Ghada Waly

Director-General/Executive Director


Global AML/CFT Conference Session 1: an international overview

  18 June 2021

Distinguished participants,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning, and thank you for inviting me to join this important discussion.

I am honoured to be part of this panel with key partners of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.

In Vienna, pandemic-related measures are easing further from the 1st of July. It is an appropriate time to take stock of the impact that the global pandemic has had on our efforts to support governments, the private sector, and other stakeholders to prevent and tackle money laundering and terrorist financing.

It is also a timely opportunity to discuss how we can work together better, and better protect people from crime and terrorist threats, even as our societies deal with the continuing fallout from the crisis.

Over the past year and a half, UNODC issued more than 40 briefs and papers on the impact of COVID across our mandate areas of drugs, crime, corruption, and terrorism.

Our research found that while organized crime groups initially experienced disruptions at the onset of the pandemic, trafficking of drugs and other operations soon picked up again.

Trends seen prior to the pandemic, such as increases in the trafficking of illicit goods on the dark web, online exploitation and cybercrime, were intensified as more people spent more time at home and on screens.

Evidence also suggests that terrorists turned to virtual currencies and digital services to raise and move funds.

Overall, we have seen that the pandemic has elevated risks as criminals and the corrupt are taking advantage of increased vulnerabilities to exploit and profit.

At the same time, the crisis and related restrictions have diverted resources and impaired law enforcement and criminal justice capacities to go after organized crime, or to pursue money laundering and terrorist financing cases.

Safeguarding the integrity of our systems is thus a crucial priority for recovering better from the pandemic and getting back on track to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

This was recognized by the UN and the Secretary-General from the start, and the prevention of economic crime and implementation of robust AML/CFT measures have been integrated in the UN system response to the pandemic and related economic downturn.

As part of these efforts, UNODC contributed to the Secretary-General’s Initiative on Financing for Development in the Era of COVID-19 and Beyond, in particular to its pillar on tackling illicit financial flows and related vulnerabilities.

Our Office also adapted its technical assistance and capacity building programmes from the onset of the pandemic to continue our support to Member States, especially low-income countries, including through remote training on conducting financial investigations and other challenges. 

UNODC work to prevent and tackle money laundering and terrorist financing builds on our integrated mandates addressing drugs, crime, corruption, and terrorism, and interlinkages between these threats.

UNODC acts as guardian to the UN Conventions on transnational organized crime and corruption, both of which have near-universal adherence and contain mandatory measures to combat and prevent money laundering

The Conventions call upon State Parties to institute comprehensive domestic regulatory and supervisory regimes for banks and non-bank financial institutions; requirements for customer and beneficial owner identification; record-keeping and the reporting of suspicious transactions.

UNODC further provides legislative and policy assistance as well as capacity building to implement the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and other global counter-terrorism instruments, relevant UN Security Council resolutions and international standards

UN General Assembly resolutions also mandate UNODC to assist Member States to implement the Financial Action Task Force Recommendations.

Our Global Programme against Money Laundering, Proceeds of Crime and the Financing of Terrorism supports the Asset Recovery Inter-Agency Network of Southern Africa, as well as a project addressing trade-based money laundering covering 13 countries in Central America and the Caribbean.

In Afghanistan, we are helping authorities to protect the Money or Value Transfer Service sector, including through training on comprehensive AML/CFT controls. We are also providing counter-cash courier training to law enforcement agencies and customs.  .

This year, UNODC delivered training on FIU operations for the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon and Chad, as well as foundational courses on counter-terrorism financing in Burkina Faso and Niger.

We have also launched a new global network to support cross-border cases to tackle money laundering and corruption through direct, proactive, and informal cooperation between law enforcement authorities.

The GlobE network was conceived during the G20’s first ministerial meeting on anti-corruption last year, under Saudi Arabia’s G20 presidency.

Member States further welcomed the new network in the political declaration adopted at the first-ever UN General Assembly special session against corruption at the start of June.

The UNGASS political declaration contains strong commitments on tackling money laundering and enhancing transparency of beneficial ownership, and it represents an important opportunity to advance national and international responses to these challenges.

Governments are expected to take forward the Declaration and translate its commitments into concrete action at the ninth session of the Conference of the States Parties to the UN Convention against Corruption in Egypt in December. 

2021 represents a year of global anti-corruption action, and it comes at the right time to underpin a sustainable and inclusive economic recovery from the pandemic.

UNODC is committed to supporting Member States to use this momentum and take decisive action against money laundering, terrorist financing and economic crimes.

We welcome your collaboration and ideas for how we can strengthen our work towards these shared objectives, and I forward to our discussion.

Thank you.