Yury Fedotov

Director General/Executive Director

Remarks on the Palermo Convention against transnational organized crime: the legacy of Giovanni Falcone

6 May 2016

Minister Orlando,

Under Secretary Della Vedova,

Chief Prosecutor Roberti,

Professor Falcone,


Ladies and gentlemen,

Today we pay tribute a man who stands for so much of what we try to achieve here at UNODC, and whose life and work have inspired and informed the means we still use to carry on his commitment.

International cooperation, financial investigations, witness protection; returning ill-gotten gains to the people and communities victimized by criminals.

These are the tried and true tools of our collective fight against organized crime.

It is extraordinary to think that they were born of the insights of one Sicilian judge.

And that is why it is no exaggeration to talk about the legacy of Giovanni Falcone when we talk about the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, known as the Palermo Convention.

He was among the first to recognize the need for an international treaty against transnational organized crime.

In April 1992, Mr. Falcone was part of the Italian delegation to the very first meeting of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, established by the General Assembly, which was "alarmed by the high cost of crime…especially in its new and transnational forms".

Just one month after this inaugural session, Giovanni Falcone was killed at the hands of the mafia.

But if his enemies hoped that by ending his life they also ended his life's work, they were very wrong.

His assassination galvanized the international community.

The General Assembly endorsed Italy's proposal to host the first international conference on transnational organized crime.

It took more than a decade, but the Convention was opened for signature in Palermo in 2000 and came into force in December 2003.

With 186 parties, UNTOC underpins global action against organized crime.  

It is a legacy that we continue to strengthen today - at the CCPCJ, which is still going strong and will meet here next month, and at the Conference of the Parties to UNTOC in October.

Mr. Falcone's legacy can also be seen in the UN Convention Against Corruption, and the recognition that anti-corruption action and public integrity are central to fighting crime.

This was a truth understood even by those who opposed him.

A notorious criminal, who turned state's evidence, explained that he handed himself in to Mr. Falcone, and to him only, because he was known to be incorruptible and beyond their reach, and therefore was one of few men the mafia feared.

Mr. Falcone was a hero, but a hero who recognized that heroes are not enough; that the fight against organized crime could not be won solely through their courage and sacrifices.

He knew that we need institutions that act with integrity, transparency and accountability, and that pursue the course of justice without compromise.

He did what he believed was his duty, and paid an ultimate price.

But as Mr. Falcone himself said, people come and go; their ideas remain and continue, walking on the legs of others.

Professor Falcone,

Minister Orlando,

I assure you that the ideas of Giovanni Falcone live on in these corridors, and in our work, and that UNODC will continue to strive to live up to his legacy.

Thank you.