Director General/Executive Director
Remarks of the Executive Director UNODC at the 119th/120th Sessions of the Customs Cooperation Council of the World Customs Organization
29 June 2012
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I thank the World Customs Organization for inviting me to speak today at the Customs Cooperation Council.
UNODC and WCO have an excellent relationship based on our management of the Container Control Programme and the AIRCOP project.
Based on our joint efforts, and with other partners, we are making these two projects a visible success. One that supports Member States all over the world.
And, both projects are vital.
More than 500 million containers move around the world each year, accounting for 90 percent of international trade.
However, only 2 percent are inspected. This glaring security gap provides a window of opportunity that can be exploited, and indeed is exploited by organized crime.
Containers are used by criminals to smuggle illicit drugs and precursor chemicals, weapons, endangered species, cultural artefacts, hazardous materials and fraudulent goods.
The activities undermine legitimate trade, while also promoting tax avoidance. But the damage goes far beyond these important areas.
Such transnational threats undermine social and economic development, contributing to environmental damage and to the loss of our cultural heritage.
Moreover, the criminal networks that use this method of smuggling are intelligent, sophisticated and capable of quickly changing their way of operation.
As a response, UNODC and the World Customs Organization have established the Container Control Programme to address this challenge.
To date, the programme has created 28 operational port control units in 14 countries worldwide, leading to improved national and international container security and cooperation.
The selected sites are located in major illicit drug producing regions, as well as maritime trade routes for the transhipment of illicit drugs and precursor chemicals.
Joint Port Control Units have been created under the programme, which integrate several branches of law enforcement.
The units are trained in systematic risk assessment to identify high-risk containers for inspection. They also share information with their counterparts in other ports.
Through patience and experience the trained officials build profiles enabling them to make calculated decisions about opening the containers.
And, through the programme, there have been a number of successes against the criminal networks.
More than 60 tons of cocaine have been seized since the beginning of this programme.
In 2012, around 110 tons of Tramadol, a prescription only medicine containing opiates, was seized by the port control units in Togo and Benin.
A number of other black-market goods have also been discovered, ranging from endangered species to stolen luxury cars.
Recently, several caches of priceless cultural artefacts and archaeological treasures were found hidden in shipments of household goods being from Ecuador.
The success of the programme is also founded on the swift transfer of skills from the trainers deployed in the programme to the members of the unit.
In terms of transparency, I am pleased that the Container Control Programme will shortly be evaluated by our Evaluation Unit, starting with Senegal and Ghana, among others.
I am also pleased to announce that the Container Control Programme will be expanded to more countries, including Albania, Armenia, Dominican Republic, Guyana, Jamaica, Mali, Moldova, Montenegro, Morocco, Surinam and Ukraine.
The Programme will also enhance its training programme for the Joint Port Control Units in the area of detection of weapons, explosives and dual-use materials to counter the threat of terrorism.
In order to further strengthen the cooperation between the two agencies and to facilitate the work, a UNODC liaison officer has been placed in WCO headquarters to work on the implementation of the Container Programme.
In 2010, UNODC launched AIRCOP in cooperation with INTERPOL and the World Customs Organization, and in partnership with the EU.
The programme creates Joint Airport Interdiction Task Forces at priority international airports in West Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.
In West Africa, AIRCOP is operational in Cape Verde, Mali, Togo and Senegal, where several seizures have been made including cannabis, cocaine and gold.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Containers are part of our global economic system; as such they ensure the transfer of goods throughout the world.
But they also deal in death and suffering.
The threat requires solutions that can be adapted and applied everywhere. Together, these initiatives offer us this opportunity.
Through the programmes we are building regional connectivity that will allow us to share experiences and best practices.
In doing so, we are fulfilling our promise to Member States, and to their citizens, to make the world safer from drugs, crime and terrorism.