VIENNA, 14 April (UNODC) - In his opening statement to the United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, which is holding its 17 th session this week in Vienna, the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Antonio Maria Costa, identified security and justice as the basis for reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
"The rule of law is not one of the Millennium Development Goals, but it is the key to achieving them all", said Mr. Costa. "Where the rule of law is weak or absent, crime and corruption hold back development and democracy. This can cause conflicts, mass poverty and environmental degradation, creating further instability. Stronger justice and integrity can break this vicious circle, "said the head of UNODC. He therefore urged Member States to put a stronger focus on the rule of law, not only as an end in itself, but as a means of speeding up implementation of the Millennium Development Goals.
One of the MDGs is to promote gender equality and empower women. The thematic discussion at this year's Crime Commission will look at ways of preventing violence against women. Mr. Costa urged Member States to pay particular attention to violence against civilians - particularly women and girls - in conflict and post-conflict situations, for example to prevent them from becoming victims of human trafficking.
The head of UNODC warned about dangerous links between drugs, crime and terrorism across the heart of Africa. Cocaine coming from the West (Andean countries), heroin from the East (Afghanistan) and regionally produced hashish are being trafficked across the Sahel region of Africa. "This is a major windfall for criminals, a funding source for terrorists and insurgents, and a grave threat to us all", warned Mr. Costa.
Another threat to world security is the illicit trade in weapons which generates huge profits for merchants of death, enables other crimes (like terrorism and drug trafficking), and causes millions of death every year. The head of UNODC appealed to Member States to ratify and implement the United Nations Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms. At the moment there are only 72 Parties.
He also called for greater attention to "green crimes". "The way that our environment is being destroyed is, quite literally, criminal. People are profiting from the destruction of the planet, by dumping hazardous waste, through illegal logging or the theft of bio-assets". Such green crimes not only damage the eco-system, they impoverish many countries where pollution, deforestation and population displacement trigger conflict and prevent the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. The head of UNODC urged Member States to "save the lungs of our planet by stopping the illicit trade in forest products".
Identify theft has become a major problem: not only the theft of credit cards, passports, and personal information, but also the theft of intellectual property, counterfeiting, and copyright violations (particularly luxury and entertainment goods). "We need to work more closely with the private sector and labour unions to crack down on economic fraud and identity-related crime", said Mr. Costa.
Urban crime was also highlighted as a growing problem. "With half of the world's population now living in urban centres, we need to stop drugs, crime and terrorism from creating failing cities", warned the UNODC's crime fighting chief.
Because organized crime is a trans-national threat, fighting it requires international cooperation. That is why UNODC is working with, for example: the World Bank; the Sistema de la Integracion Centroamerica (SICA); the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM); the African Union; the Economic Community of West African States; the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE); and the European Union to strengthen justice and integrity. Strengthening the rule of law is UNODC's main contribution to the "One UN" concept.
Since crime affects us all, society as a whole must be mobilized to fight it. "Schools, places of work, religious groups, the media, and the film and entertainment industries all have a role to play", said Mr. Costa. "Most of all, we must curb demand for illicit goods and services that are the incentive for criminal activity - whether trafficked people, drugs, weapons, forest products, rare species, cigarettes, or precious metals".
Please click here to read Mr. Costa's speech
For information, please contact:
Mr. Walter Kemp
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
Telephone: (+43-1) 26060 5629
Mobile: (+43-699) 1459-5629