The UNODC Executive Director

Statement on the 20th anniversary of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime

Twenty years ago, the world came together to adopt the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC).

The international community recognized that transnational organized crime was a global threat to peace, human rights, and sustainable development – and that no one country could tackle it alone.

Criminal groups profit from gaps in legislation and target countries with weaker criminal justice responses. That’s why effective action against organized crime requires strong international cooperation.

The UNTOC, also known as the Palermo Convention, is a remarkable practical tool to that end. It is the only global legal instrument against transnational organized crime, accompanied by three protocols to prevent and counter: trafficking in persons, especially women and children; smuggling of migrants; and the illicit manufacturing of, and trafficking in, firearms, their parts and components and ammunition.

The Convention’s 190 Parties not only committed to adopting comprehensive legislation so that organized criminal groups could be brought to justice, but also agreed to important provisions on international cooperation such as extradition, mutual legal assistance, asset confiscation and law enforcement cooperation.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime supports the Convention’s implementation by helping countries strengthen their legislative frameworks, build law enforcement and criminal justice capacity, and expand the knowledge base on organized crime through data collection, research and analysis.

We are at a pivotal moment as the international community has pledged to take implementation of the Convention and its protocols to the next level. The Convention’s review mechanism established in 2018 will help identify gaps and technical assistance needs, enabling more targeted support.

Stepping up action against organized crime is particularly urgent today, as the COVID19 crisis acts as an accelerator for criminal activity. Trafficking in falsified medical products, online child sexual abuse and cyberattacks against health facilities are on the rise. Criminal groups are targeting stimulus funds and using their profits to infiltrate the legitimate economy. In a poorer post-COVID world, organized crime will find even more ways to exploit the vulnerable.

On the 20th anniversary of the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, we stand determined to stop criminals from compromising the world’s COVID response and recovery. Coordinated approaches to preventing and combating transnational organized crime are key to recover better from the crisis, help achieve peaceful and inclusive societies, and make progress towards all of the Sustainable Development Goals.