Vienna, Austria - December 15, 2023. Civil society stands as an essential pillar in the fight against transnational organized crime due to its proximity to affected communities, diverse perspectives, and ability to mobilize and raise awareness at the local level. These non-governmental organizations understand issues at the grassroots level, bring innovative solutions, and play a fundamental role in engaging communities in preventing and combating organized crime.
Under the Stakeholder Engagement for UNTOC (SE4U) project implemented by the UNODC Civil Society Unit, Regional Civil Society Networks for UNTOC Implementation (NET4U) have emerged, established so far in Africa and the Americas. Operating within their respective regions, these networks operate as hubs for dialogue and engagement among their members, actively promoting their work and facilitating collective knowledge and actions to prevent and counter transnational organized crime. Their aim is to reinforce the voice and participation of non-governmental actors in the implementation of UNTOC and its Review Mechanism, thus bolstering support for government actions against organized crime.
To boost interaction between the two NET4U and to promote cooperation, UNODC, on 8 December, facilitated the First Joint Meeting between NET4U Americas and NET4U Africa to share experiences, best practices, and identify areas for continuous development and consolidation. 24 members from both NET4U joined for this occasion.
In his opening words for the meeting, Billy Batware, Programme Officer at UNODC Civil Society Unit stressed the importance of sharing practices and promoting South-South cooperation on countering organized crime between the networks’ members. “This intercontinental collaboration promotes shared learning, collective action and a sense of community among members that is required to defeat organized criminals”, said Billy.
The meeting featured a presentation and discussion of guidelines for the operation of the NET4U, and the exchange of both regions on the achievements and challenges encountered during the consolidation of their networks. The meeting was a first opportunity to identify common working areas and possible implementation of solutions across the two regions. Ultimately, these networks seek to coordinate work between organizations fighting organized crime, identify good practices in engaging with governments, and exchange experiences that can give direction in solving common challenges.
Founded in 2022 and currently comprising members from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Honduras, Mexico, and Peru, NET4U Americas has been a pioneer in this initiative. NET4U Americas contributed to the meeting by sharing experiences from its inception, evolution over time, and highlighting governance structures and expert groups in crucial areas such as Trafficking in Persons, Smuggling of Migrants, Firearms, General UNTOC matters, and emerging crimes.
Reflecting on the advantages of being part of the NET4U, Horacio Pacheco from Auditoria DC mentioned that“the possibility of participating in this Network has not only given us multiple training opportunities and formal and non-formal access to capacity building tools, but also the chance to gain first-hand knowledge from experts who participate as members of the Network”.
Meanwhile, NET4U Africa, established in June 2023 and with representation of eight countries, shared information about its formation process, achievements, and best practices to date, focusing on establishing its Steering Committee, and consolidating a strong coordination mechanism for its members.NET4U Africa shared some best practices on how their members achieved agreements and a manageable working plan during its first months. Furthermore, they shared their views about systematizing knowledge exchange, engaging actively with governments and attracting a wider diversity of stakeholders.
Speaking as the Coordinator for the NET4U Africa, Barbara Nakijoba from the Uganda Youth Development Link highlighted the importance of forging a mission and setting the Network’s objectives.“When we understand what our mission is, then we can align our actions not only as a single unit but as once voice speaking against transnational organized crime”, stressed Barbara.
Strengthening partnerships between civil society and the United Nations is critical in addressing today’s global challenges. These exchanges of ideas, experiences, and challenges among non-governmental entities contribute to achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular goals 16 and 17. Initiatives such as the NET4U provide civil society stakeholders with the opportunity to direct their efforts and expertise to support national and regional strategies against organized crime. By speaking with one voice, civil society ensure coordination of their actions and an easier communication channel with government counterparts, presenting themselves as partners in ensuring safer and peaceful communities, and identifying in more pragmatic ways the tools and knowledge with which they can contribute to achieving this goal.
For more information, please contact
Billy Batware, email@example.com
José María Izábal Martínez, firstname.lastname@example.org
Mariana Mora-Gómez, email@example.com