Distinguished Members of the Parliamentary Association,
Distinguished Guests, ladies and gentlemen,
Good afternoon. I am very pleased to speak to you today, and I am grateful for your support of the Fourteenth UN Crime Congress in Kyoto.
I also thank Japan for its continuous efforts towards the preparation of the Congress and for being such a committed and steadfast partner for the UN Office on Drugs and Crime throughout this unprecedented year.
With its focus on crime prevention, criminal justice and the rule of law as drivers of sustainable development, the Fourteenth Crime Congress was originally poised to bring the world together at the very start of an ambitious Decade of Action to deliver on the 2030 Agenda.
Postponed due to global COVID-19 pandemic, the Congress now comes at a uniquely challenging time.
Our progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals has been set back, and transnational organized crime is exploiting the pandemic for profit.
Around the world, crime groups are producing and selling falsified medical products, using large-scale online fraud, and disrupting health systems through cyberattacks on hospitals and vaccine development labs.
Organized crime is now threatening COVID-19 vaccination campaigns, by trafficking in fake vaccines and stealing supplies, according to the latest INTERPOL warnings.
Criminals are also using the rise in online interactions during the pandemic to increasingly target women and children for sexual exploitation and abuse.
At the same time, lockdowns and protective measures have reduced the capacity of our systems to respond. Limited resources, obstacles to law enforcement action and delays in criminal justice proceedings may have consequences for years to come.
In the medium term, criminal groups targeting COVID stimulus packages and infiltrating the legitimate economy threaten our ability to recover from the crisis.
COVID’s legacy will be a poorer, more fragile world with even more opportunities for organized crime to flourish.
Hundreds of millions of jobs have already been lost, and up to 150 million people could be pushed into extreme poverty next year. According to the World Bank, close to 7 million students could drop out of school due to the income shock of the pandemic, with developing countries worst affected.
The economic downturn and massive losses in education will only increase vulnerabilities to trafficking in persons and other forms of exploitation, as well as criminal and terrorist recruitment.
At last week’s General Assembly Special Session on COVID, Secretary-General António Guterres warned that the damage from this crisis could stretch across decades because of the way COVID has compounded pre-existing weaknesses.
Now is the time for a reset. A successful Kyoto Congress can contribute to this reset.
In Kyoto, countries can develop a roadmap for recovering better from the crisis by advancing crime prevention and criminal justice to build fairer, more resilient societies.
The Congress can shape the international agenda and provide an essential forum where Member State representatives, criminal justice practitioners, academics and experts come together to explore solutions.
Kyoto will be our chance to strengthen international cooperation and solidarity in the fight against crime, and exchange knowledge and best practices.
Discussions will focus on evidence-based strategies to understand and address crime threats; on harnessing new technologies to stay ahead of tech-savvy crime groups; and on diversity and inclusion as powerful allies in our quest for justice and fair institutions.
Crime prevention cannot be accomplished by criminal justice institutions alone. Inclusive participation will be a key success factor for the Crime Congress.
In this context, I commend Japan’s multi-stakeholder initiative for preventing recidivism, which will be showcased in Kyoto, as well as its embrace of multi-disciplinary perspectives and strategies, in line with the approach of the Sustainable Development Goals.
I also appreciate the presence at today’s meeting of a wide range of stakeholders with diverse backgrounds, including private sector and civil society representatives.
Another important dimension to be highlighted at the Congress will be education for the rule of law and its contribution to youth empowerment.
I am very pleased that one week prior to the Congress, the Government of Japan will hold a Youth Forum, with UNODC supporting its organization to bring the voices of youth from around the world to Kyoto.
I am glad to see youth representatives present here today and I welcome their commitment to working with us.
Achieving our goal of peaceful and inclusive societies requires broad support for crime prevention, and holistic solutions.
The pandemic has emphasized a strong need for integrated responses to prevent and counter transnational organized crime and terrorism, while safeguarding the recovery effort against corruption and fraud.
With its mandates addressing these interlinked challenges, UNODC is working to support countries in bringing a big-picture approach to Kyoto.
UNODC will also act as a bridge-builder between the achievements of Kyoto and next year’s global push to advance anti-corruption action, at the dedicated General Assembly Special Session in June, as well as the 9th Session of the Conference of the States Parties to the UN Convention against Corruption in Egypt in December 2021.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The Fourteenth UN Crime Congress is likely to be the first UN conference of this scale to be held outside UN Headquarters since the start of the pandemic.
The health and safety of all participants will be our paramount concern. This means putting in place strong protective and hygiene measures for those taking part in person, as well as a very significant effort to offer virtual participation, which entails additional costs.
In this regard, I sincerely thank Minister Kamikawa, Mr. Kazuo Kitagawa, Parliamentary Vice-Minister Nakanishi, Mr. Daisaku Kadokawa, and the distinguished members of the Diet present today, whose strong political leadership to enable the organization of the Congress amidst these new challenges has been instrumental.
The Congress will enable in-person participants gathered in the Kyoto International Conference Center to interact with online participants from all around the world.
I believe that by using this new hybrid format, we can increase possibilities for more inclusive participation and facilitate broader outreach.
With the Kyoto Congress, we have the opportunity to set and showcase new standards for the organization of large-scale international meetings.
A successful Congress held in a hybrid format will offer a new milestone in leveraging technology to advance international cooperation.
UNODC is working very hard with Japan to overcome the challenges posed by the hybrid format and harness innovation so that together, we can deliver the world’s largest and most diverse forum in the field of crime prevention and criminal justice.
In conclusion, let me thank once again the distinguished members of the Parliamentary Association, for their continuous support for the Congress.
UNODC will do its utmost to assist Japan in ensuring a successful Kyoto Congress, and support the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in translating the Congress’ outcomes into action, resulting in a strong legacy for the international community for years to come.