World Summit on Sustainable Development

Address by

Antonio Maria Costa
United Nations Office at Vienna
Executive Director
United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention

Johannesburg, South Africa
30 August 2002

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Your Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Millennium Summit Declaration captured the aspirations of our time and established the Millennium Development Goals as the frame of reference for achieving economic and social development. This Summit was convened with the purpose of mobilizing governments, the private sector and civil society around the common vision of making development global and sustainable.

The Challenge of Globalization

Globalization releases entrepreneurial and productive forces which, properly harnessed, create and spread wealth and well-being. It can help lift millions of people out of poverty and deprivation. It can fortify development.

Globalization can, unfortunately, also provide an opportunity for the elements of "uncivil society" to act in ways which are a threat to peace and progress. These activities are neither controllable nor solvable by governments acting alone. Collective action is needed.

Take organized crime. It engages in large-scale money laundering, trafficking in people, smuggling of drugs and fire arms. These illegal profits may be as high as 3 to 4 percent of global GDP annually. Well in excess of US$ 1 trillion. Drug trafficking generates perhaps US$ 250 billion each year, which is then laundered or used to finance further illegal activities and armed conflicts. Organized crime also exploits hundreds of thousands of persons; some say up to 2 million people, who are trafficked each year across international borders. They are mainly women and children, and we know the suffering this modern form of slavery entails.

The international community has fought for civil society for a long time. There have been setbacks - September 11 painfully brought home another shocking perspective: terrorism, with its lethal fusion of dirty money, political extremism, sophisticated technology, skills and weapons of mass destruction. The combination of international terrorism and organized crime threatens peace and security. It often prolongs humanitarian crises. It always renders development unsustainable.

The United Nations, especially through its Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (ODCCP) in Vienna, has developed practical assistance to countries in building their capacity to fight local and cross-border narcotics trafficking and crime. Our earlier experience is now being utilized to fight the trafficking of persons which is the modern forms of slavery. The same experience is also important for fighting terrorists, who engage in conspiracy, crime and illegal financial transactions.

Sustainable development needs everybody's commitment

My Office is not a Development Programme. Between the D and the P -- in the Office's acronym -- there are a couple of Cs which stress our efforts to contain and combat the most prominent manifestations of "uncivil society".

Put in other words, we are not dealing with the "hardware" of development -- building roads, schools, electrification, or irrigation systems. Rather UN-ODCCP is heavily committed to strengthening the "software" aspects of development – the ingredients being good governance, honest and open markets, absence of corruption, human safety, and the rule of law. These may be "soft" components of social dynamics: however, let there be no doubt -- unless they are present in society, development can never become sustainable.

In a number of countries, as of late, voters have manifested grave concern with the consequences of the pervasive, and growing presence of socially destructive forces. People under intense social pressure- because of fear for their health, for their safety, and for their well-being - can neither develop, nor can they enjoy the fruits of development. And they cannot be expected to be good stewards of their environment. Our job is to contribute to the conditions in which development can flourish.

Afghanistan is a terrible illustration of what can happen to a state when governance breaks down. During a quarter of a century it was a base for narco-trafficking, criminals and terrorists. We know the consequences in the country and outside it. But Afghanistan is only an example. Other countries in the four corners of the world have learned similarly tragic lessons.

What, therefore, is our contribution to sustainable development? First and foremost, through its "alternative" development programmes, ODCCP supports communities in adopting other livelihoods that, by the fact that they are legal and run on commercial criteria, are long lasting. Second, through the dissemination of best practices, it uses Technical Cooperation resources to enable national administrations to improve governance, and especially to isolate and control a-social behaviours. Third, by actively supporting governments' efforts to prevent and repress narcotics use and trade, the Office assist member states to strengthen the resilience of social fabric.

There is one further consideration to be made in this context. The use of illegal drugs is not only a direct impediment to sustainable development: it is all the more pernicious because of its indirect impact. This is especially notable in Southern Africa, where the spreading of HIV/AIDS is to a large extent caused by unprotected and risky sexual behaviour under the influence of drugs. The United Nations, through our Office is stepping up its prevention work, especially among a most vulnerable group: children.

Another stumbling block to sustainable development is crime, and especially corruption. How many countries, some endowed with rich natural resources, have been plundered by unscrupulous leaders, who have left behind generations struggling in despair? The International Convention against Corruption may be agreed upon by the end of next year. We are already preparing the ground for its implementation, identifying best practices for tackling corruption and developing a programme of technical assistance for Member States, aimed especially at strengthening the integrity of judicial systems.

Most countries realize it is not in their interest to accept conditions that degrade economic efficiency to the advantage of a few corrupt individuals. Every criminal or corrupt official needs to "launder" the proceeds of his/her crimes. Terrorist groups use money-laundering channels to get cash to buy weapons. Left unchecked, money laundering can erode a nation's economy - changing the demand for cash, making interest and exchange rates more volatile, and causing inflation. Developing countries that attract "dirty money" will find it difficult to secure the solid, long-term foreign investments they need, since sensible investors want stable conditions and good governance. In short, the consequences of money laundering are bad for business, and bad for development.

ODCCP is helping states strike back at drug traffickers, organized criminal groups and corrupt officials. Our money-laundering experts advise states on building up specialist institutions, such as financial intelligence units, foster awareness, draft model anti-money laundering legislation, and train key players from sectors such as law enforcement agencies, the judiciary, banks and regulatory bodies.

An important example of our work is in the framework of NEPAD (the New Partnership for Africa's Development) which envisages an integrated approach to the development of the African continent. As stressed by NEPAD's original promoters and accepted by the international community, efforts to relaunch economic growth and reduce poverty are more likely to succeed if we can create the appropriate context. ODCCP is very active in one aspect of the NEPAD work programme: to build the capacity to establish legal frameworks and maintain law and order; stop the proliferation of small arms; tackle corruption and initiate judicial reform; and we can help central banks develop standards and codes of good practice.

To conclude, we at ODCCP believe that there cannot be sustainable development unless the concerns which are at the heart of our mandate – crime, narcotics, terrorism, trafficking in human beings – are also addressed. Our aim is to be proactive and constructive, and we believe that what we do can provide the vital ingredients for sustainability – enabling the civil aspects of society to prevail and neutralizing the uncivil elements.

Sustainability is our common responsibility. It means being good stewards of the resources we have been given by previous generations – and passing them on, perhaps in even better shape, to future generations. I thank you for your attention.