Ghada Waly

Director-General/Executive Director


Meeting with the African Group

27 February 2020


Distinguished Ambassadors,

Dear Colleagues,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to be here today to meet with the Permanent Representatives and delegates of the Group of African States in Vienna.

It brings me exceptional joy to be among my African family in Vienna for the very first time. Being the first African woman to hold the position of UNODC Executive Director is a source of immense pride for me, and it is with your support that we have achieved this victory for Africa.

I would like to first and foremost thank you for that support, and assure you that I will spare no effort to ensure that the voice of Africa is heard by UNODC, and that your priorities are given the attention they deserve.

As you are all aware, UNODC is mandated to address a significant number of issues that are absolutely critical for Africa.

The support and assistance that UNODC currently provides to African States is vital in promoting safer and more prosperous societies, and combatting some of the most urgent threats we face.

I believe, however, that there remains a very real prospect to elevate UNODC's contribution in Africa to a new level. Given the scale and nature of the challenges faced by Africa in terms of crime, drugs, corruption and terrorism, UNODC must work towards formulating a unified and holistic vision for its support to Africa.

In doing so, we must strive to be as closely attuned as possible to the needs and priorities of African States. We must place the specific challenges faced by African States at the core of our efforts, and work to deliver what you truly need, based on your experiences and feedback. We must aim to empower Africa and its States to achieve their own vision for the future.

The beating heart of Africa's future is of course sustainable development. The 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda is the prism through which we see our future.

As we enter the Decade of Action, all eyes are firmly set on closing the gap between the international community's commitments and our collective efforts to ensure their implementation. At a time of such momentum, we must seize this opportunity to pull our efforts together to achieve the SDGs and the goals of Agenda 2063.

We have made it among our priorities to align our work with Agendas 2030 and 2063, and to explore every avenue to maximize our contribution to its implementation.

In this context, I very much welcome the African Union's 2020 theme on "Silencing the Guns: Creating Conducive Conditions for Africa's Development". 

This focus recognizes that in order to make progress towards sustainable development, we need to stop armed conflict, gender-based violence and other abuses and violations, and to crack down on the illegally-acquired light weapons that are so often used to perpetrate such crime and violence.

No UN agency is better placed to work with you to tackle these challenges than UNODC.

In fact, UNODC's work supports States in establishing essential building blocks for sustainable development, by laying the institutional and policy foundation for societies free of crime and violence.

UNODC has a presence in over 35 countries in Africa. In addition to global programmes, we have 41 projects based in the region with a total budget of some 85 million dollars for 2020. But this is not enough, we need much more to achieve our objectives.

Thanks to your steadfast support, our 430 field staff members have nonetheless achieved solid results.

In West Africa, our Sahel Programme is enhancing the accessibility, efficiency and accountability of criminal justice systems to counter all forms of crime and terrorism in five countries.

UNODC recently partnered with Nigeria to conduct the largest household survey on corruption in Africa, which will inform our new programmes to promote integrity.

The UNODC-UN Volunteers legal aid project in Niger has drastically reduced the number of detainees awaiting trial, and has led to the release of innocent people held in pre-detention.

In North Africa, our work includes the EU-UNODC regional initiative aimed at dismantling the criminal networks involved in migrant smuggling and human trafficking, which was launched last year in Morocco and is slated to start in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia this year.

In Eastern Africa, we are encouraged by the peace agreement between Eritrea and Ethiopia. UNODC will spare no effort to support Member States in the Horn of Africa to prevent positive developments from being spoiled by criminal and terrorist organizations.

In Somalia, UNODC works closely with maritime law enforcement and coastal communities, to support at-risk youth to find work, and deter their involvement in piracy or other crimes. Our partnership has also resulted in the construction of five prisons, notably the Mogadishu Prison and Court Complex, with a training centre for specialized organized crime and terrorism investigations.

In Kenya and Tanzania, UNODC is helping to protect natural resources through anti-corruption and criminal justice responses to wildlife, forest and fisheries crime.

In Southern Africa, UNODC is a key provider of technical assistance to address human trafficking and gender-based violence, and strengthen human rights in prison settings.

UNODC global programmes, including the Container Control Programme, the Global Maritime Crime Programme and AIRCOP, provide training, equipment and support to national law enforcement agencies across the continent to strengthen border management and combat trafficking through air, land and sea ports.

We have produced significant results, and we have done great work together to protect our societies and communities from crime, corruption, terrorism and drugs. But we can do much more.

As a key player in the SDG puzzle, UNODC can help bring positive and tangible change to the lives of Africans. With the help and guidance of the African Group in Vienna, we aim to do just that.

As we take these steps forward, UNODC remains keenly aware of the persistent and emerging obstacles facing African States.

Africa needs more from us than business as usual. More importantly, Africa deserves more.

Africa needs concerted and systematic efforts to build capacities in a sustainable manner, to lay the foundations for strong and effective institutions able to prevent and combat crime.

Africa needs assistance in understanding and adapting to the challenges and opportunities posed by new technologies and the emerging threats that accompany them - namely in the areas of cybercrime and illicit financial flows, where Africa needs targeted assistance to eliminate corruption, and to develop the policy framework and capabilities to recover stolen assets and halt illicit financial flows, which according to the Mbeki report, are draining some 50 billion dollars from African growth every year.

With the UN General Assembly Special Session against corruption coming up in 2021, we have an extraordinary chance to step up cooperation with finance capitals and the banking sector to get back stolen assets and clamp down on illicit financial flows.

Furthermore we will provide expertise to develop modern and effective responses to drugs and their effects on societies.

With Africa we will strengthen programmes aligning criminal justice responses and social services to prevent gender-based violence and support women and girls to achieve their full potential.

With Africa we will sustain support to protect children from traffickers and terrorists who subject them to soldiering and forced labour.

And of course, we will continue to work with partners to stand side by side against terrorism, to develop a viable preventive framework as the basis of all efforts to combat this most horrible of crimes.

That is why it is so vital that the African Group continues to play a very active role in the CND and CCPCJ, as well as at the Kyoto Crime Congress, to reinforce links between resolutions in Vienna and the support UNODC provides through its integrated programmes.

We must seek synergies wherever we can. I am committed to taking our cooperation to the next level through enhanced partnerships with the African Union and other regional organizations in Africa, including ECOWAS, SADC, LAS and others, with a focus on South-South cooperation, fostering exchanges and building networks of expertise.

I will also do more to leverage the power of joint programming with our UN partners, including regional entities as well as peacekeeping and political missions.

With the continued support of African Member States, we will ensure that UNODC's presence on the ground, outside of capitals, is further developed, with a focus on specific regions and border areas, including the Sahel, the Lake Chad Basin, the Horn of Africa and countries along the Gulf of Guinea.

Very soon I will organize field visits to go meet the communities and people that we serve.

Our funding partners have recognized our results and we rely on their continued support. At the same time, I will reach out to new partners, including the World Bank, the African Development Bank and the private sector.

I am confident that developing a comprehensive approach to tackle these challenges will provide a significant boost to Africa in the Decade of Action. I am equally confident that such a comprehensive approach can only be formulated with your guidance, through a sustained dialogue between UNODC and Member States.

I very much look forward to hearing from you, now and in the future, so that we may tailor our approach to Africa in a manner that supports your aspirations and priorities. In a few months, I will be sharing with you our strategy for Africa.

My door is always open and my attention always available to my African brothers and sisters. In any dialogue about the needs and priorities of African States, the first voice must be the voice of African States.

Thank you.