PEOPLE SMUGGLING, TRAFFICKING GENERATE NEARLY $10 BILLION ANNUALLY AS CORE BUSINESSES OF INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL NETWORKS, THIRD COMMITTEE TOLD

13 October 2003
GA/SHC/3742

PEOPLE SMUGGLING, TRAFFICKING GENERATE NEARLY $10 BILLION ANNUALLY AS CORE BUSINESSES OF INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL NETWORKS, THIRD COMMITTEE TOLD

13/10/2003
Press ReleaseGA/SHC/3742

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

Third Committee

9th Meeting (PM)

PEOPLE SMUGGLING, TRAFFICKING GENERATE NEARLY $10 BILLION ANNUALLY AS CORE

BUSINESSES OF INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL NETWORKS, THIRD COMMITTEE TOLD

People smuggling and trafficking generated approximately $10 billion annually, making these repugnant activities core businesses for transnational criminal networks alongside narcotics, document fraud, money laundering and arms smuggling, said the representative of Australia as the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) continued its consideration of crime prevention and international drug control this afternoon.

People smugglers and traffickers –- like all transnational criminals –- did not respect borders, he continued.  They did not respect state sovereignty or international laws, and they fed on the misfortune and aspirations of their victims, paying no heed to their human rights or safety.  As such, people smuggling and trafficking had become major political and security issues for the international community, inflicting heavy social and economic costs upon States.

Turkey, at the crossroads of Asia, the Middle East and Europe, and surrounded by 5,000 miles of coastline, had become a country of destination for human trafficking in recent years, said that country’s representative.  Similarly, Slovenia found itself affected by the so-called Balkan road, where illegal drugs were being trafficked from South-Eastern Europe towards Western Europe, as well as in the opposite direction, said Slovenia’s representative.

All countries affected by drug trafficking were facing the same scourge and the same challenges in terms of crime and public health, Slovenia’s representative added.  Mobilizing efforts within national frameworks was not enough -- mobilization on the part of the international community was also required.  Improved aid and cooperation arrangements must be found, and commitments must be made to combat that scourge.

Speaking on behalf of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the representative of Kazakhstan said the problem of drugs -– tied to terrorism, trafficking and money laundering -– was one of the main problems facing the civilized world.  The financing of terrorism could only be put to an end when the international community eradicated illicit drug production and trafficking.  The Commonwealth was particularly concerned by the situation in Afghanistan -- one of the biggest drug suppliers in the world.  The transparency of borders in the region had unfortunately led to the use of Commonwealth members’ territory as a transit route with almost 65 per cent of drug exports from Afghanistan being smuggled through the countries of the region.

She stressed that regional cooperation was one of the most effective mechanisms in eradicating drug trafficking, and the countries of the region were coordinating joint action in this area.  The region was improving its network of bilateral and multilateral agreements, and programme of joint measures against drugs had been adopted in the region.

Other speakers also stressed the link between organized transnational crime and the spread of terrorism and violence, and urged more effective and coordinated cooperation between States on national, regional and international levels.  Terrorist groups were known to engage in money laundering, and trafficking in drugs and small arms to finance their terrorist activities.  As such, all approaches to crime prevention and international drug control must be comprehensive, holistic and targeted.

Also speaking this afternoon were representatives of New Zealand (speaking on behalf of the Pacific Island Forum), Israel, Republic of Korea, Nepal, Nigeria, Malaysia, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Thailand, Colombia, China, Azerbaijan, and the Russian Federation.

The representatives of Israel and Lebanon exercised their right of reply this afternoon.

Also today, the Committee decided to adjourn its meetings at 4:30 p.m. during the observance of Ramadan, which will begin later this month.

The Committee will reconvene tomorrow at 10 a.m. to continue its consideration of issues related to crime prevention and international drug control.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Culture) will continue its consideration of crime prevention and international drug control.

For further background information, please see Press Release GA/SHC/3740 of 9 October.

Statements

DON MACKAY (New Zealand), speaking on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum Group, said that last year, Fiji, as Chair of the Forum had informed the Committee of the region’s efforts to tackle transnational organized crime.  Issues of concern included the manufacture of and trafficking in illicit drugs, trade in small arms, people smuggling, identity fraud, and the illegal trade in wildlife.  The 2002 Nasonini Declaration on Regional Security underscored the intent of countries in the Pacific to act collectively in response to security challenges, including the adverse effects of globalization, such as transnational crimes and unlawful challenges to national integrity and independence.  The Declaration underlined the commitment of Forum members to combat terrorism and to implement internationally agreed anti-terrorism measures. 

The Nasonini Declaration was now just over a year old, and good progress had been made towards fulfilling the intent of the Declaration, he continued.  The model legislative provisions were almost complete, and this draft legislation was comprehensive, addressing not only terrorism offences, but also offences relating to participation in organized criminal groups, people smuggling and trafficking.  The work being done to improve the region’s legislative capability to counter transnational crime was being complemented by the Forum’s decision this year to support an Australian Pacific Regional Policing Initiative.  That initiative would focus on training and capacity-building in the areas of basic policing skills, forensic and crime scene examination, executive development, and support for initiatives under the South Pacific Chiefs of Police Conference. 

HAIM MESSING (Israel) said the correlation between drug trafficking and the universal problem of terrorism, while clearly characteristic of the Mediterranean region, was not confined to the Middle East.  Israel shared the international concern regarding the threat posed by illicit drugs and fully supported the United Nations drug control organs.  Domestically, Israel had empowered the Israel Anti-Drug Authority, which aimed to reduce both drug supply and demand, to coordinate efforts to combat drug abuse and trafficking.  Israel had also introduced a law pertaining to the laundering of funds resulting from illegal activities.  Its police and drug customs unit focused its efforts on controlling air and sea ports and land border crossings.

He said international cooperation was a vital component in all efforts to combat transnational organized crime and drug trafficking.  This has become more imperative as it had become increasingly evident that revenues from drug sales had been used to finance terrorism.  He pointed out that in the Middle East, the Hezbollah, “an extremist Islamic terrorist organization operating out of Lebanon”, was cultivating and trafficking drugs for the purpose of financing terrorist activity.  Profits from those operations were used to finance the purchase of firearms and explosives for smuggling to “terrorist organizations” in the Palestinian Authority territories.

He stressed that due to the events of 11 September 2001, it was incumbent upon the international community to be more resolute than ever in the fight against terrorism.  Israel would like to see more effort invested in promoting awareness of the links between terrorism and related crimes, including illicit drug trafficking.  Drug abuse and trafficking knew no borders, and must therefore be fought both on a national and international scale. 

CHO SEONG-JUN (Republic of Korea) said trafficking in persons was a serious source of concern to his Government.  Each year, hundreds of thousands of persons were trafficked across national borders for sexual and labour exploitation.  Furthermore, trafficking was often linked to other international organized crimes, such as fraud, money laundering and migrant smuggling.  The problem could be solved only through combined efforts at national, regional and international levels.  In 2001, his Government had established an Inter-agency Task Force on Trafficking in Persons, which had come to play a major role in the efforts to prevent human trafficking, to punish traffickers, and to protect victims. 

Concerning international drug control, he said his Government had operated the Inter-Agency Anti-Drug Committee to coordinate policies among 13 authorities concerned since 1999.  The Government was on the verge of launching an Inter-Agency Information System on Drug Problems, which would enable agencies to engage in real time information exchange.  The Republic of Korea was ready to share these national experiences with its neighbours, and to enhance international cooperation to counter the rising challenge, including the threat posed by amphetamine-type stimulants.  To this end, his Government annually hosted the Anti-Drug Liaison Officials’ Meeting for International Cooperation.  This year’s meeting had been held in Jeju Island from 26-29 September, with delegations from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Interpol, World Custom Organization and 18 countries participating.

HAKAN TEKIN (Turkey) said transnational criminal groups had taken advantage of globalization to expand their activities related to drug and arms trafficking, money laundering, and the smuggling of human beings.  International cooperation and coordination was critical in combating these operations.  Turkey had ratified the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, and hoped the Convention would create new momentum in that fight.

Corruption, too, had gained further magnitude in recent years, and the increasingly transnational nature of corruption had further aggravated the problem, he said.  Turkey had taken an active role in negotiating the United Nations Convention against Corruption, and looked forward to its speedy entry into force and the effective implementation of this first universal legal instrument against corruption.

Yet another dismal feature of transnational criminal activity was the smuggling of migrants and human trafficking, which were increasing at an alarming rate, he said.  Turkey, at the crossroads of Asia, Middle East and Europe, and surrounded by 5,000 miles of coastline, had in recent years become a destination country for human trafficking.  To combat this scourge, Turkey had established a national task force on combating trafficking in human beings, and had adopted a national action plan.

Drug trafficking was also a global phenomenon of urgent concern due to the damaging effects of illicit drug production on political stability and economic development.  Furthermore, drug trafficking was one of the main financial sources of terrorist groups.  Only strong international cooperation would enable the world to counter illicit drug trafficking. 

SHYAM KISHOR SINGH (Nepal) said transnational organized crime, money laundering and corruption threatened international peace and security.  The international community must work together to eradicate such threats.  He told the Committee that the link between such crimes and terrorism was a source of particular concern to the Government of Nepal.  The United Nations and the international community at large needed to redouble their efforts to fight the spread of terrorism.  In addition, he stressed that trafficking in human beings was a serious crime, which undermined human development.  Nepal called on the international community to provide adequate resources to prevent trafficking in persons.  Nepal had signed the Convention on Transnational Organized Crime, but needed technical assistance in order to be able to implement national legislation and anti-crime measures. 

His delegation encouraged the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime to continue to call for increased international cooperation in order to fight the scourge of drugs.  Nepal welcomed the finalization of negotiations on the date and provisional agenda for the Eleventh Congress on Crime Prevention, but stressed the need for technical assistance in order to ensure global participation.  The international community must support efforts to strengthen national institutions and legislation on crime related issues.  Nepal was a party to international drug prevention treaties and believed that more attention must be paid to education and treatment for addicts.

ALHAJI BELLO LAFIAJI (Nigeria) said crime and drugs remained one of the greatest threats to global peace and security.  Political will and commitment, international cooperation, resources and legal measures were critical in effectively combating the threats posed by crime and drugs.  Nigeria welcomed the recent entry into force of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, and strongly supported the signing of the United Nations Convention against Corruption in Merida, Mexico.

Nigeria had set up a National Drug Law Enforcement Agency to lead the fight against crime and drugs.  As of August 2003, the Agency had seized about     329,000 kilograms of drugs, including cannabis, cocaine, heroin and psychotropic substances.  This success was attributable to improved investigation techniques and international and regional cooperation.  Nigeria recognized that drugs constituted a crime without borders and had launched a subregional initiative with its West African neighbours.  He stressed that drug control could not be effective without tackling its corollary evils, including money laundering, corruption, and the demand for drugs.

PETER TESCH (Australia) said people smugglers and traffickers, like all transnational criminals, did not respect borders.  They did not respect State sovereignty or international laws.  They fed on the misfortune and aspirations of their victims, and paid no heed to their human rights or safety.  As such, people smuggling and trafficking had become major political and security issues for the international community, inflicting heavy social and economic costs upon States.  According to the International Organization for Migration, people smuggling and trafficking generated approximately $10 billion annually, making these repugnant activities core business for transnational criminal networks alongside narcotics, document fraud, money laundering and arms smuggling.  Furthermore, the illegal movement of people undermined the capacity, effectiveness and integrity of the international refugee protection system. 

Australia had successfully pursued and continued to pursue the extradition of people smugglers, he said.  Cooperation in combating people smuggling and trafficking in the region had continued to gain momentum at the successful second Bali Regional Ministerial Conference on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime, held in April this year.  The Bali Process was making an effective and important regional contribution to international efforts to address illegal people movement.  By their nature, people smuggling and trafficking were international problems that threatened global security and stability.  Australia would like to see these problems accorded a greater international priority.  Continuing cooperation, regionally and through the United Nations, would be the best bet in successfully combating people smuggling and trafficking. 

DATUK HJ. SUHAILI ABDUL RAHMAN (Malaysia) said it was interesting to note that while the consequences of organized crime were increasingly felt mostly in developing countries, it was the world’s financial centres that reaped its benefits.  The countries hosting these financial centres should bear the responsibility of ensuring that the proceeds of illegal activities were not contributing to national wealth.  He called on countries hosting the financial centres concerned to strengthen regulations to prevent their banks and financial institutions from becoming safe havens for the proceeds of criminal acts.  Global efforts to combat the financing of terrorism and organized crime continued to face many challenges, and much more needed to be done to promote cooperation between States, in order to deprive terrorists of safe havens to finance their activities.

The links between economic development and crime had long been known, and it was alarming that despite years of international cooperation and the establishment of international instruments to combat organized crime, the statistics on organized crime had been increasing rather than declining.  More concerted efforts by the international community were needed to combat transnational organized crime, he continued. 

Malaysia reiterated its call to developed countries to meet commitments pledged at various international conferences to help facilitate economic development in developing countries.  Research by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime had shown there was a clear link between the failure of some countries to achieve sustainable development and the growth of organized crime.  Poverty eradication was one of the most effective means of preventing and reducing transnational and organized crime.

Efforts to combat drugs must be addressed at the multilateral, regional, bilateral, and national levels, he said.  Strong international support and cooperation were vital in the efforts of national governments to combat the problem of illicit drugs. 

EVA TOMIC (Slovenia) said it was important that a national body properly coordinated various activities at that level regarding illegal drugs.  In Slovenia, that had been performed by the Governmental Office against Drugs that helped to implement and oversee the national strategy for drug reduction and prevention.  On a regional level, Slovenia found itself affected by the so-called Balkan road, on which illegal drugs were being trafficked from South-Eastern Europe towards Western Europe, as well as in the opposite direction.  Corruption, crime and money laundering accompanied drug trafficking on that route.  All countries affected by drug trafficking were facing the same scourge and the same challenges in terms of crime and public health.  It was necessary to mobilize efforts within national frameworks, but that was not sufficient.  Mobilization on the part of the international community was also required.  Improved aid and cooperation arrangements must be found and commitments made to combat this scourge.

Concerning corruption, she noted the lack of definition of the phenomenon of corruption.  She reaffirmed that the view of Slovenia was that corruption needed to be understood in a wider sense, as going beyond criminal acts and also encompass lighter corruptive deeds, breaches of ethics codes, and misconduct of public office.  Slovenia welcomed the inclusion of private sector corruption in the draft Convention on Corruption.

PUREVJAV GANSUKH (Mongolia) said his country strongly supported the goals and principles of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.  It also welcomed the consensus reached in finalizing the text of the draft of the United Nations Convention against Corruption, and hoped it would be adopted during that General Assembly session.

Mongolia attached particular importance to anti-corruption measures and had undertaken a series of such measures over the past year, he said.  His Government had established a National Council and had adopted a National Programme to combat Corruption.  He stressed that partnership and cooperation at both national and international levels were of particular importance in fighting corruption, which was a major threat to democracy.  Mongolia would continue to actively engage in the international fight against transnational crime, corruption, drug trafficking and the international struggle against terrorism.

MADINA B. JARBUSSYNOVA (Kazakhstan), speaking on behalf of the Commonwealth of Independent States, said the problem of drugs was one of the main problems facing the civilized world and was tied to terrorism, trafficking and money-laundering.  The only way to approach this problem was through the galvanization of the international community.  Despite greater regional and international cooperation, the global drug problem was far from resolved.  The financing of terrorism would only be put to an end when the international community eradicated illicit drug cultivation and trafficking.  Regional cooperation was one of the most effective mechanisms in eradicating drug trafficking, and the countries of the region were coordinating joint action in that field.  The region was improving its network of bilateral and multilateral agreements, and programme of joint measures against drugs had been adopted in the region.

The region was alarmed by the situation in Afghanistan –- one of the biggest drug suppliers in the world –- despite the efforts of the international community.  The situation in Afghanistan was particularly disturbing to the Commonwealth countries due to their geographic location.  Alternative development plans for Afghanistan needed to be ensured under the aegis of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.  The transparency of borders in the region had unfortunately led to the use of the territory as a transit corridor.  Almost 65 per cent of the drug exports of Afghanistan were smuggled to Europe through the Commonwealth countries.  She reaffirmed the commitment of her region to cooperation between all Member States in order to eradicate the scourge of drugs. 

FIRDAVS ALIMOV (Tajikistan) said one important lesson from history was that genuine multilateralism had made it possible for the world to resolve some of the most difficult issues mankind had faced over the centuries.  Only international solidarity could make it possible to find solutions to the challenges posed by illicit drug manufacturing and trafficking, a particularly great challenge faced by Central Asia.  Tajikistan was at the crossroads of the opium route originating in Afghanistan, which had become the largest producer of opium in the world.  The war against terrorism had left unscathed the drug producing capacity of the Taliban.  He noted that the proceeds of the Afghan drug industry last year stood at $2.5 billion.

Drug control was a priority for Tajikistan, which was committed to expanding bilateral and multilateral cooperation in that area, he said.  As a transit State, Tajikistan was one of the countries that had suffered the most from drug trafficking.  It was also the main country preventing Afghan drugs from making their way to Russia, Europe and America.  As a result of the high level of professionalism of its drug control agencies, Tajikistan had confiscated substantial amounts of opium and heroin.  This was a result of the joint work of law enforcement agencies, as well as donor assistance.

He stressed that the heroin business could not be successfully combated by only one country and that continued progress would depend on the cooperation of all.  Success was only possible through the consolidation of collective efforts.  The tragedy of the Afghan people should serve as a reminder that half-measures would never produce desired results.  The international community must help post-war Afghanistan develop into an area of stability, free of opium-poppy crop manufacturing and trafficking.

NICOLAS RIVAS ZUBIRIA (Colombia) said his country had been one of the countries most affected by the violence and terrorism that generated the global problem of illicit drugs.  Its share of human, economic, social and political sacrifices had been invaluable.  The challenges of this crime required collective action based on the principle of shared responsibility.

The Government of Colombia had made the task of eradicating drugs a priority and had produced impressive results in its fight against illicit drugs.  It had eliminated 150,282 hectares of coca and 3,176 hectares of poppy crops between August 2002 and July 2003, representing a 38.5 per cent increase from the previous year.  While noting that Colombia had in six months decreased coca production by one third, he said it could only reach the goal of 50 per cent reduction by the end of the year, if farmers growing illicit crops had other economic options provided by alternative development projects and agrarian reform programmes.

Colombia had spent 1.5 per cent of its gross domestic product in the struggle to combat criminal organizations, he continued.  His Government hoped all nations would contribute to this fight, as it could not be undertaken by only one or a few nations and needed the participation of the entire international community. 

Coordinated action was also required to reduce drug consumption, he said.  Colombia’s policy for drug demand reduction was based on the principle of shared responsibility, and his country urged the international community to make a commitment to combat simultaneously the different components of the illicit drug problem.  Since the problem of illicit drugs had a symbiotic relationship with terrorism, Colombia reiterated the need to freeze and confiscate money that terrorists kept in the main financial markets.

YAN JIA RONG (China) said drug related crimes were closely intertwined with transnational organized crimes such as terrorism, money laundering and trafficking in persons.  The Chinese people had suffered deeply from drugs in modern history, she continued.  The Government had formulated an integrated and balanced national drug control strategy and steadily improved the laws and regulations on drug control.  China believed that demand reduction should be the focus of the national drug control strategy.  Focusing on high risk groups such as young people and the unemployed, China had carried out a nationwide campaign of drug prevention, education, detoxification and rehabilitation, and had launched initiatives to establish drug-free communities. 

The drug problem constituted a global challenge, and its solution required global cooperation, she continued.  There was an old Chinese saying that the one who gets rich first must share with others.  In this context, China appealed to donors and international organizations to render further assistance to developing countries to enhance their capacity-building in areas of drug demand reduction, drug control and enforcement, and alternative development.  China was confident that, with the genuine cooperation and joint effort of the international community, the international cause of drug control would have a bright future. 

ELSHAD ISKANDAROV (Azerbaijan) said the fight against the global crime and drug problem was a shared responsibility that required an integrated and balanced approach between supply and demand reductions.  It also required comprehensive strategies combining alternative development, poverty eradication, law enforcement, treatment, rehabilitation and education.

Azerbaijan took very seriously the threats posed by organized crime and its worst manifestations, including international terrorism and international narcotics production.  Cooperating with the international community in fighting those twin evils was a national priority for his country.

Unresolved political and territorial disputes still continued to hinder the effective fight against transnational crime and drug trafficking.  He pointed out that 20 per cent of Azerbaijan territory was currently under the occupation of the armed forces of Armenia, and was being used both for the purpose of drug trafficking and as a safe haven for international criminals.  He called on the international community to preserve the territorial integrity of Member States as a contribution to the global fight against international drug production and trafficking.

Azerbaijan had faced the challenge of illicit drug circulation for more than a decade since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and was in urgent need of international expertise and assistance, he said.  Having previously been sheltered by the “iron curtain”, his country’s capacities did not match the scope of the threats posed by illicit drug production and trafficking.

ALEXANDER S. GAPPOEV (Russian Federation) said crime was one of the most urgent problems facing the world.  It was therefore necessary to strengthen the anti-criminal components of the work of the United Nations.  The Russian Federation welcomed the agreement in negotiations on a convention against corruption, one of the main pillars of crime.  The significance of this Convention must make it possible to return illicit funds to the countries of origin.  However, a reliable legislative basis was needed for the Convention to be constructive.  It was necessary to expand the number of States that were parties to treaties, including the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.  It was the duty of the international community to strengthen the United Nations’ capability to be the main coordinator in the international battle against drugs. 

The Russian Federation was currently implementing policies and programmes against drug abuse and trafficking, he said.  Afghanistan was still one of the main protagonists of the global drug threats.  Enhanced efforts in assisting Afghanistan, in accordance with Security Council resolutions and the conclusions of the Paris Conference, were required.  The Russian Federation believed that the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime must place further attention on alternative crop development in this regard.  In the context of combating crime, his country attached great importance to regional cooperation. 

Statements in Exercise of Right of Reply

Exercising his right of reply, a representative of Lebanon said that when Israel had accused Hezbollah of the cultivation of drugs, he had not been surprised.  The representative of Israel had made him accustomed to such rhetoric –- accusations without any foundation.  Israel was the terrorist party, guilty of State-terrorism.  Hezbollah was a resistance movement and a legal party that had obliged Israel to withdraw from Lebanese territories that had been occupied for 22 years. 

Lebanon, according to international witnesses, was destroying illegal crops and replacing them with alternative crops.  He therefore rejected and condemned the Israeli accusations.  The delegate of Israel had attempted to politicize the problem of drugs when others were trying to find constructive solutions to it. 

Exercising the right of reply, the representative of Israel said the issues raised in the statement made earlier by her delegation were a known fact.  Terrorist operations financed by Hezbollah should not surprise anyone.  Lebanon harboured terrorist organizations and supported their activities.  Hezbollah promoted terrorism, and the trafficking of drugs was one of its most effective means of supporting terrorism.

The Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Antonio Maria Costa, just last week drew attention to the link between drug trafficking and terrorism.  Israel trusted the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime would not fail to consider the activities of Hezbollah.  Lebanon had failed to fulfil its obligations to Security Council resolutions by allowing narcotics trafficking and terrorist organizations to operate freely on its soil.

In a second statement in exercise of the right of reply, a representative of Lebanon said that Israel had politicized this issue and wanted to proffer accusations by saying that Lebanese resistance was terrorism.  There was a huge difference between terrorism and resistance.  He condemned the accusations proffered by the representative of Israel and reaffirmed Lebanon’s commitment to eradicate the global drug scourge.  Lebanon was proud of what had been accomplished in this battle so far.

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For information media. Not an official record.