Ghada Waly

Director-General/Executive Director


Remarks to the Third Committee of the 75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly
  8 October 2020

Madame Chair,


Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for this opportunity to address the Third Committee, and congratulations Madame Chair on your appointment.

This is the first time since I began as Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime in February, and I am honoured.

In fact, the COVID-19 crisis has had a wide-ranging impact on UNODC’s work to support Member States in addressing challenges posed by the world drug problem, and to promote effective crime prevention and criminal justice responses.

Over these past months, UNODC programme managers have done a commendable job adapting to new realities as the world continues to grapple with the effects of this unprecedented global challenge.

I am also grateful to our donors, who have generally been supportive and flexible, as we seek to repurpose funding and budgets to address needs.

Nonetheless, the crisis, along with the Secretariat-wide measures introduced to address the Regular Budget cash liquidity crisis, are adversely affecting UNODC delivery and capacity to respond to Member States requests.

Due to the freezing of vacant RB posts and deep cuts in non-post funding, UNODC’s support and substantive servicing of intergovernmental, as well as treaty-related, processes and meetings have been adversely affected.

UNODC has also been unable to develop and publish mandated policy guidance, reports and analysis, as well as knowledge products, and by the end of the year, we may be compelled to curtail some essential activities.

UNODC facilitates vital Member State discussions on a range of issues, from the scheduling of cannabis and cannabis related substances to preparations to elaborate a cybercrime convention.

We are also working towards holding the 14th Crime Congress in Kyoto after it was postponed from April 2020.

Our Office is supporting the preparatory process for the General Assembly’s first-ever special session against corruption in June 2021.

On Monday, the 10th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime begins with important discussions on the new implementation review mechanism.

This work is needed more than ever.

The COVID-19 crisis has, on the one hand, introduced unprecedented constraints to pursuing international cooperation and on our day-to-day work. It has also shown why integrated support to address the challenges of drugs, crime, corruption and terrorism is critical to recover better and to help Member States get back on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Criminals are seeking to profit from the pandemic, as we have reported in UNODC research briefs on the impact of Covid on drug demand and the supply chain; organized crime; trafficking in persons and the smuggling of migrants; and on the trafficking of Covid-related falsified medical products.

Governments must take action to safeguard COVID response and recovery measures from crime, fraud and corruption.

Protecting vulnerable people from exploitation in a world made poorer by the pandemic; stopping terrorist recruitment and radicalization to violence; and preventing future zoonotic pandemics by addressing high-risk wildlife facilities represent important priorities to all Member States

UNODC is supporting countries to respond to these urgent challenges.

Since the start of the pandemic, our field offices and Vienna headquarters have successfully moved the delivery of legislative assistance and capacity building online to the extent possible, employing virtual meetings, and modifying and developing new e-learning modules to supplement webinars.

Furthermore, we transferred the delivery of our counter-terrorism technical assistance to our Counter-Terrorism Learning Platform, helping UNODC to train more than 1,000 criminal justice officials. We have furthermore invited our UN partners to use this platform to reach their beneficiaries.

UNODC has provided guidance and assistance addressing corruption risks and diverse forms of transnational organized crime, including maritime crime and wildlife crime, as well as terrorist financing and money laundering.

Our Office has helped to ensure the continuity of services for drug use disorders, HIV and Hepatitis C.

We have promoted drug use prevention, including through family skills training; advised on issues of access to controlled medicines; assisted with prison management and reform; and supported effective and rights-based crime prevention and criminal justice responses, with a particular focus on youth, women and vulnerable groups.

In addition to research and guidance addressing the impact of COVID, UNODC this year launched the World Drug Report, the World Wildlife Crime Report and the Global Study on firearm trafficking, and we will present the latest Global Report on Trafficking in Persons in December.


As you can see in the reports submitted to this Committee, this is just a brief snapshot of UNODC’s support across the pillars of UN action.

In the face of the COVID crisis, UNODC has delivered to the extent possible, in close partnership with other UN entities, civil society and academia.

I am proud of the work we have achieved under these difficult and unprecedented circumstances.

I am developing a new five-year strategy for UNODC to further sharpen our delivery through innovation and enhanced synergies, and to enable us to pursue maximum efficiency with accountability and transparency.

However, despite our best efforts, we cannot avoid the hard truth that financial constraints are having an impact on our operations and on the sustainability of our support to you. And things may get worse if COVID persists and a second wave causes a greater global slowdown.

We rely on Member States to help us ensure that UNODC can continue to provide essential assistance on the ground across our mandate areas, and to support important intergovernmental processes so we can keep delivering for the people who need us most. Thank you.