Ghada Waly

Director-General/Executive Director


United Nations Security Council high-level open debate on “Addressing the Issue of Linkages between Terrorism and Organized Crime”

  6 August 2020

Madam President,

Distinguished Members of the Council, 

Thank you for the opportunity to address the Council. I am grateful to the Presidency of Indonesia and Minister Marsudi for holding this session on this issue of growing concern to the international community.

As the Security Council has recognized, linkages between terrorism and organized crime are complex and multifaceted, posing a serious threat to international peace and security.

The COVID-19 crisis poses a host of new challenges to national authorities.

Organized criminal groups and terrorists may seek to capitalize on and exploit new vulnerabilities, and transit patterns are shifting in view of travel restrictions and lockdown measures, adding further challenges for border security. Comprehensive and cooperative responses are needed more than ever.

In view of UNODC’s broad criminal justice mandates addressing terrorism and organized crime, building the capacities to deal with these threats represents a key priority of our support to Member States, and I welcome the chance to discuss these issues with you today.

It is an honour to join my colleague Under-Secretary-General Voronkov to present the findings of the “Report of the Secretary-General on actions taken by Member States and UN Global Counter-Terrorism Coordination Compact Entities to address linkages between terrorism and organized crime”.

The report was prepared by UNODC and OCT in response to the request contained in Security Council resolution 2482.

It reflects the contributions of 50 Member States and 15 Global Compact entities, and benefitted from valuable UN system inputs, including from the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate and the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team.

The report provides a valuable overview of measures taken by Member States and UN entities to address linkages between terrorism and organized crime, as well as recommendations for action going forward.

In their contributions, Member States highlighted a range of linkages between terrorism and organized crime, often in connection to the financing of terrorism.

Challenges vary by region, and some States could not confirm the existence of links, citing limited terrorist activity in their countries, or constraints with investigative capacities.

Linkages between terrorism and organized crime may be opportunistic, based upon shared territory or other mutual interest.

Alliances may also draw on personal connections, possibly developed in prisons in cases where terrorists have prior criminal backgrounds.

Many States reported that terrorists benefit from organized crime, including trafficking in persons and migrant smuggling; trafficking in drugs, firearms, cultural property and other goods; kidnapping for ransom; robbery; and other illicit acts.

In some cases, returning foreign terrorist fighters have taken part in organized criminal activities, while in other States, organized criminal groups have been involved in transporting terrorists across borders.

However, some Member States also observed that criminal organizations are increasingly disinterested in cooperating with terrorist groups, potentially to avoid additional scrutiny from national authorities.

Actions reported by Member States to counter these threats show that many governments have taken steps to adopt the legislative, policy and operational responses identified in Resolution 2482.

In their contributions, Member States emphasized  the following measures:

States highlighted inter-agency and international cooperation as key enablers for success across all these areas.

Building links between FIUs and counter-terrorism investigators was cited as a particular priority.

The importance of joint task forces, operations centres and other coordination mechanisms between intelligence, border, and criminal justice practitioners to detect and counter crimes in an integrated manner was also highlighted.

Member States further emphasized the need for cross-border cooperation to address the transnational nature of crime and terrorism threats, including through: regional platforms; bilateral information sharing agreements; the exchange of law enforcement liaison officers; INTERPOL and regional organization databases and tools; and through mutual legal assistance treaties.

The report also identified several areas for intensified action to fully respond to Resolution 2482 and to further develop and disseminate the good practices reported by Member States.

National legal frameworks could be updated to include precise definitions of terrorism and organized crime offences and criminalization of facilitation acts.

More resources could be directed towards reinforcing national intelligence and criminal justice coordination and capacity through the establishment of specialized units and inter-agency mechanisms, as well as through a greater focus on intelligence-led policing, and evidence collection and preservation, including for electronic evidence.

Targeting entire organized criminal or terrorist networks when building criminal cases should also be a priority.

Further needed steps include strengthening land, air, and sea border security through data collection tools, control systems and enhanced coordination; and continuing efforts to deepen regional and international cooperation.

The report also highlights the importance of measures targeting specific links between terrorism and organized crime, for example between drug trafficking and terrorism financing, or to stop the illicit exploitation and trafficking of natural resources, small arms, wildlife and other goods.

More support is needed to comprehensively address all forms of trafficking in persons, including when such crimes are committed by terrorist groups.

Member States could also be encouraged and supported to bring all measures in line with relevant international legal frameworks, including international humanitarian, human rights, and refugee laws.

These observations correspond with the strategies and good practices that UNODC has noted in its years of working at the field-level to counter organized crime and terrorism, and that the Office promotes in capacity-building assistance to Member States.

Finally, the report highlights the need for more research to better understand the nature of linkages between terrorism and organized crime, and the vulnerabilities of different sectors to exploitation.

Madam President, distinguished Council members,

My colleague USG Voronkov will brief you on the efforts of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Coordination Compact Entities to support Member States in addressing these complex and evolving challenges.

As part of the Global Compact, UNODC remains committed to leveraging its experience and expertise on organized crime and terrorism. 

UNODC is uniquely placed to support Member States to address these linkages, as our Office serves as the custodian of the UN conventions on transnational organized crime and corruption, and supports implementation of the international drug control conventions, the UN standards and norms on crime prevention and criminal justice and the international instruments against terrorism.

In collaboration with OCT, the Global Compact, and other partners, UNODC looks forward to putting this knowledge to use in working with States to deliver technical assistance and engage with communities, parliamentarians, civil society, the private sector, youth, women and all stakeholders in promoting comprehensive, integrated and victim-centred responses to linkages between organized crime and terrorism.

Thank you once again for this opportunity to brief the Council.

UNODC stands ready to support you.