Ghada Waly

Director-General/Executive Director


2nd meeting of the OSCE Mediterranean Partners for Cooperation Group

  10 May 2021

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

I am very pleased to address this meeting of the OSCE Mediterranean Partners for Cooperation Group, and I thank the Permanent Representative of Poland for his kind invitation.

The OSCE’s cooperation with its Mediterranean partners is an example of the comprehensive view of security that is required in our interconnected world.

It recognizes the need for joint solutions, based on shared responsibility, as we navigate the current crisis and chart our path towards a post-COVID world.

Transnational organized crime affects all dimensions of security, and organized crime has wasted no time in exploiting the gaps in our systems which COVID laid bare.

Criminal groups have seized every opportunity to profit from the crisis, from selling falsified medical products to targeting health care systems with cyberattacks; from shifting drug and wildlife trafficking routes to diverting stimulus funds.

A world in which more than 100 million people have been pushed into extreme poverty and the equivalent of 255 million jobs have been destroyed, is bound to be increasingly vulnerable to threats from organized crime in the future.

With the loss of livelihoods and opportunities, particularly affecting women and youth, risks of human trafficking and of recruitment by criminal and terrorist groups are on the rise.

I strongly believe that we are now at a defining moment for our post-pandemic future.

Weakened by the health emergency and the economic downturn, our world needs to mobilize against organized crime threats, if we are to build fairer societies, and emerge stronger from the crisis.

To advance shared responses, we need to leverage our common framework: the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its protocols addressing human trafficking, migrant smuggling, and illicit firearms.

The Convention remains the only global legal instrument against transnational organized crime. Its 190 parties share a vast array of international cooperation tools, including important provisions on extradition and mutual legal assistance.

Taking a holistic view, the Convention also encourages States Parties to proactively address prevention in their legislation and programmes, and promotes measures such as the reintegration of offenders into society, and raising public awareness of the dangers of transnational organized crime.

For the past twenty years, UNODC has been working to help countries implement the Convention and its Protocols through legislative and policy assistance, law enforcement and criminal justice training, and global research and analysis.

Many of our activities have been conducted in close cooperation with the OSCE, and in support of the Mediterranean Partners, notably on preventing and countering human trafficking.

Together, we are helping to strengthen criminal justice responses, end the impunity of traffickers and address technology-facilitated crime.

UNODC strongly appreciated the OSCE’s leadership as co-chair of the Inter-Agency Coordination Group against Trafficking in Persons in 2019 and 2020.

The Group’s expertise will inform the General Assembly’s forthcoming appraisal of the UN Global Plan of Action to combat trafficking in persons, and I look forward to the OSCE’s continued contributions.

The Mediterranean region has seen unspeakable human tragedy linked to migrant smuggling and trafficking in persons. In response, UNODC has partnered with the European Union on a major initiative to dismantle the networks involved in these crimes in North Africa.

The three-year project started in 2019 focuses on building the capacities of law enforcement and criminal justice agencies in Egypt, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia, with an emphasis on regional and international cooperation, and on upholding the rights of migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers.

Last year, UNODC also supported Algeria to revise its anti-trafficking law in line with the UN trafficking protocol, and has delivered training to improve investigative capacity and data collection.

UNODC is further supporting authorities and victim service providers in Lebanon and Jordan, to identify victims of trafficking, educate people at risk, and strengthen cooperation for appropriate protection and referral procedures.

As the digital divide continues to compromise countries’ efforts to investigate and prosecute cyber-enabled crime, UNODC has also been providing digital forensic equipment and software to Morocco and Tunisia, and leveraging its global expertise in building law enforcement capacity.

Through our AIRCOP programme managed jointly with INTERPOL and the World Customs Organization, we are also helping Algeria, Lebanon, Jordan and Morocco strengthen the capacities of their international airports to tackle trafficking of drugs, firearms and other illicit goods, disrupt criminal networks and counter terrorist threats.

Another form of crime that is of serious concern for the Mediterranean region is trafficking in cultural goods, which has linkages to organized criminal groups and to financing terrorism.

UNODC has been working with partners, including the OSCE, to raise awareness of the need to protect cultural property and to investigate and prosecute traffickers, in addition to seizing, confiscating and returning trafficked cultural goods to their country of origin.

We look forward to pursuing and strengthening this work, as mandated by the resolution adopted at last October’s Tenth Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, and sponsored by four of the OSCE’s Mediterranean Partner countries.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We have the instruments and the cooperation frameworks to address transnational organized crime.

We also have more and more examples and good practices of how prevention through education, sport, prisoner rehabilitation, and youth engagement, can make a difference.

Such innovative, collaborative and evidence-based approaches, in partnership with civil society and other stakeholders, were an important focus of the 14th UN Crime Congress in Kyoto in March.

At the Crime Congress, countries united around commitments to advance crime prevention and criminal justice to deliver on the 2030 Agenda. Next week, here in Vienna, the UN’s Crime Commission will help translate the Kyoto Declaration into action.

UNODC stands ready to assist Member States in this endeavour, from our headquarters and through our field presence in 86 countries.

With our new strategy for 2021 to 2025 as our guide, we will strengthen our integrated support, putting people at the centre, and better leveraging partnerships, including with the OSCE.

Through our new Strategic Vision for Africa, we will work with our allies, including those in the Mediterranean region, to empower African societies against crime in step with efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

I look forward to learning about the results of this discussion, and invite you to share your ideas for how UNODC, the OSCE and its Mediterranean Partners can collaborate and coordinate in the fight against transnational organized crime.

Thank you.