|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-sixth General Assembly
8th Meeting (AM)
Criminal Groups Trafficking in Drugs, Weapons Can Destabilize Countries, Regions;
Combating Them Requires Increased Cooperation, Resources, Third Committee Told
Speakers Outline Threats in Central America, West Africa, Afghanistan;
As Two-Day Debate on Crime Prevention, Criminal Justice and Drug Control Concludes
The power of organized criminal groups trafficking in drugs and weapons could destabilize countries, and even whole regions, if States did not strengthen international cooperation and provide more resources for the fight against them, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) was told today, as it concluded its general discussion on crime prevention, criminal justice and international drug control.
Regions finding themselves on trafficking routes faced a fight against one business — the illicit narcotics trade — that dwarfed their entire security allocations, several representatives said. The cost of that crime also absorbed limited resources from other sectors, such as health and education.
The representative of Costa Rica, for example, said that, while his was a safe country with a solid institutional infrastructure, it risked infiltration by drug traffickers simply because it was located between drug production centres to the south and the world’s largest drug market to the north. It was, thus, subjected to a “dynamic of death” existing between those two regions.
The representative of Côte d’Ivoire said his country was at a significant crossroads in West Africa, a region that had experienced recent successive crises that had created a favourable environment for the trafficking of drugs, banditry and transnational crimes, even terrorism. “In Côte d’Ivoire, the trafficking and consumption of drugs have seen a relative increase these past years,” he said.
Sierra Leon’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation added that such drug trafficking could disrupt the security and socio-economic stability of post-conflict countries. Cocaine trafficking to Europe was one of the biggest threats to West Africa, especially when it was accompanied by illicit arms and human trafficking, corruption and subversion of legitimate State institutions, he said.
Faced with that threat, delegates also called for strengthened cooperation and funding against the scourge of drug trafficking, including sufficient financing for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC), with some calling for big drug consumer States and arms producers to shoulder their responsibilities without delay.
Iran’s representative said traffickers bringing drugs from Afghanistan, the world’s main producer of opiates, endangered the stability of his country’s eastern borders. Iran’s concerted efforts had made 89 per cent of the world’s opium seizures and 32 per cent of heroin seizures, but despite collaboration with neighbours, regional bodies and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), more help was needed.
Since considerable amounts of opiates originating from Afghanistan were destined for European countries, he said, the problem should be considered a shared responsibility and tackled collectively. “To that effect, granting financial contributions and technical support to Iran, as the shortest transit route for the western market, is of great importance,” he said.
The Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of the Maldives also participated in today’s debate, as did representatives from Myanmar, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Sudan, Bangladesh, United Arab Emirates and Indonesia.
A representative of the International Organization for Migration also spoke.
The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m., Monday, 10 October, to begin its consideration of the advancement of women.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to continue its general discussion on crime prevention, criminal justice and international drug control. For more information, see press release GA/SHC/4006.
KO KO SHEIN ( Myanmar) said his country was waging a war against narcotic drugs as a matter of national responsibility. Its 15-year drug control plan called for elimination of illicit poppy cultivation and improvement of living standards throughout the nation. Myanmar had undertaken specific programmes for law enforcement, raising awareness, access to communication between lowland and highland peoples, and improved living standards for those residing in border areas. Poppy cultivation in the country decreased 76.6 per cent from 1996 to 2011, while opium production fell 67 per cent during that period. Further, Myanmar had destroyed over $18 billion in drugs since 1988.
Myanmar was also actively cooperating with regional initiatives to combat illicit drug production and trafficking, he said. All stakeholders, including international organizations, local organizations and students needed to collaborate to add momentum. With its given resources, Myanmar was doing its utmost to wipe out narcotics. “To tackle the global challenges in a more comprehensive manner, the principle of common and shared responsibility by means of enhanced and better coordinated technical and financial assistance are needed,” he said.
KANIKA PHOMMACHANH (Lao People’s Democratic Republic), stressing that the world drug problem continued to pose a serious threat to public health and the safety and well-being of humankind, said that illicit cultivation must be addressed in a more meaningful and coordinated way. Governments and aid agencies must invest more in development, productive employment and increased security. Crop eradication should also play a role. In that context, national responsibilities and efforts must be supported by international assistance towards programmes that help farmers shift to alternative crops.
She said that, while illicit poppy cultivation was effectively reduced by 94 per cent and opium addiction dropped by 80 per cent as of 2007, it had increased from 1,500 hectares to 3,000 hectares in 2010. Owing to rising opium prices in recent years, the resumption of cultivation appeared to be a tempting source of income for farmers, and further reductions in cultivation depended on appropriate and sustainable alternative livelihood opportunities. In parallel, trafficking of heroin and amphetamine-type stimulants had soared, resulting in growing numbers of users in border regions. Confronting the wide-ranging impacts of that phenomenon had become a top national priority and the Government had adopted a comprehensive National Drug Control Master Plan for 2009-2013 to boost law enforcement and provide economically viable alternatives for those producing opium, with support from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
ESHAGH AL-HABIB (Iran) said his country shared borders of 1,800 kilometres with the “Golden Crescent” countries — including 936 kilometres with Afghanistan and 909 kilometres with Pakistan — and wholeheartedly supported the worldwide effort to combat drug abuse and smuggling. Iran had curtailed transit routes of illegal narcotics from Afghanistan, at a sacrifice of lives of thousands of its law enforcement officials and millions of dollars. According to UNODC, Afghanistan was still the main producer of opiates and provided more than 80 per cent of the world’s opium and heroin and its recent threat assessment indicated production there could increase in 2011. Traffickers endangered the stability and peace of Iran’s eastern borders; the country had mobilized 30,000 troops along its borders with Afghanistan and Pakistan, striving to prevent trafficking caravans and annihilate them if they infiltrated the country.
Iran had infiltrated drug gangs and set up checkpoints, surveillance and ambushes, leading to clashes with drug smuggling groups, he said. Those measures resulted in confiscation of massive volumes of various types of narcotics, amounting to 89 per cent of the world’s opium seizures and 32 per cent of heroin seizures. Iran had collaborated with its neighbouring countries, as well as “Balkan Route” countries and regular meetings and exchanges of information with Pakistan and Afghanistan had been held, in collaboration with UNDOC. As for international cooperation, he pointed out that considerable amounts of opiates originating from Afghanistan were destined for European countries; it should be considered a shared responsibility to tackle the problem collectively. “To that effect, granting financial contributions and technical support to Iran, as the shortest transit route for the western market, is of great importance,” he said.
EBUN ADEBOLA JUSU, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Sierra Leone, stressed that drug trafficking could disrupt the security and socio-economic stability of post-conflict countries. Indeed, cocaine trafficking was one of the biggest threats, especially when it was accompanied by illicit arms and human trafficking, corruption and subversion of legitimate State institutions. Despite many constraints, Sierra Leone was making steady progress in combating those phenomena. Its Joint Drug Interdiction Force had been upgraded to a fully operational Transnational Organized Crime Unit, which was deployed at the international airport and main seaport and brought together all competent agencies. The Government had also hosted a Ministerial Conference in February 2010, which resulted in the “Freetown Commitment”, which provided for the establishment of Transnational Organized Crime Units and national assistance programmes in Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, as well as Sierra Leone.
She said other practical measures included revisions to the national legislative framework on terrorism, drug trafficking, migrant smuggling and corruption. With international support, training was being provided to law enforcement officials, while the country’s relevant infrastructure was being improved. Bold steps had been taken to address corruption, including by arresting and convicting both low-ranking and senior Government officials. Other anti-corruption strategies aimed at building the capacity of Government ministries, departments and agencies to raise public awareness of corruption. Sierra Leone called for further collective action on drug trafficking and transnational organized crime. It particularly appreciated support from UNODC to implement projects to curb money-laundering, human trafficking and migrant smuggling.
MOHAMED IBRAHIM MOHAMED ELBAHI (Sudan), referring to the reports and resolutions before the Committee on crime prevention, criminal justice and the drug trade, underscored the emphasis on international cooperation in one of the texts forwarded by the Economic and Social Council related to the mandate and strategies of UNODC. One report on UNODC spoke of crime, drugs and terrorism as global threats and called for technical assistance in combating them. In that context, Sudan called for an agreement on a unified definition of terrorism as an international crime. Sudan also supported a consolidation of technical support for developing countries, to build national capacity and allow them to address the threat from drugs and organized crime, he said.
For its part, Sudan was working to combat human trafficking, trafficking in human organs and organized crime, he continued. It was cooperating with International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) and working to address its obligations under the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized crime. In addition, it had reached tripartite border control agreements with the Central African Republic and Chad, as well as an agreement with the Government of South Sudan, which gave added value to regional efforts in that field. Efforts to resolve the drug problem were continuing, including through a national commission on drugs. Among other things, a study on drug use among students had been carried out. Finally, he underlined the need to include the development dimension in discussions and strategies for combating crime and drugs.
A.K. ABDUL MOMEN ( Bangladesh) said his country was especially concerned about the increase in opium poppy cultivation in one of its neighbours. “The drugs are entering through our long porous borders which are very difficult to guard,” he said. “Our law enforcement agencies are trying their best to chase the drug traffickers and bring them to justice.” Illegal trading of small arms was another serious threat to Bangladesh, since its law enforcement agencies were small and not well-equipped. Anti-money laundering efforts were being strengthened, with help from international development partners, but stolen asset recovery remained a complicated challenge and Bangladesh looked forward to support from all countries in the endeavour.
Combating trafficking in persons, particularly women and children, was also a top priority and Bangladesh hoped all Member States would complement each other in the difficult task of eradicating the trans-boundary issue through information and intelligence sharing, and mutual legal assistance. But, there was a serious unmet demand for resources and capacity-building to curb organized crime. “We would like to urge upon the donor community to increase their un-earmarked contribution to UNODC, as it is very difficult for such an Organization to cater to the numerous needs of Member States with control over only 5 per cent of its resources,” he concluded.
ASLAM SHAKIR, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of the Maldives, said his Government was currently pursuing every possible avenue to develop its response to drug control and organized crime, and to strengthen its existing judicial system. Because the deficiencies of the previous regime in terms of responsible governance were increasingly apparent, the current Government had decided, for the first time in the history of the Maldives, to make public the financial details of State expenditures on a weekly basis. While it was grateful to UNODC for agreeing to support the repatriation of the Somali drifters apprehended in Maldivian waters, the Government remained very disappointed in the slow progress in that regard, and called on UNODC to expedite the process.
The Maldives remained concerned, he said, by its placement on the Tier-2 watch list by the United States in the 2010 Trafficking in Persons report, he said. Although it was committed to addressing that issue, the Government was severely constrained by a lack of human and material resources. Nonetheless, it planned to put forward an anti-trafficking bill to Parliament before year’s end and was taking a number of steps to remedy the situation in concert with its donor partners. Efforts included further training of law enforcement personnel and the judiciary on human trafficking. Also, his Government had learned that treating the victims of drug dependence as criminals was unsustainable. It had, therefore, undertaken comprehensive efforts to rehabilitate and reintegrate addicts into society, while also addressing the social and health dimensions associated with drug abuse. The Maldives believed, however, that greater intensity was needed from the international community on the unholy nexus between drug trafficking, corruption and other forms of organized crime.
YOUSSOUFOU BAMBA ( C ôte d’Ivoire) said crime and drug trafficking were international scourges that could only be combated with effective cooperation. Building the capacity of legal systems, and combating trafficking and corruption, and prevention and treatment for people using drugs were some areas his country would focus on with UNODC. But, Côte d’Ivoire was at a significant crossroads in West Africa, a region that had experienced recent successive crises in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea that resulted in a precarious environment. The conditions allowed the movement of militias and the recruitment of mercenaries and were, thus favourable for the trafficking of drugs, banditry and transnational crimes, even terrorism. “In Côte d’Ivoire, the trafficking and consumption of drugs have seen a relative increase these past years,” he said.
Thousands of kilograms of drugs had been seized and around 5,500 people had been prosecuted from 2007 to 2010, he said. The Government was aware of its responsibilities, and had undertaken domestic actions along with increased cooperation with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). It was also part of a pilot project to strengthen borders and increase application of the law through the West African Coastal Initiative. Partnerships with UNODC and other organizations had helped support transborder operations in West Africa to combat organized crime, while at a national level, the Ivoirian Government was working to re-establish port and penal infrastructures damaged in its post-electoral crisis.
EIMAN KHAMIS AL-RAISY ( United Arab Emirates) underscored the need for international cooperation on transnational organized crime and trafficking in drugs and human beings. Her Government had ratified or acceded to the international conventions and protocols on transnational organized crime and enacted the necessary national legislation to fulfil its commitments under those international instruments. The United Arab Emirates had also acceded to all conventions on combating terrorism, including two regional conventions on that issue. Its efforts to combat terrorism included initiatives to prevent funding of terrorism, with specific provisions of its federal law on money-laundering directly addressing that issue.
The United Arab Emirates was also cooperating with all international and regional efforts to combat human trafficking, she said. It was part of the Group of Friends United against Human Trafficking and supported the General Assembly’s Global Plan of Action against Trafficking in Persons. To translate national goals into concrete action, the Government had launched a national campaign against human trafficking, established a national committee against trafficking in persons and concluded several bilateral agreements. Finally, she voiced concern about emerging crimes that harnessed information technology and highlighted a recent law that criminalized electronic terrorism and organized crime.
HASAN KLEIB ( Indonesia) said stronger international measures were needed to combat “emerging crimes”, such as cybercrime, trafficking of cultural properties, trafficking of timber and wildlife, and illegal fishing practices. Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing practices remained one of the greatest threats to the marine ecosystem, threatening the food security and economies of many countries. Fighting corruption also remained a high priority for Indonesia, which had voluntarily taken part in review mechanisms and undertaken several national measures, including a National Plan of Action against Corruption.
Indonesia was committed to tackling trafficking in persons, but increased international cooperation was needed. On the subject of terrorism, the greatest challenge was to implement the United Nations Global Counter Terrorism Strategy in a coordinated, balanced manner. Complex root causes to terror needed to be addressed, with law enforcement complemented by the promotion of tolerance, in efforts consistent with rule of law, respect for human rights and democratic principles. Cooperation at all levels was needed in a holistic approach to “alarming developments” in the illicit manufacturing and trafficking of drugs. Indonesia’s “alternative livelihood in urban areas” initiative provided alternative employment for former and potential drug couriers.
EDUARDO ULIBARRI ( Costa Rica), noting that consumption of illicit drugs remained on the rise, said this was an “old story” that, among other things, indicated current strategies for drug control were not sufficient in addressing the problem. The links between organized crime, the drug trade and human trafficking constituted grave challenges to the very social fabric of many countries and regions. Certainly, Latin America was trapped in that dynamic. While it was a “safe country with a solid institutional infrastructure”, Costa Rica ran the risk of being infiltrated by drug traffickers simply because of its geography. Located between drug production centres to the south and the world’s largest drug market to the north, it was a target of the “dynamics of death” between those two regions, and found itself in a formidable and disproportionate fight in which just one business alone — drug trafficking — mobilized a thousand times the value of all of Central America’s security allocations. The cost of that crime was exorbitant and absorbed limited resources to the determinant of other sectors, such as health and education.
In that context, Costa Rica demanded that the international community, and particularly the big consumers States and arms producers, fully and without further delay shoulder their responsibilities, he said. An integral approach to violence was also needed and should aim to strengthen institutions and the rule of law and take a more comprehensive approach to prevention and the fight against crime. For its part, the United Nations must play a more central role in coordinating the fight. Thus far, that leadership had been too limited, owing in part to insufficient resources, as well as inadequate strategies and a dispersion of efforts. The Commission on Narcotic Drugs and the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice must become an integrated governing body. Costa Rica also called for a robust, comprehensive Arms Trade Treaty capable of controlling the flow of the “death machines” that threatened mankind and spurred conflict around the world.
MICHELLE KLEIN-SOLOMON, of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said her organization had helped fight trafficking by providing training to over 600,000 migration officials and giving technical support to develop counter-trafficking policies. It had also assisted over 15,000 victims of trafficking in the past 15 years with safe accommodations, medical care, psychosocial support, legal assistance, and return and reintegration activities. But, the Inter-Agency Coordination Group against Trafficking, created in 2007 to foster cooperation in the fight, could be a more active and useful structure to monitor the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons.
IOM could also significantly partner with Member States and organizations to confront terrorism, she said. Restrictive migration policies were a natural response to terrorism, but it was unclear whether they worked. Restrictions also pushed migrants into even more vulnerable positions to be exploited by criminal groups. Terrorism could grow out of failed or non-existent integration policies, but IOM helped Governments adopt integration policies that could help build more stable societies. “In many countries, anti-terrorism legislation has included controversial provisions for detention and deportation of migrants,” she said. People would continue to move, even in the face of great risk, and greater partnerships across political borders and economic sectors could be built in a way that benefitted everyone.
* *** *For information media • not an official record