference. Other forms of UNODC assistance are shown in our menu of services.
Policy-making in the dark
Of course, there are limits to what our Office - actually, any organization or country - can do against international mafias. Therefore the key is to widen the circle of those who are active in crime prevention and control. As we have done in the fight against corruption, drugs, and human trafficking we need to involve the private sector, researchers, civil society, the media, and the public at large.
We also need more specialists to fight organized crime. Under the UN flag, there are more than 130,000 soldiers and 10,000 police. Yet, the UN has less than 100 experts on organized crime. We also lack data on crime trends. Lack of experts and lack of information make it hard to produce the reports needed for evidence-based policy. We are close to a breakthrough in our reporting on human trafficking, but the rest of the global crime scene is undocumented as yet. How can we talk about building the rule of law, if the bricks and the mortar are not there? How can we answer the calls for help when we have few people to send?
Therefore, in addition to hard- and soft-ware, we need skilled people: UNODC attaches priority to training experts within and outside the UN to assess threats, needs and to deal with national priorities. Yet, resources are limited and often tightly earmarked to (of course un-stated) foreign policy objectives.
Partners against corruption
Ladies and gentlemen, as I stated earlier Ron Noble and I have a special announcement to make. Here it is.
As corruption is not only a crime in itself, but a lubricant for crime, today UNODC and Interpol will sign a partnership agreement on the establishment of the International Anti-Corruption Academy. It will open its doors next autumn in Laxenburg (just outside of Vienna) as a centre of excellence in anti-corruption education, research, and professional training. Ron: you have no doubt heard the expression partners in crime. I look forward to working with you as partners against crime.
Ladies and Gentlemen, let's put our hands together and welcome the Secretary General of Interpol, Ronald Noble.
Ron, with the Chairperson's permission, the floor is yours. Thank you for your attention.
Vienna 13 October 2008