Ghada Waly

Director-General/Executive Director


Launch of the Strategic Vision for Latin America and the Caribbean 2022-2025

  07 February 2022


Your Excellency, Mr. Iván Duque Márquez, President of Colombia,

Your, Ms. Marta Lucía Ramírez, Vice President and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Colombia,


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for joining us for today’s event. I am honoured to launch the new UNODC Strategic Vision for Latin America and the Caribbean 2022-2025 in the presence of His Excellency, President Ivan Duque, Her Excellency Vice-President Marta Lucía Ramírez, and representatives of Latin American and the Caribbean Governments and key stakeholders in the region from this historical building and this beautiful room.

This is my first mission to the region as UNODC Executive Director, and it is truly an honour to be in Colombia, where we have our largest footprint worldwide.  I would like to start by congratulating President Duque and his administration for the management of the complex scenario posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, a crisis that has left the region and the world struggling with numerous social and economic challenges.

In this context, it is also important to highlight the efforts made in the implementation of the Peace Agreement. I join the UN Secretary-General, who was here last November, in reiterating the unwavering support of the United Nations to this “investment in peace” that can serve as an example for the world.

Today marks the renewal of UNODC’s commitment to serving the Latin American and the Caribbean people by working with their governments and other relevant stakeholders in addressing many of the challenges that the region has been facing for years, and that the pandemic has deepened:

The COVID-19 crisis has served as a wake-up call, as the pandemic has led to a historical economic downturn in the region, exacerbating the already existing vulnerabilities of the most disadvantaged groups, and widening the gap towards the achievement of the SDGs.

These particular circumstances make UNODC‘s mandate more relevant than ever. But it is not enough to be relevant. There is a need for this relevance to be translated into action that accelerates ongoing work and maximizes impact.

Latin America and the Caribbean is a dynamic, resilient, and diverse region with enormous promise. It has a leading voice in international policy and is the cradle of numerous experiences and best practices that have been replicated within and outside the region.

It is our shared responsibility to ensure that it achieves its potential.

The document we are presenting today provides a tailored regional approach for the implementation of UNODC’s global strategy 2022-2025, as it aims to prevent and address diverse challenges posed by illicit drugs, organized crime, and corruption, including emerging threats related to new psychoactive substances, maritime security, cybercrime, and crimes that affect the environment.

The Strategic Vision for Latin America and the Caribbean will be an overarching tool that shapes UNODC’s structure and interventions in the region to more coherently, cohesively, and efficiently address the four priority areas identified by Member States and relevant stakeholders, namely:

(i) Taking action against the world’s drug problem;

(ii) Combatting transnational organized crime;

(iii) Countering corruption; and

(iv) Enhancing crime prevention and criminal justice.

Under these priority areas, UNODC has placed particular emphasis on improving crime prevention and access to justice through responsive, people-centred law enforcement and criminal justice systems, as well as by fostering more accountable and transparent institutions.  These are key elements of any response that is capable of ameliorating longstanding structural inequalities and achieving safety, security, human rights, and development in the region.

Reducing crime, violence, and corruption are also prerequisites for empowering women and girls and enabling the region’s young people to access opportunities and play a key role in working towards a better and safer future. As President Duque highlighted during his intervention at the World Youth Forum, recently held in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, “youth’s ideas, talents and leadership are instrumental in a world undergoing rapid changes”.

In line with the UN reform process spearheaded by the Secretary-General, the Strategic Vision for Latin America and the Caribbean places people at the centre of UNODC’s work, and addresses the security-development nexus, through actions that recognize security as a multidimensional goal that is linked to development and requires investments in diverse fields. These include crime prevention, criminal justice, and appropriate sentencing laws, among others.

UNODC will also engage more vigorously with other UN entities. We will work regionally, including through the UN Sustainable Development Group and the Development Coordination Office, as well as nationally, through the UN Country Teams and their Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework and thematic working groups.

With a view to keeping this vision and its related initiatives as relevant and impactful as possible, UNODC will assess its implementation on an annual basis and adjust as needed, in coordination with the region and its actors. And Ms vice president rest assured that this will be followed by an action plan for the region.

I am proud to note that, this document is the result of a consultative process spanning one and a half years, during which governments, donors, and other important stakeholders from a wide array of sectors, including civil society and academia, shared their views and experiences through surveys and in-depth bilateral consultations.

The partnerships built over three decades of joint work with the region and its stakeholders are of utmost importance for UNODC, and we really believe that the new vision will offer a platform to take our cooperation to the next level.

The support of Latin American and the Caribbean Member States, the donor community, and a wide array of partners from different sectors, has allowed UNODC to deliver 102 million US dollars in 2020-2021 in the region, despite the many restrictions introduced as a response to the pandemic. For this, we are most grateful.

Through the new Strategic Vision, we aim at further boosting South-South cooperation and resource mobilization, by bringing relevant expertise from other regions, but also by leveraging regional expertise and experience.

Actions speak louder than words, and UNODC has taken the first step in the implementation of the new Strategic Vision for Latin America with the re-profiling of our UNODC Country Office in Colombia as the Regional Office for the Andean Region and the Southern Cone. 

The new Regional Office will continue to lead UNODC operations in Colombia, and it will be responsible for the oversight and coordination of UNODC operations in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay. 

The creation of a Regional Office will allow for a more coordinated and effective approach to operations, partnership development and communications. It also follows on the Strategic Vision’s focus on promoting a more harmonious, consistent, and coordinated regional decision-making process, capable of meeting the growing demands of stakeholders and building on existing expertise and capacities in the region.

By concentrating our efforts and resources with a regional focus, we can be more ambitious in supporting governments to address challenges affecting their countries and achieve greater impact in Latin America and the Caribbean.


Ladies and gentlemen,

UNODC is committed to working with you and the countries of the region to bring this vision to life and translate it into concrete initiatives and action plans.

Together, we can ensure that every single action taken has a positive impact on the lives of people in Latin America and the Caribbean.

We depend on the active engagement of the region and donors, to work with us to promote justice and build accountable institutions that can help restore trust, increase opportunities, and fulfil the promise of more inclusive progress - leaving no one behind.

Allow me to conclude by expressing my deep gratitude for the support and involvement of all Member States and stakeholders in realizing and launching a new vision for this region. I would also like to offer my heartfelt appreciation to the Government of Colombia, President Duque and Vice-President Ramírez for hosting this event and providing me with such a warm welcome on my first, but definitely not last, mission to this region.

Thank you.

Permítanme concluir expresando mi profunda gratitud por el apoyo de todos los Estados Miembros y socios estratégicos en el desarrollo y lanzamiento de la nueva visión para esta región. Quisiera además transmitir mi sentido y sincero agradecimiento al Gobierno de Colombia, el Presidente Duque y la Vice-Presidenta Ramírez por la organización de este evento y la cálida bienvenida que me brindaron en mi primera, pero definitivamente no última, misión a esta región.