Vienna (Austria), 24 May 2021 – Civil society, academia and the private sector play a crucial role in combating transnational organized crime. Through awareness raising, research, and advocacy they can reach the wider audience and achieve some fruitful results on various levels. To highlight this, UNODC`s Civil Society Unit organized a side event “UNODC integrated approach to countering organized crime through the engagement of NGOs, academics and the private sector”, with the support from the United States Government, the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime, and the NGO Alliance on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice. The event gathered more than 80 participants and showcased the work UNODC is doing to engage non-governmental stakeholders in the implementation of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC), its Review Mechanism, and the Trafficking in Persons Protocol, under the Stakeholder Engagement for UNTOC – SE4U Project – which is funded by the United States Government.
In his opening remarks James A. Walsh, Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of international Narcotics and Law Enforcement Agency (INL), emphasised that the UNTOC Review Mechanism launches a series of brand-new opportunities for governments to hear directly from and share information with civil society organizations on a regular basis on key issues, including but not limited to transnational organized crime, trafficking in persons, migrant smuggling, and firearms trafficking. “Some of these new opportunities are based on existing practices for civil society engagement here at UNODC, but several actions take remarkable new steps that could transform the way we collaborate between governments and civil society to address transnational organized crime”.
The objectives set out in UNODC’s strategy, taking into consideration the post-pandemic scenarios, can be achieved together with multi-stakeholders, - noted Jean-Luc Lemahieu, Director of the Division for Policy Analysis and Public Affairs at UNODC, in his opening remarks. According to him to prevent organized crime, governments need to address its root causes, such as poverty, underdevelopment and the lack of equal opportunities. Concretely, this means investing in people, in education, in jobs, access to justice and human rights, as well as stopping corruption as part of systemic solutions pursued in solidarity.
The insights from the NGO Rapha International presented by Stephanie Freed focused on various partnerships and projects that targeted internally displaced women and children from organised criminal activities, as well as resident communities controlled by armed gangs in Haiti. The efforts of the projects aimed to break the continuum of exploitation and inequality that gripped marginalised communities by assisting trauma survivors with psychosocial and medical care. Accordingly, around 150 women, heads of households, and members of displaced families are receiving income support to alleviate the underlying socio-economic vulnerability that leads to their continued exploitation.
Summer Walker, from the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime, explained the potential of civil society to elevate multilateral debates and thereby emphasized the need for collaboration and the creation of networks among them. Indeed, the voice of civil society is vital in the success of the Review Mechanism because they can increase transparency and the independence of the reviews themselves. Concretely, she regards the role of civil society most useful in three ways: first, in contextualising the implementation of UNTOC; second, in supplying analysis and expert opinion on organized crime trends; and third, by bringing the experiences of communities affected by organized crime to the foreground. Professor Sarah Simons, from the Frantz Fanon University in Somaliland, believes that partnerships among civil society, private sector, and other stakeholders are the answer for filling the expertise gaps.
In order to coordinate all these efforts, Billy Batware representing the UNODC Civil Society Unit launched the Whatson multistakeholder knowledge hub, an online platform for, academics and private sector entities working to prevent and combat transnational organized crime. The platform aims to assist, connect and engage with relevant non-government stakeholders, UNODC and the Member States, with a view to ensure a coordinated and effective fight against organized crime and the implementation of UNTOC Review Mechanism. Interested stakeholders can request to join the WhatsOn by filling in this form.
Mauricio Zapata Zaldívar, Director for Crime Prevention and Anti-corruption Policy in Mexico recognized the outstanding contributions made by civil society and academia in elaborating policies and deemed important their progressively growing inclusion over the past years.
In concluding the side event, the moderator, Christine Cline, Division Chief of the Office of Global Programs and Policy at INL emphasized the need to strengthen networks on regional and national levels with different stakeholders as well as foster cooperation between private and public sectors and multiply all the available efforts in countering organized crime.