14 September 2017
Vienna, 14 September 2017 - For 20 years, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime has been helping countries make the world safer from drugs, organized crime, corruption and terrorism.
To do this we have a number of tools on our side, including three international drug control conventions, the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocols on human trafficking, migrant smuggling and firearms, the Convention against Corruption and the universal legal instruments against terrorism.
We also support application of UN standards and norms promoting comprehensive crime prevention strategies and effective, fair and humane criminal justice systems, with a focus on such challenges as violence against women and children.
What these mandates have meant in practice for UNODC, and for the international community more broadly, has evolved in many ways over this time.
This anniversary represents an opportunity to reflect on some of those changes, and to renew our commitment and strengthen our cooperation for the future.
First and foremost, looking back over the past two decades, it is clear that we operate in an environment that has been profoundly shaped by globalization and modern technologies.
There have been countless benefits of both, both large and small.
But we must also acknowledge that progress has not been even, or evenly distributed.
The international community continues to grapple with many problems related to "asymmetric globalization" which has left too many people behind, contributed to instability and undermined trust.
The unintended beneficiaries of globalization, in particular transnational organized crime groups, are exploiting these vulnerabilities, crises and enforcement gaps wherever they find them, to expand their reach and diversify their activities.
Terrorists have also taken advantage of our interlinked societies and technologies, to operate across borders, to incite and recruit, and to spread violent extremist ideologies online, especially among young people.
There is a growing nexus of transnational organized crime and terrorism, with trafficking in cultural property, in collusion with organized crime groups, generating funds for terrorists.
Cybercrime has emerged as a truly borderless threat, one that stands alone, and also aids and abets so many other forms of crime.
The use of the dark net for drug trafficking is growing by leaps and bounds.
Cryptocurrencies are providing new avenues for moving and laundering criminal proceeds, straining the knowledge and capacities of law enforcement agencies to keep up.
The second development, one that is related to the first, is the increasing recognition that such challenges, and consequently their potential solutions, are inter-connected, and even interdependent.
These interconnections are reflected in the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which highlight justice and the rule of law, as well as safeguarding health and natural resources, as integral parts of development.
The Security Council has been increasingly seized with issues related to transnational organized crime, with resolutions addressing organized crime and funding for armed groups and acts of terrorism, as well as identifying organized crime as a dangerous factor contributing to threats to international peace and security.
Our governing bodies, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs and the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, have been at the forefront of these changes, emphasizing the importance of UNODC's mandates across the UN's founding pillars of peace and security, human rights and development.
Member States have accordingly entrusted our Office with increasing responsibilities and tasks.
For UNODC, this recognition of complexity has been very welcome. Too often in the past, the challenges we deal with have been viewed too narrowly as matters of law enforcement.
Now there is much better understanding of the need for comprehensive, integrated and multi-faceted approaches.
A key example of this is the outcome document of the UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs, which provides concrete recommendations for balanced, evidence-based approaches to drug control.
These recommendations focus on prevention, health, and proportionate criminal justice responses, and underscore the importance of alternative development to address illicit drug supply, while at the same time recognizing the need for robust law enforcement and judicial responses.
The interconnected nature of the challenges we face has also made clear that no one country or region can manage alone, and that an all-of-UN approach is needed to support Member States.
That has helped to spur the third and final development I wish to highlight, which is the growing emphasis on partnerships - in terms of integrated UN support, between Member States and with the private sector and civil society.
Indeed, SDG 17 is on partnerships to achieve all of the goals.
The need for better coordination and enhanced partnerships has also become more evident as we must operate in an environment with many competing priorities and with scarce resources.
In response to all of these developments, UNODC has sought to keep pace, to be proactive and strategic in our support to Member States.
Our integrated country, regional and global programmes are helping to strengthen networks within and between regions, to enable international cooperation, support operational coordination and promote efficiencies.
UNODC research and analysis is identifying trends and patterns, and keeping the international community up-to-date on rapidly shifting markets for NPS and other drugs, and on emerging crimes such as wildlife crime.
We have fostered partnerships with the private sector and civil society, here and in the field, across all areas, from drug prevention and anti-corruption initiatives, to education and promoting fair play in sports.
We work closely with WHO to promote health and social services for people affected by drug use disorders, and advance international standards for the treatment of drug use disorders as well as for prevention.
We are also working together to improve access to controlled drugs for pain relief, and support treatment for drug use disorders as an alternative to conviction or punishment.
UNODC is an active UNAIDS co-sponsor, strengthening HIV prevention, treatment and care for people who use drugs and for people in prison.
We coordinate with our counter-terrorism partners to build capacities, including to respond to violent extremism, to implement the Firearms Protocol to keep weapons out of the hands of terrorists, and to promote the Nelson Mandela Rules to prevent criminals and terrorists from recruiting vulnerable people in prisons.
We are supporting Member States as the General Assembly meets at the end of this month to review the Global Plan of Action against human trafficking, and continues work on developing new global compacts for migration and for refugees.
We have come a long way in these past 20 years. Not so long ago, there was no globally agreed definition of such terrible crimes as trafficking in persons, let alone a legally binding means to fight it.
Corruption was not always considered a criminal offence.
Now we have conventions and instruments that have been ratified by nearly every country in the world. A flexible framework enabling international cooperation, and encouraging the sharing of standards, norms, guiding principles and best practices.
This framework has been painstakingly built over time and remains as relevant as ever.
But the problems remain equally formidable, with the threats of drugs, crime, terrorism and corruption always evolving and emerging. Much work remains to be done.
So on this twentieth anniversary of UNODC, in these transformative times, I urge Member States and all of our partners to commit to working together and providing the needed resources, to advance our efforts to address crises, achieve the SDGs and build safer, more secure societies.
UNODC is here to support you, as ever.
In closing, I would like to thank all my UNODC colleagues, in particular those on the frontlines in the field, for their hard work and dedication.
Finally, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to Member States and our donors for their continued support. We will continue to do our utmost to live up to your expectations.
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