The Architecture of a Safer World must include drugs, crime and terrorism control

Opening Statement to the Third Committee on Items 108 and 109

New York, 10 October 2007

Mr. Chairman,

Distinguished Delegates, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Drug control, crime deterrence and terrorism prevention - which are high priorities for our countries - could be pursued in isolation. But I believe this would be an error. Drugs, crime and terrorism inter-act profoundly with peace, security, development and the rule of law. Therefore they should be dealt with in the context of societies' global aspirations.

To explain this, let me use a metaphor. Imagine you are asked to design the architecture for a safer world.  Rule of law would provide the framework. The structure would need a strong social foundation. Development would ensure that your house is liveable.  Security would keep it safe, while peace would maintain good neighbourly relations.

This is not just an idealistic prototype. It can be applied to the real world. To demonstrate, I will report on UNODC's work in four areas (illicit drugs, human trafficking, corruption, and terrorism) and explain how drug control, crime deterrence and terrorism prevention are essential for building safe and healthy societies. Reciprocally, I will show how healthy, competitive and open societies can cope more easily with the evil behaviours of our time. 

Illicit Drugs

Let me begin with illicit drugs, separating their supply (production) from their demand (consumption).

Our experience is that development is key to reducing the world's supply of drugs. Rural communities in Afghanistan, South East Asia and the Andean countries need long-term assistance to reduce their dependence on opium, coca and cannabis. That is why UNODC is working with funding partners, including development banks, to ensure that farmers find sustainable alternatives to drug crops. Otherwise, illicit cultivations will persist, or their destruction will be replaced by a humanitarian tragedy.  There is no better eradication of drug crops than the one done by the farmers themselves, seeking a return to legality and decent living.

But growth requires security. It is no coincidence that the regions of the world where most drugs are cultivated are outside the control of the government - think of the south of Afghanistan, the Shan State of Myanmar, and insurgency-controlled regions of western Colombia.

Areas where the rule of law is weak are also magnets for drug traffickers. That is why trafficking routes most often traverse war zones, failing regions, and states where corruption is rife. This perpetuates a vicious circle, since illicit activity makes these areas even more unstable by perverting the local economies, deepening corruption, and eroding the integrity of public institutions.

As documented in reports issued by UNODC this year, the countries of Central America, the Caribbean, and Western Africa are caught in the crossfire of drugs and crime. The tragedy of Guinea Bissau and neighbouring countries is today well documented: the whole region is under attack by cocaine traffickers.  It needs assistance to strengthen criminal justice, develop crime prevention strategies, and promote long-term socio-economic development. I call on rich countries, especially Europe where most of the cocaine is heading, to assist.

A study soon to be released by my Office suggests that there are lessons to be learned also from better off regions - for example the Balkans, similar cross roads of crime, trafficking, corruption and instability.

One of the most important lessons is the need for effective justice. That is why a major part of UNODC's work is devoted to assisting states strengthen the rule of law: from prison reform and witness protection programmes, to anti-money laundering, and counter kidnapping.  As shown in earlier statements at this Committee, our toolbox is well-stocked in this area and at  your disposal. 

UNODC's biggest portfolios are in Afghanistan and Central Asia - helping states establish drug control agencies, build border posts, strengthen the judiciary and improve interdiction. We are setting up counter-narcotic intelligence centres in the Persian Gulf and Central Asia. And we have launched a trilateral initiative between Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan to facilitate border control and legal cooperation.

We are also assisting States in Africa to strengthen their judicial capacity and reduce this continent's vulnerability. My compliments to the African Union for its plan of action on drugs and crime that will be adopted later this year at its Ministerial Conference. I am also glad to see that Mexico and the Central American states are soon to adopt a similar strategy at their regional Summit in Guatemala this December. UNODC stands ready to assist these and other regions.

Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Security, development and the rule of law are necessary for drug control. But they are not sufficient. We must involve society as a whole, especially to reduce drug addiction and related HIV/AIDS.  Actually, the news is not bad.

Despite occasional sensationalist stories in the media about how the world is flooded with illicit drugs, and therefore how they should be legalized, the 250 pages of evidence in the World Drug Report 2007 show that drug control is working, worldwide. For almost every kind of illicit drug - cocaine, heroin, cannabis and amphetamine-type stimulants - there are signs of overall stability, whether we speak of cultivation, production or consumption. More evidence will come with the review of the ten-year UNGASS process in 2008/09.

While the problem does not appear to be getting worse, there are still 25 million problem drug users in the world. Moving beyond containment will mean:

-  first, that the number of problem drug users will not grow.  Namely, the 200 million occasional drug users should not become hard core addicts;

-  second, that problem drug users are helped to reduce the damage that they do to themselves and others.

This will require greater engagement from society as a whole. Recall that the (1961) Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs recognized that "addiction to narcotic drugs constitutes a serious evil for the individual and is fraught with social and economic danger to mankind". That means that we all have to assume our social responsibility.

UNODC works with Member States, and increasingly with municipalities, to improve drug prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation, in order for drug addicts to receive help rather than be punished or stigmatized. We are strengthening partnership with UN-Habitat and the WHO to promote safer and healthier communities.

Our projects also seek to reduce the risk of contracting and spreading blood borne diseases, like HIV/AIDS among injecting drug users.  We see this threat especially in the CIS countries, Eastern Europe and India. As you can see, drug control also has a humanitarian dimension. 

Therefore, drug control cannot only be the domain of health-care workers, NGOs and drug experts or just police officers, prosecutors or judges. Drug prevention and control should involve us all. 

Community-centred prevention means working with children, starting from parents and teachers, to ensure that they get the love, encouragement and support that they need to develop self-esteem. It means greater support for family-based programmes since prevention begins at home. It means creating opportunities for young people to engage in healthy and constructive activities, like sports and culture, to enhance their well-being, and prevent social isolation. My thanks to Qatar for promoting such an approach through the Global Sports Fund. There is also an important role for the media - informing people about the dangers of drugs and getting the public to throw their weight behind drug control campaigns. Think of the success of grass roots campaigns against drinking and driving, or against smoking in public places.  

In short, UNODC is promoting a holistic approach to drug control in order to improve the health and welfare of mankind, promote development in regions dependent on drug crops, and reduce the vulnerability of cities and states to drugs and crime. 

Human Trafficking

My second example concerns human trafficking,

Thankfully, this issue - long hidden in the shadows - is receiving greater attention. It is now the subject of films, one of them premiered here at the UN last month. There is more attention to this crime in the media, and more action by governments.  

Yet human trafficking persists, in almost every country.  It manifests itself in a tragic variety of ways:  underage girls sold by families to foreign tourists; teenagers duped into prostitution under the threat of retaliation against relatives;  child soldiers; sex slaves; people working in mines or sweatshops;  domestic servants receiving no pay. In a perverse commercialization of humanity, they are used like disposable commodities and then tossed aside.

As the Secretary-General said just last month: human trafficking is a crime that strips people of their rights, exploits their dreams of a better future, robs them of their dignity. It cause physical and psychological damage. It kills.

Despite these grim realities, there is still a great deal of ignorance about human trafficking because of limited evidence, denial and lack of awareness. If we do not see this crime, perhaps it is because we do not look for it.  Actually, we do not have to look far:  it is in our midst.  Anything we eat, drink, wear or touch may have been contaminated by the sweat and the tears of modern slaves:  let us not close our eyes, and minds, to a crime that shames us all.

As with drugs, modern slavery has a security dimension - you could call it a human security dimension - related to the rule of law. UNODC is helping States implement the measures of the UN Protocol against Trafficking in Persons in order to prevent this tragedy, protect the victims and bring their traffickers to justice.

There is also a development dimension - reducing the vulnerability of people to this predatory crime. Victims' vulnerability is usually associated to mass poverty, cultural deprivation and ignorance.  We are also trying to sensitize consumers and companies against creating demand for goods and services provided by trafficking victims. 

In the same way that drug control is too important to be left to drug experts alone, fighting human trafficking should not depend on specialized law enforcement officials or on a few well-meaning NGOs. Building a broad social basis to fight  human trafficking is the secret to success.

As you are no doubt aware, my Office, together with other members of the UN family, has this year launched a Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking (also known as UN.GIFT). It aims to build awareness, broaden the knowledge base on this crime, and step up technical assistance. 

This is not only an inter-governmental process. UN.GIFT aims to mobilize a wide spectrum of society: governments, parliaments, the private sector, the film and the media industries, faith- based groups, and civil society. Just this month we have had evidence-gathering meetings in South Africa and India, soon to be followed by similar specialized sessions in Brazil, Cote D'Ivoire, and Thailand:  the goal is to dissect this modern slavery monster and understand what nourishes its entrails. Momentum is building. I urge you all to support this Initiative to rid the world of a crime that should have no place in the 21 st century.


Let us turn now to the third topic: corruption - another great threat to the architecture of a safer world.

Corruption is a rot that can destroy the whole structure.  It kills development by reducing investment and stealing public money needed to build schools and hospitals. It undermines democracy and the rule of law, and destroys public trust.

Corruption can even pose a threat to security by facilitating terrorist acts, enabling criminals to infiltrate state structures, and by weakening the security apparatus through bribery and collusion.    

To strengthen integrity and fight corruption, UNODC assists Member States to implement the UN anti-corruption Convention (which has now been ratified by over 100 Member States). For example, we encourage the introduction of preventive measures like transparent tender processes, public officials' disclosure of their earnings, clear rules for the funding of political parties. In countries as diverse as Brazil, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Tajikistan we are also assisting with the establishment of independent anti-corruption agencies, developing financial intelligence units, and strengthening judicial integrity.

A major breakthrough is occurring in the field of asset recovery. It used to be that kleptocrats could loot public coffers and then hide stolen assets in safe havens. Those days are over. Thanks to the joint World Bank/UNODC Stolen Asset (StAR) Recovery Initiative - launched here in New York last month by the Secretary General, the President of the World Bank and I -countries will have a better chance of preventing public funds from being stolen, and recovering those that are.

As with drug control and the fight against human trafficking, anti-corruption is becoming a social movement. Public attitudes are changing. There is less tolerance of corruption. Whereas a few years ago corruption was considered normal in politics or just part of doing business (even a tax-deductible expenditure), corrupt governments are now being voted out of office, blue-chip multinational companies are named and shamed.  Business people whose greed destroys pension funds or the value of public shares, today are more likely to land behind bars than on the cover of glamour magazines.

NGOs are demanding greater transparency and blowing the whistle on malfeasance. Investigative journalists are exposing corruption scandals. Parliamentarians are becoming more scrupulous in executing their oversight function. We are working in partnership with United Nations institutions to strengthen integrity within our own ranks.

Let us build on this momentum at the Conference of States Parties to the anti-corruption Convention in Bali next January.


Terrorism is the fourth area of UNODC's work that I want to focus on.

Obviously, terrorism is a security threat - one of the most dangerous of our time. Terrorism also has a negative impact on development, driving away investment, tourism, and business. Also from a development perspective, terrorism diverts resources away from other badly needed public expenditures which undermines socio-economic growth. 

The Counter-Terrorism Strategy adopted by the General Assembly in December 2006 unites us all in providing a global response to this threat. UNODC specializes in helping states to strengthen the legal regime against terrorism.

The rule of law is the basis on which we must fight terrorism. That is why UNODC works with you to ensure that your counter-terrorism legislation includes a strong criminal justice approach. After all, terrorist acts are a most violent form of crime. Therefore, we must ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice by collecting evidence, promoting cooperation among law enforcement agencies, sharing information, and providing mutual legal assistance -- including extradition. We must also prevent terrorism by fighting the incitement and conspiracy to commit it, its financing and its use of the internet.      

UNODC can provide unmatched legal assistance, by looking at cross-cutting links between drugs, crime and terrorism. 

Again, as with the other themes that I have mentioned, counter-terrorism must have a strong social base. This is outside my Office's mandate, but is essential for defusing minds that hate. 

Building a Safer World Together 

Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have tried to demonstrate how drug control, crime deterrence and terrorism prevention are essential for building safe and healthy societies.  And vice-versa, how healthy, competitive and open societies can cope more easily with the evil behaviours of our time.  To work towards this end, we are following the guidance that you - our Member States - have given us.  At the aggregate level, and over the years you have done so by becoming state parties to international legal instruments concerning crime, drugs and terrorism.  More recently, you have supported us with the adoption of the UNODC medium-term strategy.  Soon, your good intentions towards our Office will be proven by the adoption of our budget  -- be generous, and do help us help you.

We look forward to further political guidance at upcoming meetings of the Conference of States Parties for the Conventions against crime and corruption, the drug and crime Commissions, and the Crime Congress in 2010. (I use this opportunity to urge Brazil and Qatar to come to an understanding as soon as possible on who will host this event).

We are also open to helping you tackle emerging threats like cyber crime, environmental crime, and nuclear terrorism. We must move with the times:  drug traffickers, terrorists and criminals certainly do.

I see rising expectations about what UNODC can deliver, and more frequent calls for its technical assistance.  We have also benefited from increased voluntary funding for our activities. As a result, we are better positioned to carry out the mandates and tasks that you have bestowed upon us. We have tools and instruments to help build a safer world.  While I thank you for your support, I must remind you that the resources made available to us to help you cope with drugs, crime and terrorism are not commensurate to the task: actually, they are smaller than what New York city spends yearly on garbage disposal. 

Paucity of resources is partly offset by the fact that we now work in a coalition:  we do not bear our responsibility alone.  We are deepening cooperation with other members of the UN family, and are already involved in pilot projects (in Pakistan and Vietnam) to "deliver as one" in the field. Furthermore, we are strengthening partnerships with international financial institutions, the private sector, and civil society. 

Together we can build a safer architecture for humanity.

Thank you for your attention.