|UNITED NATIONS OFFICE|
FOR DRUG CONTROL AND CRIME PREVENTION
Symposium in the Italian Senate on the Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime
26 February 1999
Mr. President, Honourable Ministers, distinguished representatives, ladies and gentlemen.
As the United Nations official entrusted with the task of fighting organized crime, allow me to extend my sincere thanks to the Italian Senate for making this important Symposium possible.
The purpose of this event is to "raise awareness and secure support" for the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime. But we want to do more than this. By the time this Symposium finishes tomorrow, not only those of us inside this hall, but everyone should be firmly committed to the Convention - as well as its Protocols on Women and Children, Firearms and Migrants. The wider the level of support in the international community, the smoother will be the passage to adoption next year.
The Convention and its Protocols are still being written. The Ad Hoc drafting Committee was given the legislative authority to do the job by the United Nations General Assembly last December.
The Committee meets for its next session in Vienna 10 days from now. It has a difficult but important task ahead. We have to get it right the first time. The world urgently needs this Convention and its Protocols. We should debate the details and respect each other's views, but there should be no disagreement about the general principles behind what we are trying to achieve.
The Conventions and Protocols of the United Nations, and the national laws that stem from them, provide the world's sharpest weapons against organized crime.
We already have major Conventions in force against drug trafficking and money laundering. Last June, at the historic special session on drugs, the General Assembly adopted new strategies to fight these particularly evil forms of transnational crime. A few weeks before the Special Session, the G8 Summit in Birmingham had also agreed to step up the fight, in particular, against money laundering.
Never before has there been such a demonstration of political will to tackle these problems.
The Convention we are considering at this Symposium will give us a chance to extend the principles we have adopted to combat drug trafficking and money laundering to all other forms of transnational organized crime. We have before us an opportunity we must seize without hesitation. If we are serious about justice and freeing people everywhere from the tyranny of crime, the forces of law and order must be equipped with the tools to do their job more effectively.
Crime does not stop at borders. Criminals do not have to ask anyone's permission to ignore frontiers, or regulations, or to violate a nation's sovereignty. But we are constrained by all of these things.
Only through international cooperation can we ensure that borders do not prevent justice. Everyone should have the right to live freely under the security of the law. We must make it ever more difficult for criminals to deny or threaten this human right.
We must cooperate more and cooperate better in order to do so.
The end of the Cold War has opened borders. Barriers have been eliminated all over the world.
Trade has been liberalised. Enormous sums of capital flow almost unhindered around the globe. Computers, telecommunications and information technology have revolutionised the way we talk to each other and do business. Markets have globalized. Never before has there been so much economic opportunity for so many people. But never before has there been so much opportunity for criminal organisations to exploit the system.
It is estimated that these criminal groups launder three hundred million dollars of money a day. They mirror the legitimate world by forming multinational alliances between their organisations. They traffic in women and children for slavery and prostitution. They smuggle arms and ammunition and the components needed to manufacture and maintain illegal weapons. They exploit people's natural desire to better themselves by smuggling illegal migrants, sometimes killing them if there is a risk of being caught. They commit fraud on a global scale. They misuse offshore financial centres and they abuse trust law. They corrupt police and customs officers, politicians, and business leaders. They extort money from businesses. They murder people. Because they are well organized, they threaten the world with an ever-deeper international criminal conspiracy.
To fight crime, we need to make membership of organized criminal groups illegal. We need to make money laundering dangerous for the people who do it, removing their ability to operate from afar in another jurisdiction. We must try to achieve greater transparency in the use of the international financial system. We should aim to abolish bank secrecy for all criminal investigation. We also need to define and establish the concept of corporate criminal liability. We need effective sanctions, such as confiscation of criminal assets. Such sanctions can be doubly effective if the proceeds from their sale are ploughed back into funding anti-criminal activities and organisations.
Extradition is another difficult subject we must grapple with, as is the question of ensuring the protecion of witnesses.
Above all, the community of nations needs to organise itself and function more effectively than the criminal organisations that threaten and harm us. We should agree between ourselves that we want a world where there will be no hiding place for criminals. They should not be able to use one country as a safe base for committing crime in another. They should not be able to use trust law and financial havens to do the same thing by proxy in the so-called offshore jurisdictions.
The United Nations has a special role to play in all this. It can mobilize political will to attack crime, including such things as the trade in illicit drugs, money laundering, and traffic in human beings.
ODCCP is the specialized crime-fighting agency of the United Nations. Its mission is to help achieve a safer world by attacking crime, promoting the rule of law, establishing stable systems of justice in post-conflict societies, improving cooperation against transnational organized crime, carrying out research, training police officers, judges, prosecutors, prison staff and other officials, and providing a wide range of technical assistance.
Crime is an attack on human rights. And ODCCP is at the forefront of attacking crime and supporting human rights.
The Convention against Transnational Organized Crime is a tool to do the job better. We stand ready to assist all Member States to tackle all these issues.
We are honoured to be joined by such distinguished company at the Symposium. More than fifteen ministers from various countries will address the main topics of the Convention.
Each of our three sessions will include a round table discussion, where everyone will have an opportunity to express their views.
It is my hope that we will continue our careful work in the coming months keeping foremost in our minds that we have a deadline for the adoption of the Convention: the Millennium General Assembly next year.
As we look forward, however, we should also look back. We meet today in the Italian Senate. In ancient times, the Roman Senate gave the then known world Roman Law, the first universally applicable code of its kind. Even by the harsher standards of society in those times, it was a major advance of civilization. It sought to bring a consistent standard of justice to the Roman Empire and helped to make the rule of law an essential component of good governance. It was far from perfect, of course, but it was a start, and we all know that even the longest journey begins with a single step.
Let us therefore remember where we are, for we too are part of the process of making history. The Convention and its Protocols seeks to establish the rule of law internationally as a fundamental weapon in the fight against transnational organized crime. We want nothing less than the world's wholehearted commitment to it. Let us give ourselves the tools to do the job.