Vienna, 8 April 2011
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Globalization has changed the nature of organized crime. The only way to confront it effectively is by increasing international cooperation and developing new partnerships, including between the public and private sectors.
So I am pleased to see such a diverse group here today, ready to share experiences and best practices. I thank the U.S. Government for its support for this symposium, which I expect will generate new ideas for addressing the global threat from transnational organized crime.
Indeed, the criminal market spans the planet. Taking advantage of open borders, open markets, ease of travel and communication, organized crime is more diversified and better connected than it was a decade ago. Illicit goods, money and people are sourced on one continent, trafficked across another, and marketed in a third.
Criminal groups are forming transnational networks, especially in the world's most vulnerable regions-often weakened by war or natural disasters-where poverty is widespread, governance and law enforcement are weak, and corruption is endemic. This undermines stability and development and puts the most vulnerable groups-particularly women and children-at risk of abuse.
Organized crime is huge business. Its profits exceeding those of the largest multinational corporations. Given the enormous amounts of money involved, transnational organized crime can undermine legitimate economies, corrupt law enforcement and even buy elections. Despite the existence of anti-money laundering tools available to law enforcement around the world, it appears that less than 1 percent of proceeds from crime laundered through the global financial system is intercepted and confiscated.
Criminals are entrepreneurs, seizing new opportunities for profit wherever they appear. This adaptability is giving rise to new and emerging forms of crime that have devastating effects on the environment and public health, on development and security.
Wildlife and environmental crime is disrupting the ecological balance of our planet. For example, illegal logging in South East Asia accounts for annual criminal revenues of $3.5 billion dollars-and contributes to deforestation, climate change and increased rural poverty. Trafficking in elephant ivory, rhino horn and tiger parts produces $75 million in criminal profits each year-and threatens the existence of these species.
International transport is vulnerable to exploitation by organized criminals. More than 420 million maritime containers move around the globe each year, yet only 2 percent are inspected. Aircraft are also being used to transport illicit drugs, weapons and victims of human trafficking. Together with the World Customs Organization, UNODC operates the Global Container Control Programme, which has achieved some good results. UNODC is now working to duplicate this success with a programme targeting international airports in West Africa and South America.
Cybercrime is also rapidly growing, producing huge profits for criminals and enormous losses for businesses. As more people gain access to the Internet, cybercriminals have ever greater opportunities to recruit new victims, including children.
Public-private partnerships are crucial to preventing cybercrime. Next week at the session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in Vienna, Member States will hold an important discussion on how best to protect children and young people in the digital age.
Like legitimate businesses, organized criminal groups are market-driven and cost-conscious. But unlike the private sector, transnational organized crime is not constrained by national or international laws. Their illicit businesses undercut legitimate industry, putting consumers, jobs and economic development at risk. When organized crime is suppressed in one geographic area, criminal groups simply move to another. Rather than allowing criminal activities to shift from one country or region to another, we must uproot them once and for all.
To do this, we need a comprehensive response that strengthens resistance to transnational organized crime at its points of origin, along trafficking routes, and at its final destinations. This requires international cooperation between Member States as well as partnerships involving Governments, businesses, civil society and international organizations.
The UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocols provide a universal legal framework and law enforcement tools to help identify, deter and dismantle organized criminal groups. The Convention also encourages cooperation between law enforcement and the private sector.
The UN Convention against Corruption, which applies to both the public and the private sector, can also help stop transnational organized crime. Corruption and organized crime feed off each other, and money-laundering enables criminals to enjoy their illicit profits. The private sector is increasingly involved in anti-corruption efforts, and UNODC supports business initiatives to fight corruption in compliance with the 10 th principle of the United Nations Global Compact.
As guardian of both Conventions, UNODC helps Member States to develop legislation, and to enhance their law enforcement and criminal justice capacities to combat organized crime and corruption, prevent money-laundering, and support victims of crime. We also partner with the private sector, civil society, international organizations and other UN entities.
The private sector is subject to legal and regulatory measures to protect the public and foster competitive markets. But in the fight against transnational organized crime, the private sector also needs commercial self-regulation to help distinguish between licit and illicit commercial flows, and to prevent the criminal exploitation of private-sector activities. For example, efforts to prevent human trafficking and keep forced labour exploitation out of supply chains help stop the modern day slavery.
This symposium offers an excellent opportunity to promote public-private partnerships and share best practices. I expect that your discussions will be wide-ranging and productive, resulting in new ideas and new partnerships.
Preventing transnational organized crime is good for business, but the most important beneficiaries are ordinary people. Your efforts can help foster development and create stronger economies and safer communities, giving people new opportunities and hopes for the future. By working together, you can make a real difference in the lives of people all over the world.