Ghada Waly

Director-General/Executive Director


Reception for the Saudi Arabian Presidency of the G20

  7 September 2020

Your Royal Highness,


Ladies and gentlemen,

Al Salam Alaykum Wa Rahmatullah.

Good afternoon everyone.

It is an honour to join you today to celebrate the G20 presidency of Saudi Arabia, and share how we at the UN Office on Drugs and Crime can support you in achieving the G20 agenda, towards realizing the Sustainable Development Goals.

The G20, which accounts for some 80 per cent of the world's economic output, two-thirds of the world’s population and three-quarters of international trade, plays a clear and leading role in addressing global challenges, and formulating effective responses to international financial and economic crises.

UNODC values Saudi Arabia’s cooperation across our mandate areas, including through our Strategic Partnership with the GCC countries, as well as the Regional Programme for the Arab States.

I commend the progress achieved through the ambitious Vision 2030 framework towards gender equality, the empowerment of Saudi women and their economic inclusion, as well as investing in the education and empowerment of Saudi youth.

UNODC is ready to support the Kingdom in furthering its contribution to regional and global efforts to address drugs, crime, corruption and terrorism.

Saudi Arabia’s permanent committee on mutual legal assistance and the national committee for combating human trafficking offer good practices to strengthen the fight against transnational organized crime and protect victims.

We are also eager to expand our collaboration with the Naif Arab University for Security Sciences, which is the first Arab university to specialize in all areas of security, to build the capacities of law enforcement and criminal justice officers within the region, in Africa and beyond.

I welcome the engagement of Saudi Arabia’s G20 Presidency with the UN and UNODC, and the theme selected for 2020, “Realizing opportunities of the 21st century for all”.

Now in the COVID-19 crisis, and the evolving challenges it entails, leadership is needed more than ever.

As the Secretary-General said in his meeting with the G20 foreign ministers last Thursday, we need effective international solidarity – and concerted G20 action - to respond to the economic and social impacts and the underlying fragilities exposed by the pandemic.

Due to the crisis, up to 100 million people could be pushed into extreme poverty, according to World Bank forecasts.

At least one-third of the world’s schoolchildren - 463 million boys and girls – have been cut off from education, mainly due to a lack of remote learning policies or equipment, according to a new UNICEF report.

While 65 per cent of youth in high-income countries could keep studying online, ILO estimates that this opportunity was only available to 18 per cent in low-income countries.

One in six youth has stopped working since the onset of the pandemic, with youth in low-income countries finding themselves particularly exposed to unemployment and under-employment.

Women have been among those hardest hit, by resulting unemployment, by extra burdens of unpaid care work at home, and by exposure to the virus itself as they account for 70 percent of those employed in health and social work globally.

This brief snapshot of the data reflects how COVID has worsened inequalities, geographic disparities and the gender gap.

The three priorities of Saudi Arabia’s G20 presidency – empowering people, safeguarding the planet and shaping new frontiers – are more relevant than ever as we seek to build back better from the crisis.

We need to put youth and women at the centre of our responses, strengthening government measures and working in partnership with civil society and the private sector in targeting stimulus packages.

Emergency funds are being rapidly disbursed to rescue economies, and the urgency increases risks that social spending will be diverted away from people in need.

Governments need to protect biodiversity, also to prevent future pandemics.

And countries need to work together to overcome the digital divide, to improve access to technologies and the opportunities of digitalization so they benefit the people who need them most.

Such a fair, inclusive recovery relies on accountability and transparency, and political commitment and leadership. It is only by promoting inclusive development that we can break the cycle of poverty and inequity.

We realize that corruption hits the poor and vulnerable hardest, and the threat is deadlier still in the COVID crisis. Fraud and corruption imperil the medical supply chain, endangering lives through defective equipment or counterfeit medicines.

Decisive anti-corruption action to safeguard the COVID-19 response and recovery is essential.

Saudi Arabia has made clear the government’s high-level commitment to advancing the global fight against corruption through its G20 presidency by convening the very first ministerial-level G20 meeting on anti-corruption in October.

This is a timely opportunity for the G20 to show leadership on this critical challenge, with the General Assembly holding its first special session against corruption in June 2021.

In the run-up to UNGASS, the UN system task force, which UNODC co-chairs, has developed a common position reflecting a One UN approach, with the aim of enhancing governance and anti-corruption assistance to Member States through better coordination and integration.

UNODC has welcomed the opportunity to provide policy and technical support to the G20 Anti-Corruption Working Group, which Saudi Arabia co-chairs with Italy, and address thematic priorities on:

The working group demonstrated the seriousness of its intent by adopting high-level principles for all three priority topics in the first quarter of 2020.

UNODC has further supported Saudi Arabia with a survey of G20 countries, which will form the basis for a Compendium of Good Practices on Combating Corruption in responding to COVID-19.

To prevent and counter corruption in the COVID-19 recovery and beyond, we have also been hard at work with our partners at Nazaha, the Anti-Corruption Commission, on establishing the new Riyadh Initiative.

This global operational network of anti-corruption law enforcement authorities, which we are developing in consultation with INTERPOL, OECD and other partners, will foster international cooperation through building and enhancing direct contacts between law enforcement practitioners. Such linkages can make a decisive difference in successfully pursuing complex, cross-border corruption and money-laundering cases.

We count on the G20 countries to take this very important initiative forward for the good of all Member States, especially developing countries, where corruption and illicit financial flows present serious obstacles to achieving the SDGs.

Africa alone may be losing more than 50 billion dollars annually to illicit financial outflows.

The Riyadh Initiative network holds the potential to unlock progress in stamping out corruption and recovering stolen assets, building on what we have achieved through the UN Convention against Corruption.

       As guardian of the Convention, UNODC supports States Parties with implementation, and provides legislative and technical assistance through its Global Programme to:

I am grateful to Saudi Arabia for taking the opportunity of its G20 presidency to galvanize international action against corruption.

Even as we face monumental challenges, we remain confident that the 21st century is an era of unprecedented opportunity, and we must work together to unlock the possibilities of the future.

You can rely on UNODC to support you in promoting accountability, integrity and justice, for a fair, more inclusive and more sustainable future, leaving no one behind.

Thank you.