8 March 2023, Vienna – In a context of increasingly inter-connected challenges to global peace and security and continued impacts of COVID-19 on the most vulnerable, the European Union (EU) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) met this week to discuss shared priorities in the fight against organised crime, terrorism, and corruption as well as drug issues.
Recent years have seen organised crime groups take advantage of multiplying conflicts and stretched national resources to expand their criminal networks and revenues. Transatlantic cocaine trafficking is at an all-time high, while recent data shows increased impunity of human traffickers in their home countries. At the same time, corruption and money laundering have also increased, profiting from instability.
Multilateralism and international cooperation are now more important than ever to prevent and respond to emerging threats and protect victims around the world. Since formalizing their cooperation in 2005, the EU and UNODC have been working together at policy and operational levels to strengthen global responses in the areas of organised crime, corruption, crime prevention and criminal justice, and terrorism prevention as well as drug issues.
In this context, the EU and UNODC held their 17th Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) on 8 March 2023. Taking place at UNODC Headquarters in Vienna, it was an opportunity to exchange on shared interests and to identify actions to deepen cooperation. This year’s SOM follows high level EU-UNODC Dialogues on Latin America and the Caribbean and on Anti-Corruption held in 2022.
A situation room analysis of key global issues and security threats in Afghanistan and Ukraine set the scene for the meeting. The EU and UNODC then discussed anti-corruption, drug issues, trafficking in persons and migrant smuggling, criminal justice responses to terrorism, and environmental and maritime crime, as well as regional priorities in Africa and in Latin America and the Caribbean.
UNODC Director Jean-Luc Lemahieu highlighted that “2022 was a record year for new EU-UNODC initiatives, with EU contributions totalling € 59.6 million, proving that the EU continues to be a crucial multilateralism partner to the UN.”
EEAS Deputy Managing Director Christina Kokkinakis underlined that this is an important year marking the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 30th anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action and a milestone Summit on the Sustainable Development Goals in September. She added that “rule of law, democracy and human rights are the universal values that cement the EU multilateral engagement” and recognised “UNODC’s meaningful work based on these values to reach sustainable development”.
Acknowledging this year’s 20th anniversary of the UN Convention against Corruption and the EU’s forthcoming corruption package, the EU and UNODC committed to hold a second Anti-Corruption Dialogue in 2023. They, furthermore, agreed to discuss increased collaboration on environmental crimes, including on wildlife trafficking, and to join forces to strengthen awareness raising, in particular amongst youth to engage them in crime prevention and evidence-based drug use prevention.
The annual event brought together senior staff from UNODC Headquarters and the field as well as the European External Action Service (EEAS) and European Commission services, including Directorate-Generals of Migration and Home Affairs, International Partnerships, Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations, Environment, Justice and Consumers, and the Service for Foreign Policy Instruments. Ambassador Stephan Klement and other officials from the EU Delegation to the International Organisations in Vienna also participated in the meeting.