Ghada Waly

Director-General/Executive Director


High-Level Thematic Debate on Digital Cooperation and Connectivity

  27 April 2021

Greetings, and thanks to the President of the General Assembly for this important event.

Since the start of the pandemic, cyber-enabled criminality has endangered people’s lives, health, and rights. Such crime has further impoverished consumers and economies, getting in the way of a safe and inclusive digital future for all.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime, in its research and work on the ground, has registered a strong rise in online trafficking of falsified medical products by organized crime groups.

Procurement scams and data compromise frauds targeting people, hospitals and government agencies, and ransomware attacks to extort funds from hospitals and vaccine-development labs, are also increasing.

Prior to the pandemic, our research on trafficking in persons had already documented the growing use of digital platforms by traffickers.

During COVID lockdowns, online sexual abuse and exploitation have increased, harming women and girls most of all, according to reports from UN Women and the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women.

The US-based National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children received over 21 million reports of online child sexual exploitation in 2020, up 28 percent over the previous year. Risks of violence, exploitation, and abuse continue to rise for children in confinement and in dire socioeconomic conditions.

To better protect people, we need to support Member States, especially developing countries, to close gaps in regulation.

We need to build the capacities of police, prosecutors and judges to fight cybercrime, including online sexual abuse and exploitation of children; and we need to drive public awareness of cybercrime threats.

We also need to strengthen the cybersecurity sector through greater inclusion and women’s leadership.

UNODC has been active on all these fronts, working for online safety and justice with Member States, our UN partners, the private sector, civil society, educators, parents, and children.

Today’s event can further enhance collaboration to safeguard and empower all individuals in the digital sphere, to bridge the digital divide and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

I wish you fruitful discussions. Thank you.