New UN campaign highlights financial and social costs of transnational organized crime

Screenshot from UNODC's global awareness-raising campaign emphasizing the size and cost of transnational organized crime.

16 July 2012 – The annual turnover of transnational organized criminal activities such as drug trafficking, counterfeiting, illegal arms trade and the smuggling of immigrants is estimated at around $870 billion, the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said today, as part of a campaign aimed at raising awareness of the issue’s financial and social costs.

“Transnational organized crime reaches into every region, and every country across the world. Stopping this transnational threat represents one of the international community’s greatest global challenges,” said UNODC’s Executive Director, Yury Fedotov, in a news release. “Crucial to our success is our ability to raise public awareness and generate understanding among key decision and policymakers.”

The $870 billion turnover from transnational organized crime is six times the amount of official development assistance, and is comparable to 1.5 per cent of the global domestic product, or seven per cent of the world’s exports of merchandise, according to UNODC.

Drug trafficking is the most lucrative form of business for criminals, with an estimated value of $320 billion a year. Human trafficking brings in about $32 billion annually, while some estimates place the global value of smuggling of migrants at $7 billion per year.

The environment is also exploited: trafficking in timber generates revenues of $3.5 billion a year in South-East Asia alone, while elephant ivory, rhino horn and tiger parts from Africa and Asia produces $75 million annually in criminal turnover, UNODC notes. At $250 billion a year, counterfeiting is also a high earner for organized crime groups.

In addition to the financial costs involved, the agency’s awareness-raising campaign seeks to highlight the human costs of these criminal activities to societies. Each year, countless lives are lost to drug-related health problems and violence and firearm deaths, among other causes. In addition, some 2.4 million people are victims of human trafficking.

“The UNODC-led campaign also illustrates that despite being a global threat, the effects of transnational organised crime are felt locally. Crime groups can destabilize countries and entire regions, undermining development assistance in those areas and increasing domestic corruption, extortion, racketeering and violence,” UNODC noted in a news release. “The campaign drives the message that someone ultimately suffers and there is always a victim.”

The campaign, which is being rolled-out through online channels and international broadcasters, consists of 30 and 60-second Public Service Announcements in multiple languages, a set of posters, a series of fact sheets and various online banners that illustrate that despite being a global threat, the effects of transnational organized crime are felt locally. The campaign is also being promoted through various social media channels.


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