DEEP CONCERNS EXPRESSED OVER GLOBAL CHALLENGES POSED BY ILLICIT DRUG TRAFFICKING AND ORGANIZED CRIME, AS THIRD COMMITTEE CONCLUDES DEBATE

17 October 2001
GA/SHC/3636

DEEP CONCERNS EXPRESSED OVER GLOBAL CHALLENGES POSED BY ILLICIT DRUG TRAFFICKING AND ORGANIZED CRIME, AS THIRD COMMITTEE CONCLUDES DEBATE

17/10/2001
Press ReleaseGA/SHC/3636

Fifty-sixth General Assembly

Third Committee

12th Meeting (AM)

DEEP CONCERNS EXPRESSED OVER GLOBAL CHALLENGES POSED BY ILLICIT DRUG TRAFFICKING

AND ORGANIZED CRIME, AS THIRD COMMITTEE CONCLUDES DEBATE

India Says Heroin Stocks in Afghanistan Would Be Released When Market Is Ripe

As the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) concluded its consideration of crime prevention, criminal justice and international drug control issues this morning, members expressed deep concern over the global challenge now posed by the increasingly transnational nature of the drug trade, the massive amounts of cash that it generated, and the ability of criminal networks to use those resources to finance other illegal activities.  That, they said, jeopardized years of progress on the drug front, particularly in vulnerable countries like Afghanistan.

The representative of India said that the international community had celebrated prematurely last July when the Taliban announced a prohibition of poppy cultivation, central to the production of heroin.  The reality, he said, was that the Taliban had merely turned to their advantage three points of pressure -- the drought which hampered cultivation, the international outcry against them, and the glut of opium on the market.

They did not destroy the stocks in their possession, he continued, which were estimated at 2,800 tons.  The price of heroin had soared, and if the Taliban regime continued in Afghanistan, those stocks would be released when the market was, in every sense of the word, ripe for a killing.  South Asia would continue to be particularly at risk, both from the drug trade and from terrorism.

Iran’s representative maintained that more than two decades of war had destroyed Afghanistan’s economic, social and cultural infrastructure.  Those miserable conditions had made the Afghan people easy prey for organized criminal actors and had forced many others to resort to drug crop cultivation in order to survive.  Worse, poppy cultivation created a vast transnational network of drug dealers in and outside the region, as well as the means for massive smuggling of illicit small arms, and a ready-made environment for terrorist activities.

The representative of Turkey said the links between terrorism and organized crime were evidently expanding.  That connection had been emphasized in the Security Council resolution 1373 of 28 September.  That resolution was an

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important step forward in the fight against terrorism, especially because it put particular emphasis on the suppression of the financing of terrorism.

Debate Highlights

Those sentiments were echoed by several representatives during the debate.  Saying his country had been completely changed by 11 September terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the representative of the United States on 12 October urged the seventy-nine other countries mourning citizens lost that day, as well as the entire international community, to show the courage to confront international lawlessness.  The global community must ensure that international criminals, including terrorists, could no longer take advantages of weaknesses in international law enforcement or judicial cooperation.  He stressed that the fight could not succeed without commensurate international cooperation.

The Committee opened its four-day debate on crime prevention with an interactive dialogue with officials from the United Nations top criminal justice agency.  Frances Maertens, Deputy Director of the United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (UNDCP), noting the central importance of the current situation in Afghanistan, added the agency was working to promote humanitarian aid to ease the burden of the farmers who had been dependent on poppy production. 

Eduardo Vetere, Director of the Centre for International Crime Prevention, told the Committee that a week before the 11 September terrorist attacks on the United States, the Commission on Crime Prevention had reached broad consensus on a terrorism action plan.  He added, however, that while there seemed to be a new sense of urgency to address terrorism in all its aspects, the Centre’s Terrorism Prevention Branch -- the United Nations body most qualified to deal with the issue -- remained underfunded and, consisting of only two professionals, understaffed.

In the other discussions, several delegations noted that sufficient infrastructure to combat transnational organized crime was in place, and now was the time for countries to implement mechanisms that could ensure their success.  Referring to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, and its related Protocols, as well as other regional agreements, delegates of various Government representatives said that such agreements were toothless without the necessary national legal instruments in place.  It was also imperative, others said, for nations to share best practices with each other to weed out international crime.

Another group of speakers emphasized the need for industrialized countries to help developing countries to fight international organized crime.  Especially necessary, they said, was technical and financial assistance.  Some of the Latin American developing countries that were battling drug production and trafficking, such as Colombia and Peru, stressed the crucial nature of international cooperation.

Also of importance, country representatives said, was the eradication of corruption.  Public corruption, they said, exacted high costs from often-limited

public budgets, which in turn diverted revenues away from social programmes. 

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These programmes, if fully funded, could lead developing countries on the path toward sustainability.

Participating in the discussion today were the representatives of the Lao People's Democratic Republic, Kuwait, Haiti, Morocco, Thailand, Belarus, Brunei, Iraq and Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, as well as Mr. Maertens and Mr. Vetere.

The Committee will reconvene at 3 p.m. to begin its consideration of issues concerning the advancement of women and implementation of the outcome of the Fourth World Conference on Women.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this morning to conclude its consideration of items related to crime prevention, criminal justice and international drug control.  For details, see Press Release GA/SHC/3632 of

12 October.

Statements

A. GOPINATHAN, Joint Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs of India, said the world, which was changed by an act of terrorism on 11 September, now saw with clarity that terrorism was not just a crime, it was a threat and a challenge to order, to pluralism, to democracy and to all civilized values.  Crimes were committed for profit.  Terrorism sought to coerce and undermine governments.  It killed indiscriminately, or targeted groups which represented other religions or political persuasions.  Terrorism, above all, was the most savage violation of human rights.  The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, said that the thousands killed had been robbed of the most fundamental of all human rights -- the right to life.  And the World Bank had forecast earlier this month that, in the aftermath of the attacks, the immediate impact on world trade would lead to a rise in poverty, which would claim tens of thousands of lives in the developing world.

The Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice had an important role to play, he said, particularly in coordinating an international response to interrelated problems.  But there was distress about the Tenth Session of the Commission, which had been held in Vienna last May, where there was so much reluctance to adopt the draft action plans.  In particular, the Commission should have adopted the one on terrorism.  While countries that had suffered the brunt of terrorism for some time urged the adoption of specific plans, that had been sadly opposed by many who thought they were immune to the contagion.  The diluted plans adopted by the resumed session in September were nowhere near what was needed.  Now, however, there was hope that there would be renewed interest in adoption of a plan of action that would truly address the challenge of terrorism, matched by a commitment to provide the resources that would be needed.

Earlier this year, he continued, there was some credulous jubilation that the Taliban had complied with the wishes of the international community, issuing and ruthlessly implementing a fatwa to choke off poppy cultivation.  However, on closer examination, it turned out that the Taliban had merely turned to their advantage three points of pressures -- the drought which hampered cultivation, the international outcry against them, and the glut of opium on the market.  They did not destroy the stocks in their possession, which were estimated at 2,800 tons.  The price of heroin had soared, and if the Taliban continued in Afghanistan, those stocks would be released when the market was, in every sense of the word, ripe for a killing.  South Asia would continue to be particularly at risk, both from the drug trade and from terrorism, and the United Nations International Drug Control Programme (UNDCP) needed to keep that in mind while setting its priorities.  It was disturbing to see the evidence of what looked like a neglect of a region that was most at risk, and by the thinning down of the UNDCP where it was needed most.

OUNSENG VIXAY (Lao People’s Democratic Republic) highlighted his country’s recent efforts to implement the outcome of the twentieth special session of the Assembly on “countering the world drug problem together”.  Having recognized that the scourge of illicit drug trafficking and drug abuse severely affected health, safety and security, Laos had convened its first national conference on drug control in March of last year.  Participants discussed taking a balanced approach to reduce drug abuse, eradicate illicit drug supplies and implementation of law enforcement measures.  Further, the country’s efforts to put an end to opium poppy cultivation had been intensified, and a plan to eliminate such crops by 2006 -- two years ahead of the goals set by the special session -- were currently in place.

His country’s poppy eradication programme included accelerated alternative crop development initiatives in major production districts.  By virtue of its location in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region, he continued, Laos had often been used as a transit country for illicit drug trafficking.  To effectively fight that trade, cross border law enforcement cooperation was crucial.  Laos had therefore signed bilateral agreements with its neighbouring countries aimed at strengthening border controls as well as enhancing cooperation.  Overall, the Government was moving the country toward compliance with requirements of international drug conventions.

TALAL ALMUTAIRI (Kuwait) said drugs threatened the very existence of mankind.  The manufacturing of illicit drugs had to be stopped, and the most effective way to do that was to provide alternative crops for farmers and producers.  Kuwait had passed several laws that helped in the fight against drugs.  Drug addicts were not considered criminals in Kuwait, but as patients who needed treatment.  Another law had established a committee to oversee drug control policy.  That committee was preparing plans and programmes for prevention and treatment.

He said Kuwait had signed and ratified various regional and international conventions against drug trafficking.  Punishments had to be in place for people who trafficked in drugs.  There also had to be public awareness campaigns to warn potential users about the dangers of drug use.  And, regionally and internationally, there needed to be a recognition that drug users and addicts needed to be rehabilitated so they could be reintegrated into society.

MOHAMMAD HASSAN FADAIFARD (Iran) said more than two decades of war had destroyed Afghanistan’s economic, social and cultural infrastructure, shattering that nation’s hope of ever having a better future.  Those miserable conditions had made the Afghan people easy prey for organized criminal actors and had forced many others to resort to drug crop cultivation in order to survive.  Worse, opium poppy cultivation had created a vast transnational network of drug dealers in and outside of the region, as well as the means for massive smuggling of illicit small arms and people, and a ready-made environment for terrorist activities.  It had now become exceedingly clear that drug trafficking, the illicit small arms trade and trafficking in people were intimately linked.

He said that over the past 20 years, Iran had faced the brunt of that confluence of illegal activity.  The effects of his country’s costly war against heavily armed drug traffickers from Afghanistan had also been recognized by the international community.  The dramatic increase in hostage-taking cases had been one of the main problems of Afghanistan’s drug production and the transit of those drugs into Iranian territory.  Last year, for instance, there were some 600 cases of hostage-taking in the Khorassan Province alone.  Iran had also been concerned at the inability of the Taliban to impose any control on cultivation in Afghanistan.  The present crisis in the region could lead to a new wave of cultivation as well as increased drug trafficking.  It was Iran’s opinion that the situation in Afghanistan originated from a lack of peace and economic security.  Those problems could not be successfully tackled without a serious international campaign to change the situation there. 

To cope with that situation and to enhance Iran’s fight against drug bandits, his Parliament had reviewed security in the region and had devoted some $25 million to strengthen border controls and to provide border guards with equipment, resources and training.  Iran had also lost more than 3,000 police personnel during the last 20 years.  But still, Iran stood proudly at the forefront of international efforts to combat the illegal drug trade and, last year, Iran had confiscated more than 254 tons of drugs of various types.

PAUL-PROMPT YOURI EMMANUEL (Haiti) said his country was vulnerable to international drug trafficking for a number of reasons.  His Government had established a series of measures to combat drug trafficking, money laundering and related crimes.  There was a law that provided for the extradition and the seizure of the assets of those found guilty of money laundering.  A Financial Intelligence Unit of his Government had been established as well.  Also, his Government had ratified several regional and international conventions and treaties against drug trafficking and corruption.

He said there was need for a common international response to the problem.  The National Haitian Police went to regional workshops to learn best practices by other countries.  There would also be a network of all Caribbean countries regarding maritime issues.  On money laundering, Haiti was accepted on the Financing Task Force.  Haiti had shown its willingness to fight drug trafficking, but the resources were not always available.  The fight against drug trafficking and the fight against poverty were closely linked.  A strong economic climate would help in that battle.

Haiti, he said, would continue its efforts with the international community to work towards the eradication of terrorism.  The international community had been asked to help identify terrorists.  His delegation believed only a transparent system of criminal justice could be effective in combating that scourge.  The President had appointed a Secretary of State for Public Security, a man from the private sector with no political ties.

HICHAME DAHANE (Morocco) said in recent years, the transnational nature of organized crime had taken on disturbing proportions.  The criminal networks becoming more prevalent today were taking advantage of scientific and technological advances in order to skirt international laws and conventions.  They were also taking advantage of international financial mechanisms -- mainly through dubious financial schemes or money laundering activities -- in order to expand their reach.  There was no doubt that broad cooperation was needed to combat that increasingly troubling trend.  He added that technical and financial assistance, particularly for developing countries, was critical to strengthen their efforts to combat specific related phenomena, such as drug trafficking, trafficking in persons and corruption.

He went on to say that there could be no doubt that the global scourge of drugs had become a real threat to the world’s youth.  Cooperation was essential to combating the drug problem and youth initiatives, particularly through education and awareness-raising campaigns must be given priority.  In its national policies, Morocco had always placed emphasis on addressing the supply and demand aspect of the drug problem.  The Government had also worked in close cooperation with the UNDCP. That agency had praised Morocco’s efforts, particularly its cannabis cultivation projects, as part of a global strategy to combat the illicit drug trade.  Still, cooperation was the only way to guarantee a better future for the coming generations.

CHUCHAI KASEMSARN (Thailand) said it was of the utmost importance that despite relentless national and international efforts, illicit drugs continued to pose a serious threat to mankind and undermined the very fabrics of society, particularly children.  It was far more worrisome now to note the nexus between the abuse of drugs and other problems and social ills, including the spread of HIV/AIDS, trafficking in persons, illicit trade in small arms, money laundering, corruption, and a myriad of criminal activities.  Drug production and trafficking often became important sources of financial support for criminal groups and transnational organized crime syndicates, including terrorist groups.  Further, the increase in the abuse of synthetic substances like methamphetamines and ecstasy pills had become a concern to Thailand.  That kind of substance, due to its small size and ease of use and transport, continued to be widespread, especially among youth.

Illicit drugs were a global problem that no single country alone could address.  The international community thus needed to take collective efforts and shared responsibility in addressing the root causes of the drug problem.  The implementation of the outcome of the twentieth special session of the General Assembly needed to be intensified.  To complement that, enhanced comprehensive, cross-sectoral strategies needed to be devised to address all aspects of the drug problem -- from its sources to its destinations.

SERGEI LING (Belarus), speaking on behalf of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), said that because of the increasingly transnational nature of organized crime, the considerable funds generated by criminal networks had now reached such proportions that peace and security in many regions could be severely affected.  That was what made the adoption of the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its protocols so important.  While those instruments would serve as important tools in the global battle against organized crime, there was still a need for decisive steps to be taken against corruption.  In that regard, Belarus had been pleased with recent efforts to elaborate an international legally binding instrument on corruption.

He went on to say that Belarus and the other CIS countries were actively working to combat the world drug problem.  Their efforts, he hoped would not only help the region but would also serve as a positive addition to global initiatives.  The CIS countries had recently held a conference on the cooperation between law enforcement agencies within the region.  Law enforcement bodies of those States had agreed to carry out many joint activities, including personnel training and information sharing.  That had resulted in the confiscation of thousands of illegal weapons and the identification of criminal networks.

He said that there was no doubt that terrorist activity was one of the most challenging issues facing the international community today.  The CIS countries had created an anti-terrorist commission to combat all extremist activities.  That commission had focused on the creation of a database and was working on various relevant legislative policies.  Internationally, however, success against terrorism could only be achieved to the extent that broad cooperation could be ensured.

HAKAN TEKIN (Turkey) said the terrorist attacks last month once again proved that terrorism was one of the most serious crimes against peace, security and humanity.  Not less importantly, those heinous acts dramatically illustrated the links between terrorism and organized crime, which were evidently expanding.  That connection had been emphasized in Security Council resolution 1373 of

28 September.  That resolution was an important step forward in the fight against terrorism, especially because it put particular emphasis on the suppression of the financing of terrorism.

He said the multi-dimensional nature of the world drug problem necessitated a comprehensive and integrated approach that should take into account the economic, social and political factors underlying the problem.  For years, with all its resources, Turkey had been making a very resolute struggle against drug trafficking.  What had been learned during that struggle was that drug trafficking constituted one of the largest sources of illegal financing for arms trafficking by terrorist organizations.  Strategies aimed at both supply and demand reduction should be effectively implemented in addressing the world drug problem.  Coordination and cooperation among the law enforcement authorities on both bilateral and multilateral bases was another important element in fighting illicit drug trafficking.

He said money laundering posed a serious threat to the stability of financial systems which could have global implications.  Turkey's approach to countering that problem was in line with the measures envisaged in the relevant international conventions and declarations.  Money laundering was considered a serious offense in Turkey, and measures were being adopted to counter it.

Another inter-related problem which needed to be tackled was corruption, he said.  Turkey had been carrying on a determined fight to eradicate corruption.  Legal reforms had further enhanced the power of the law enforcement agencies against corruption.  However, fighting that scourge also required international cooperation.

AZIUL ABDUL AZIZ (Brunei Darussalam) said his country had been severely affected by the illicit trafficking, abuse of drugs and psychotropic substances particularly targeting younger populations.  Brunei would continue to pursue a strategy of supply and demand reduction.  On the legislative front, the Government had enacted the Misuse of Drugs Act, which governed trafficking, possession and importation of controlled drugs.  That Act was under constant review and had been updated to address evolving trends in drug use and related activities.

He said that in September of last year, Brunei had enacted a “Money Laundering Order” which criminalized the collection and use of proceeds from illicit drug activities.  On efforts to implement the outcome of the twentieth special session of the Assembly, Brunei had initiated a community-based approach aimed at promoting the active participation of parents in educating their children about the dangers of drugs and psychotropic substances.  Other activities such as exhibitions and lectures on drug prevention had been organized in Brunei’s attempt to reach out to all segments of society.

SAID AHMAD (Iraq) said his Government was following with the greatest interest the international fight against drugs -- a most acute problem affecting global security and peace.  It was an international problem with multiple dimensions, requiring regional and international cooperation.  Iraq believed that there should be national commissions to combat alcohol and all other drugs.  Iraq had signed and ratified the international conventions against drug trafficking.  It was also important to establish public awareness and educational programmes to warn the public, especially children, about the danger of drugs.

He said that most surveys showed that Iraq was free from drugs, and his Government had strengthened all criminal procedures.  There were certain groups that were growing drugs for trade and sale abroad.  The Iraqi authorities last year had confiscated large amounts of hashish, opium and heroin.  Those drugs would have been distributed in neighbouring countries.  The international community had the responsibility to fight the international drug trade.

DONKA GLIGOROVA (The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) said the persistent increase in crime, especially in its new threatening and sophisticated transnational form, threatened to destabilize fundamental social, economic and political institutions as well as internal security and stability in all countries.  Indeed, all regions faced repercussions from organized criminal networks.  Her region’s own experience during the past decade was only one example of the close links between international terrorism, the illegal arms trade, money laundering and drug trafficking to organized crime.

Action against such activity should be strengthened at all levels, and the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its protocols underlined the important role the United Nations could play in enhancing international capabilities.  Her country had undertaken serious measures to prevent and manage new forms of crime.  Through ongoing legislative reforms, regulations had been introduced on corruption and money laundering.  Her Government had also attached great importance to direct cooperation with other countries, and in that regard had concluded bilateral agreements on security cooperation which emphasized measures to combat organized crime and illicit drug trafficking.

FRANCIS MAERTENS, Deputy Director of the United Nations International Drug Control Programme (UNDCP), said several African delegates had raised concerns about the situation of drug trafficking on the Continent.  There could have been some misrepresentation or misperception about the work the UNDCP was doing in Africa.  The Commission on Narcotic Drugs had asked the UNDCP to give more attention and support to the drug problem in Africa, and it was hoped that the relevant strategic plan would be reflected in the budget for next year.

EDUARDO VETERE, Director of the Centre for International Crime Prevention, said on terrorists and terrorism, the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice had been extremely sensitive to see how it could play a role.  A special meeting of the Bureau had been held on 25 September, and another one would be held soon in Vienna to brief the Bureau on the Third Committee’s debate.  A decision was made to have an intersessional meeting on terrorism on 15 November.

There had been many comments regarding the need for the UNDCP to speed up the ratification of the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organized Crime and its three Protocols.  That wold be taken under consideration.

For information media. Not an official record.