Ghada Waly

Director-General/Executive Director


Remarks to the 20th Informal Meeting of FINGOV

  13 November 2020


Distinguished participants,

Good morning and thank you for this opportunity to join Fingov to present the UNODC strategy.

Our meeting takes place virtually today, during the second wave of COVID-19 lockdown measures, less than two weeks after a tragic terrorist attack in Vienna.

Allow me to begin by once again offering my heartfelt condolences, and reaffirming that we at UNODC and the UN family at the VIC stand with Austria, and with all countries and people who have suffered and been affected by terrorism.

In standing together, let us resolve to work together, to prevent future tragedies, and to make the best use of the tools we have to protect lives and livelihoods as we build forward from the pandemic.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The unprecedented and continuing COVID-19 crisis has both complicated our work to elaborate a longer-term vision for UNODC, and added to the urgency of our efforts.

We last met in June when I presented the outline of the UNODC strategy to you. Our meeting then was also largely virtual, amid continuing concerns about the spread of the virus.

Throughout this difficult year, UNODC has overcome challenges with vigour and purpose, maintaining business continuity and protecting our staff, even as the situation temporarily dimmed implementation rates and added pressure to our funding model.

We rapidly adjusted our programmes, gearing them towards urgent needs. The UNODC strategy document before you reflects this mix of realism, optimism and determination, answering to the present moment, while charting a path forward for the coming five years.

The COVID crisis has shown us so clearly that the integrated support UNODC provides to address drugs, crime corruption and terrorism is needed more than ever.

The world was already suffering from an “inequality pandemic”, fuelling and contributing to vicious cycles of poverty, corruption, crime, drugs, violence, and terrorism. Now the fallout from COVID-19 has halted and even reversed development progress, leaving a poorer world that is even more vulnerable to threats.

Corruption is endangering our equitable recovery from the pandemic.

Organized criminal groups are profiting from the crisis through the trafficking of falsified medicines and other crimes.

Patterns of drug use and drug trafficking are shifting, and potentially posing greater harms.

Terrorists are seeking to recruit and plan attacks as attention and resources are diverted to deal with the virus.

With the new UNODC strategy, our Office will ensure that we are best positioned to anticipate and respond effectively to these evolving and emerging challenges. 

The strategy follows on the request contained in the CND/CCPCJ resolution last year, which was one of the first tasks I took up when I arrived in February. It is also in line with the recommendations from OIOS and MOPAN.

You have already received the draft strategy, which draws upon and builds on the mandates and responsibilities Member States have entrusted to UNODC.

The text reflects the priorities and needs you have identified, and incorporates the comments we received from you after my presentation in June. I would like to thank Member States who provided written feedback on the outline.

In this time, I have also consulted widely with UNODC staff here in Vienna and in the field. We have reached out to younger staff members, as well as senior management, for their perspectives and ideas. We held an inter-divisional workshop, and examined previous strategies, as well as those of other UN entities.

I know how difficult it is to come up with a document that is concise, focused and crisp, and that nevertheless covers our broad mandates. I would therefore like to acknowledge and thank the team, who spent a lot of time and diligent effort to collect inputs through a number of drafts. Every director, every division, at all levels, had a chance to contribute and be heard.

The result is a coherent vision for the Office, for the first time with some key concrete outcomes and outputs, for the years 2021 to 2025.

The strategy is aligned with the SDGs, covering the first five years of the Decade of Action, and is in keeping with the comprehensive, Secretariat-wide reforms that the Secretary-General has implemented.

By making the world safer from drugs, crime, corruption and terrorism, and by promoting justice and building resilient societies, UNODC will contribute to efforts addressing the UN pillars of international peace and security, human rights and development.

Crime and corruption represent acute threats to planet as well as people, and our work will also help to safeguard biodiversity, address emerging crimes, support sustainable livelihoods, and tackle key drivers of multi-dimensional poverty.

Across the five thematic areas of the strategy, which correspond to UNODC’s mandates, we will draw on our Office’s unique strengths as the guardian of international conventions and secretariat, as a research leader, and as the provider of global expertise from Vienna headquarters and through our extensive field presence.

Our focus on human rights-centred approaches, gender and youth will be sharpened and strengthened, which will in turn enrich and enhance our activities across our mandate areas.

How we do our work will further maximize the sustainability and impact of our efforts.

We will pursue diverse partnerships within and outside the UN system, with the IFIs, the private sector and civil society.

As of January 2021, along with the strategy, we will launch a new Partnership Policy to facilitate more effective and efficient alliances with other UN entities, governments, NGOs and other stakeholders in the delivery of our mandates.

Our programmes and projects will integrate communications and outreach to increase knowledge sharing, raise awareness, mobilize resources and advocate for change.

For every project, a communication plan will be developed and a budget dedicated for promoting activities and results, and recognizing our donors’ contributions.

Furthermore, on the regional level, we have developed a strategic vision for Africa, and efforts are underway to elaborate a vision for Latin America.

The UNODC strategy will also be augmented by an intensified focus on innovation and data. UNODC is actively participating in the Secretary-General’s data governance group, and we serve as the current co-chair of the UN chief statisticians group.

New technologies – from the use of AI to monitor illicit crop cultivation to using data to improve detection and visualization of crime and drug trends and threats – have the potential to improve efficiencies, support delivery and contribute to solutions.

At the same time, we will promote a people-centred organizational culture, one that invests in national as well as international staff; fosters an inclusive, gender-balanced and diverse working environment; strengthens accountability; and has zero tolerance for abuse of authority, discrimination or harassment, especially sexual harassment.

To measure our progress in all areas, UNODC will invest in monitoring and reporting, and will ensure our independent evaluation function is strengthened, including to evaluate this very strategy.

The project cycle is being reviewed, from inception to approval to implementation, in order to break down the silos, avoid duplication, and ensure complementarity, quality assurance and effective oversight.

This may entail consolidation and restructuring of some our regional and global programmes. We will also be examining the organizational structure of UNODC to be fit for purpose.

This will further help us to ensure that our work speaks to Member States’ priorities and is well integrated with UN system initiatives.

On another note, dear Excellencies, I am proud of UNODC’s commitment to business continuity throughout the pandemic, and of our efforts to adapt delivery to the new realities, including through online training and meetings, and with particular support to the Commissions.

I am pleased that our UNODC governing bodies in Vienna were among the vanguard in switching to remote and hybrid forms of working during the pandemic, and to hold meetings with an online interpretation platform in the six official UN languages.

Yet, despite our rapid response in this unprecedented situation, programme delivery is anticipated to decrease by some 30 per cent in 2020, seriously affecting our PSC levels.

Planned activities, including training events, high-level meetings and missions, have been cancelled or delayed in almost all countries as well as in Vienna.

The UN Secretariat-wide Regular Budget crisis continues to take its toll. As we have seen over the past months, facilitating hybrid meetings require more human and financial resources, not less.

Our intergovernmental work has been heavily impacted by the RB liquidity crisis and without the necessary resources, the Office will not be able to carry on at the current level. 

Going forward, a major challenge and potential constraint on our ability to be the responsive, agile UNODC the world needs remains the sustainability of our funding.

In view of this, I have established an interdivisional working group to review the funding model of UNODC, going beyond a redistribution of PSC, looking at the impact of FCR and examining ways to ensure strategic financial resources management and identify possible efficiency gains.

The working group is reviewing different options, including cost and field office structures, and will share recommendations with Member States in early 2021.

We will rely on your political and financial support to address this situation, including through flexible funding that allows UNODC to address the priorities you have identified. Ultimately, effective implementation of the strategy also requires our Member States to support and engage with UNODC in a strategic partnership committed to leaving no one behind and leading to efficiently addressing Member States’ priorities.


The UNODC strategy will serve as a guide and reference, offering a progressive and ambitious vision with pragmatic steps to achieve it. And it is only the beginning.

A world shattered by a pandemic, suffering from growing inequality, with people and societies left more fragile and more vulnerable, needs a stronger multilateralism, and a stronger UNODC.

I look forward to working with all of you to realize our shared aspirations, contributing to the SDGs and helping our societies to recover better. I rely on your political engagement and continued support, to enable UNODC to deliver with quality and care for the people who in turn rely on us, during the crisis and beyond.

Thank you.