|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-fourth General Assembly
96th & 97th Meetings* (AM & PM)
Citing Explosion of Transnational Organized Crime, Secretary-General Hails
United Nations Anti-Crime Convention as Blueprint to Counteract Threat
In High-Level Assembly Meeting, Top UN Anti-Crime Official Warns Convention
Suffered ‘Benign Neglect’, Broad Cooperation Needed to Ensure Global Ratification
Representatives of international organizations, Member States and law-enforcement authorities convened today at the United Nations General Assembly for a special meeting to spur more effective use of an international legal weapon designed to fight burgeoning cross-border organized crime.
“We must use every means available to help law enforcement transcend borders — just as criminal networks do,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said at the opening of the Special High-level Meeting on Transnational Organized Crime, aimed at fostering universal adherence to the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organized Crime, also known as the Palermo Convention, and its additional Protocols (see background).
“Our ability to deliver justice is not evolving as quickly as the criminal’s skill at evading justice”, with States and markets infiltrated and police and armies out-gunned. “Security is under threat”, he added.
However, he maintained that the Convention, opened for signature ten years ago in Palermo, Italy, already provided the blueprint to counteract the threat. He called for the instrument’s “rich and detailed measures” to be better used to combat money laundering, to confiscate criminal assets, to end bank secrecy, to carry out joint investigations, to protect witnesses, to exchange information and to provide mutual legal assistance.
Calling the Palermo Convention a vital crime-fighting tool, Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said that unfortunately it had suffered from “benign neglect” and as a result, crime had internationalized faster than law enforcement.
The Globalization of Crime report issued today by his Office provided the first comprehensive assessment of worldwide criminal markets and first strategic review of the security threat posed by crime. It revealed, he said, that criminal groups were making billions of dollars annually from trafficking drugs, guns, people and natural resources, among other things, and how those massive profits enabled criminals to influence elections, politicians and the military.
“This must change”, Mr. Costa said of the Convention’s neglect, urging delegates to take more seriously the only global crime-fighting instrument. Universal adherence would be a start, but it was implementation that counted. “A piece of paper will not strike fear into the hearts of the mafia.” He called on delegates to mark the treaty’s tenth anniversary with an effective review mechanism to measure progress and identify needs.
General Assembly President Ali Abdussalam Treki, paying tribute to those who had lost their lives fighting organized crime, said that such crime was “a plague on the rule of law and legitimate institutions throughout the world”, noting that drug cartels were spreading violence in Latin America; West Africa was under attack from drug traffickers fuelling the trade in smuggled weapons, the plunder of natural resources and piracy; and stability in West Asia, the Andes and parts of Africa was under threat from collusion between insurgents and criminal groups.
He said that the fight must be mainstreamed into broader programmes, and Governments must be spurred into action to reduce the vulnerabilities of victims, to increase the risks to criminals and to reduce demand for illegal goods and services. Today’s meeting offered the opportunity to revitalize both collective and individual resolve, he added, calling on participants to send a strong signal that transnational organized crime must stop.
Following those presentations, Mr. Costa moderated an informal panel discussion on “Transnational organized crime as a multidimensional threat: How to promote a coherent and holistic response through the universal adherence to and full implementation of the Palermo Convention and its Protocols”.
In a general debate on the subject this afternoon speakers, including ministers of Justice, Foreign Affairs or State from eight countries, agreed on the magnitude of the threat from organized crime and the need for more effective international cooperation to fight it, using the Palermo Convention as the platform for that cooperation.
Many speakers said that the key to stopping such crime was tracing the huge monetary flows involved. Angelino Alfano, Minister of Justice of Italy, said that his country had learned the hard way, with many lives lost. The Mafia, he said, could slough off arrests as mere “hazards of doing business”, but they could be defeated when they were deprived of their profits, which now, when seized, were funnelled into a fund to strengthen the justice sector.
Mexico’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Patricia Espinosa Cantellano, like many speakers today, stressed that the power of the organized crime ravaging her region was fed by easy access to assault weapons, emphasizing the nexus of that trade and the illicit traffic in drugs and persons.
Also speaking in the debate today were ministers and other senior officials from France, Chile, Gabon, Costa Rica, Norway, Azerbaijan, El Salvador, United States, Ireland, Thailand and Jamaica.
Also making statements were the representatives of Spain (on behalf of the European Union), Suriname (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), Venezuela and Philippines.
The representative of Ukraine spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The debate on Transnational Organized Crime will continue at 10:00 a.m. Monday, 21 June. The General Assembly will meet again tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. to take up reports of its Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary).
The General Assembly today convened a high-level meeting on transnational organized crime, aimed at fostering universal adherence to the United Nations Convention against such crime and the Protocols thereto. The Assembly also sought to strengthen international cooperation in taking measures against, among others, money laundering, corruption, people and migrant smuggling, and the illicit small arms trade. The one-day meeting was to include an informal panel discussion entitled “Transnational organized crime as a multidimensional threat: How to promote a coherent and holistic response through the universal adherence to and full implementation of the Palermo Convention and its Protocols”.
The Convention, adopted by General Assembly in November 2000, is the main international instrument in the fight against transnational organized crime. It opened for signature at a High-level Political Conference convened for that purpose in Palermo, Italy, on 12-15 December 2000, and entered into force on 29 September 2003.
It is further supplemented by three Protocols, which target specific areas and manifestations of organized crime: the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children; the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air; and the Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, their Parts and Components and Ammunition. Countries must become parties to the Convention itself before they can become parties to any of the Protocols.
According to the Vienna-based United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), The Convention represents a major step forward in the fight against transnational organized crime and signifies the recognition by Member States of the seriousness of the problems posed by it, as well as the need to foster and enhance close international cooperation in order to tackle those problems, and, among other things, to promote training and technical assistance for building or upgrading the necessary capacity of national authorities to that end.
Opening the meeting, General Assembly President ALI ABDUSSALAM TREKI, of Libya, said organized criminal activity had turned had turned into a global business and now represented far more than localized violence: it had become a pervasive threat to the security of entire States and regions.
“Organized crime acts as a plague on the rule of law and legitimate institutions throughout the world,” Mr. Treki said. Drug cartels were spreading violence in Latin America; West Africa was under attack from drug traffickers fuelling the trade in smuggled weapons, the plunder of natural resources and piracy; and the stability of West Asia, the Andes and parts of Africa was under threat from collusion between insurgents and criminal groups.
Such a scenario demonstrated the increasing influence of organized crime networks, he continued, noting that many plied their trade in a wide range of activities, including human trafficking, migrant smuggling, environmental crime, weapons trafficking and cybercrime, to name a few. The evolution of such networks testified to their ability to adapt, often moving with little or no regard to borders. While older crimes like kidnapping and piracy were going through a period of resurgence, collusion between previously disconnected criminal networks was also alarming, with, for example, heroin traffickers making their infrastructure available to cocaine traffickers, who then gained access to new markets at the local level.
“The failure to grasp the enormity of this challenge may bear grave consequences”, he stressed, given criminals’ growing capacity to subvert Government institutions, undermine economic and social structures and fuel regional crises. In countries ravaged by corruption, development could not take hold. For its part, the General Assembly had pledged to fight organized crimes, but efforts needed greater coherence. “We must take a tougher stand against organized crime,” he declared.
The fight against crime must be mainstreamed into broader programmes. Criminals must be prosecuted and punished, and victims assisted, he continued. Governments must be spurred into action: to reduce the vulnerabilities of victims; increase the risks to criminals; and reduce demand for illegal goods and services. Today’s meeting offered the opportunity to revitalize both collective and individual resolve, and he called on participants to send a strong signal that transnational organized crime must stop.
BAN KI-MOON, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said “We must use every means available to help law enforcement transcend borders — just as criminal networks do. We owe this to all victims of organized crime, and to all those who are risking their lives every day in the defence of justice”.
As the threat from transnational organized crime grew, he said, so did its prominence on the international agenda, with recent focus in conferences, in the Security Council and at regional organizations. However, he said: “Our ability to deliver justice is not evolving as quickly as the criminal’s skill at evading justice,” with States and markets infiltrated and police and armies out-gunned. “Security is under threat”, he added.
He said that the blueprint to counteract that threat already existed in the form of the Palermo Convention and its protocols. He called for the instrument’s “rich and detailed measures” to be better used to combat money laundering, to confiscate criminal assets, to end bank secrecy, to carry out joint investigations, to protect witnesses, to exchange information and to provide mutual legal assistance.
The Secretary-General also called for the development of a review mechanism at the upcoming October Conference of Parties in Vienna, so progress and needs could be measured, and declared: “To fight transnational organized crime, we, too, must organize. We must work together. We must act with even greater determination than our adversaries.”
Speaking next, ANTONIO MARIA COSTA, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said organized crime had reached macroeconomic dimensions, and posed a serious threat to the stability — even sovereignty — of States. The Globalization of Crime report issued today by his Office provided the first comprehensive assessment of worldwide criminal markets and first strategic review of the security threat posed by crime. It revealed that criminal groups were making billions of dollars annually from trafficking drugs, guns, people and natural resources, among other things, and how those massive profits enabled criminals to influence elections, politicians and the military.
Explaining that the weakest countries were at the greatest risk, he said it was vital to make those nations less attractive to such “parasites of crime”, and efforts must involve development and security. Reaching the Millennium Development Goals by the 2015 deadline would be an effective antidote, as would placing more emphasis on criminal justice in peacekeeping efforts.
At the same time, examining the vectors of illicit flows showed that they almost all pointed north, he said, to the world’s biggest economies — those in the Group of Eight (G-8) and BRIC (Brazil, Russian Federation, India and China) countries especially — which had the most to lose if organized crime was allowed to manipulate the invisible hand of competition.
Among the greatest challenges was reducing demand for narcotics by improving drug treatment, raising consumer awareness about the origin of products and convincing the private sector to keep illicit goods out of supply chains, he said. Thus, focusing only on the delivery service — the traffickers — was insufficient and the focus must shift from disrupting the mafias to disrupting their markets.
Accomplices also must be pursued, he said, including the army of white collar criminals who laundered proceeds, and he urged stronger measures in that regard. Because a purely national response risked displacing the problem from one country to another, Member States, 10 years ago, adopted the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. Unfortunately, that vital crime-fighting tool had since suffered from “benign neglect” and as a result, crime had internationalized faster than law enforcement.
“This much change”, he said, urging delegates to take more seriously the world’s only crime-fighting instrument. Universal adherence would be a start, but it was implementation that counted. “A piece of paper will not strike fear into the hearts of the mafia.” The best way to mark the treaty’s tenth anniversary would be to work towards an implementation review mechanism to measure progress and identify needs.
ANGELINO ALFANO, Minister of Justice of Italy, said that in the post-Cold War era, very few people could say the world is more secure than 20 years ago. Indeed, today there was much instability, as well as rising transnational and non-conventional threats. In addition, over the past 15 years there had been a growing decentralization of technological, economic, financial and criminal power hubs, and therefore a wider diffusion of powers, as well as criminal activity. New regional, sub-regional and non-State actors had emerged, and now, creative criminals were using powerful means. Therefore, a highly creative and multilateral response was needed.
Over the past decades, Italy consistently supported the various United Nations bodies engaged in promoting common international approaches to fight organized crime. Invoking the Palermo Convention as well as the Convention against Corruption, he said those were also key tools in the fight against terrorism. One of the basic aims of the Palermo Convention was to use judicial and police cooperation to fight the financial and money laundering activities of international criminal associations anywhere in the world.
Indeed, he continued, that instrument, now ten years old, had drawn on the work and ideas of Judge Giovanni Falcone, who was renowned for his sweeping successes against organized crime in Italy. Judge Falcone, together with his wife and bodyguards, was brutally murdered by the Mafia in 1992. The underlying concept was simple: that an arrest was often less effective than large scale action to seize and recover the illicit assets of the Mafia. Judge Falcone had been one of the first legal minds to understand that while the Mafia could basically handle arrests — considering them mere “hazards of doing business” — they could only truly be defeated when they were deprived of illegal proceeds form their criminal activities.
He said Italy was now using that approach to fight organized crime. In addition, Italy set up a fund for the justice sector to pool the money and assets recovered from the Mafia. That Fund was proving to be a practical success because it allowed judicial authorities in Italy to directly access the resources seized from the mafia to in turn strengthen their efforts to tackle criminal networks. From June 2008 to March 2010, law enforcement seized cash and property of 9 billion euros; over 1.6 billion euros was immediately available to support law enforcement authorities.
Calling for universal accession to the Convention, he said that today’s meeting was a major step towards that end. Another step would be the upcoming fifth Conference of States Parties, set to be held in Vienna in October. That meeting would offer a unique window of opportunity to end the Convention’s tenth anniversary year with “a wave of new ratifications.”
Italy was also in favour of creating a special review mechanism that would to address new and emerging criminal activity, and confirm the Convention as the paramount legal instrument in the fight against international crime in the twenty-first century. “We have a valuable and effective tool: we have a moral obligation to make the best use of it so that justice may prevail over crime within a freer, safer and more equitable world,” he declared finally.
PATRICIA ESPINOSA CANTELLANO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Mexico, said that criminals and organized crime had gone beyond borders, and their activities were a threat to societies, institutions and economies. The illicit traffic in small arms and light weapons fed conflicts, “as we well know in Latin America”. Counterfeit products were a great threat, especially altered medications, which reaped tens of billions of dollars a year in illegal profits. Moreover, studies had revealed that in Europe, victims from some 95 nationalities, including children from many developing countries, were being trafficked in the global sex trade.
Continuing, she said drug trafficking was also an issue. Mexico’s drug trafficking was between 2 and 5 percent of the world net product. As other nations in the world, Mexico had to deal effectively and comprehensively with that threat. Criminal bands had gotten stronger, especially because they could readily obtain assault weapons from the United States.
Such groups had also extended their activities through extortion, contraband arms, and trafficking. The Mexican Government was working hard to stamp out those threats, and was working to ensure peaceful coexistence and to restore public safety and the rule of law. All that required resources, she said, but the results of Mexico’s efforts will be visible soon. For example, she said, Mexico had mounted a sustained effort to eliminate criminal bands.
Organized crime was not new. The difference today was the international reach of criminal organizations. “That is why it is important to fight them with international bodies and global instruments,” she said, adding that organized transnational crime was a worldwide phenomenon that must be solved by the entire international community. “The commitment of our all countries is indispensable to fight organized crime,” she said, adding that international cooperation was key. “We all share the same responsibility,” and it was imperative to enforce tools such as the Palermo Convention. Fighting organized crime was an “ethical imperative” which meant fighting for the dignity of all people.
JEAN-MARIE BOCKEL, Secretary of State for Prisons and Prison Reform of France, aligning with the statement to be made by the European Union, said some of the most flourishing activities in the world were associated with organized crime. They made a mockery of borders and preventive measures implemented to eliminate them. Criminal cartels were largely responsible for such activities. “It is up to us to establish — with resolve and without fatalism — a coherent and effective strategy to combat transnational crime,” he said. Re-establishing the rules would allow for controlling crime that led to global lawlessness and included human, drug and arms trafficking, as well as counterfeiting and forgery.
He went on to say that France would like the issue to be debated in all United Nations forums and at all levels, adding that, with that goal in mind, his Government organized a 24 February thematic debate in the Security Council on drug trafficking and cross-cutting threats. Highlighting the security dimensions of the issue, he welcomed that some countries most severely affected by transnational organized crime were resolutely committed to using a comprehensive approach to tackle cross-cutting threats.
Today’s meeting offered the opportunity to reaffirm the importance attached to the universalization and effective implementation of the United Nations existing legal framework, especially the Palermo Convention, whose implementation was incomplete. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) should examine how to implement that instrument. In closing, he reaffirmed the importance of technical assistance to the most vulnerable States, as well as regional cooperation in West Africa and the Caribbean.
RODRIGO HINZPETER, Minister of the Interior of Chile, recalling that on 8 June, his country ratified the Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of, and Trafficking in, Firearms, their Parts and Components and Ammunition, said: “This is an important step for us.” For the last seven years, crime had become the “number one concern” for Chileans, who suffered relatively high rates of crime against private property and guns. The relevance of the Convention went beyond the scope of that Protocol, and Chileans understood well that transnational crime was a threat that must be addressed with strength and conviction.
However, that was not enough, he said. “We need cooperation”, which was why the Convention was so important. Transnational crime hit poor and rich countries alike, nations East and West, and communities with different religious beliefs and ethnic origins. It hurt every country on the planet. In that context, he urged cooperating against crime, leaving differences aside. Peace and security were the two fundamental pillars on which to build a common dream: to spread liberty, democracy and prosperity to every corner of the planet.
JEAN-FRANCOIS NDONGOU, Minister of the Interior, Public Security, Immigration and Decentralization of Gabon, renewed his country’s support for the UNODC. Gabon fully supported the campaign for securing universal adherence to the Convention and its Protocols, and had signed the Convention. At the same time, major efforts must be made to encourage countries that had not yet done so to sign or ratify those instruments, as the proliferation of criminal networks and cybercrime were having immeasurable consequences on countries, slowing economic and social development. The transnational aspects of drug trafficking also required consolidating regional and international cooperation and Gabon supported regional initiatives that facilitated that goal.
For its part, Gabon had combated drugs and human trafficking, he explained, adding that his country was party to the 1998 Convention on Drug Trafficking and, in 1991, had set up a national office for tackling the problem. Moreover, the Government had strengthened the criminal code with a view to punishing drug trafficking. As for human trafficking, particularly of children, he attached importance to negotiations for a United Nations instrument against that scourge. Indeed for years, Gabon had been a destination and transit country for trafficking in children and had adopted a law to combat that problem. The challenge was to find and bring perpetrators before the justice system. In other areas, he said Gabon’s security forces had recently boarded a ship in its territorial waters, on which there were dozens of children, who had been subsequently sent back to their families. Welcoming the political declaration to be adopted at the end of the meeting, he urged continuing the fight against transnational organized crime.
JOSÉ MARIA TIJERINO, Minister of Interior, Costa Rica, Minister of the Interior, Police and Public Security, said he was aware of the “ominous power” of organized crime and its threat to a country’s institutions. He noted the power of the Columbian and Mexican drug cartels. As a country with very few small areas planting marijuana, Costa Rica was a channel for cocaine going to the United States and Europe. The result was a permanent presence of members of those drug cartels in Costa Rica. “With each ensuing day, more of our citizens are getting involved in this infamous traffic.” The fishing fleet was now hiding cocaine or refuelling foreign vessels with their criminal cargo. Small fortunes of unknown origin had their roots in “moral poverty”. Victims became distributors in exchange for the few rocks of crack cocaine that would allow them to support their habit.
The challenge was immense, because of organized crime’s power, and the weakness of the police forces, who did not receive support from the international community in the way similar to the support received by military services. Thus, in Coast Rica’s case, he said: “We are being punished for not having an army, with our meagre resources.” International cooperation was key, therefore, and the country has launched a permanent quest for support for police training, and coast guard officers, among others. He concluded that Costa Rica has decided determination to honour its international commitments in the struggle for international crime, with attention to the Palermo Protocol.
ERIK LAHNSTEIN, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Norway, said that to reduce the enormous suffering and societal costs of criminal networks, cooperation must improve at the international level. Increasing transparency was the most powerful tool for reducing the hiding and laundering of the proceeds of crime and to identify criminals, he maintained, advocating that every financial service provider should be required to know whom the money they were handling really belonged to.
In addition, he said that more knowledge was needed about the procedures of global criminal groups, from the opium producers in Afghanistan to the heroin markets in Russia or anywhere else. Welcoming UNODC’s increased focus on the proceeds of crime in its newly-leased report, he said his country was eager to build on that work with more in-depth analysis on the origins and hiding of such huge monetary flows, in order to crack down on organized crime. Norway had therefore decided to cooperate with UNODC on a study that should include the lessons learned in that area by not only the Office, but all interested member States, the financial sector and the Financial Action Task Force of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which had its own expertise.
VILAYAT EYVAZOV, Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs of Azerbaijan, said transnational organized crime was among the most dangerous threats to democratic values. It was crucial to have a deep understanding of security and its various formats and functions. Interlinked and complex menaces called for an integrated security system endowed with adequate resources. Transnational crime undermined development, worsened living standards and threatened rights to various freedoms. Azerbaijan supported United Nations efforts to build collective security, develop standards and norms and enhance States capacity to enforce the rule of law. A global action plan was an important step in that direction. The Palermo Convention showed Governments’ political will to strengthen law and order, reflected a multidisciplinary approach and had a clear preventive slant. It was effective and balanced and it contained realistic provisions. It also set forth unified criteria on the definition of corruption, money laundering and criminal group membership.
Describing national initiatives, he said Azerbaijan was stepping up its efforts to build closer links with overseas law enforcement officers. It had worked to improve national legislation, implementing the Convention and its Protocols and adopting laws to fight the most perilous forms of crime. Unfortunately, the country lagged behind, as the threats were growing at a faster pace than its measures to combat them. There was also corporate crime, notably in the construction, finance and banking sectors. Criminals were using high technology, and one had only to look at how fast they had penetrated the Internet: information piracy, “e-terrorism” and pornography trading were just some of the abuses. The Government sought to oppose crime through organized measures, with a view to protecting its security. Some parties were using the country as transit point for drugs and human trafficking. He concluded by saying that the effectiveness of collective security was a hallmark of the times and he reiterated the need to strengthen cooperation.
CARLOS ALFREDO CASTANEDA MAGAÑA, Vice Minister of Foreign Relations, Integration and Economic Affairs of El Salvador, reiterated his country’s commitment to the fight against transnational organized crime, in the context of shared common responsibility, and in line with international law and non-intervention in States’ internal affairs. The establishment of effective justice systems was a vital component to creating effective frameworks, and in that context, he noted the importance of sharing lessons learned. For its part, the United Nations should contribute to the strengthening of national institutions that combated transnational organized crime. Welcoming the “dynamism” of the UNODC, he added El Salvador had been a victim of the link between criminals and armed violence, kidnapping and extortion.
Continuing, he said the Government welcomed the political statement to be adopted, as well as implementation of the Convention and the Protocols. Indeed, drug trafficking had become a main activity of criminals in his region, which was why El Salvador had signed international instruments aimed at reducing the demand and use of drugs. Indeed, it had ratified 14 of 16 instruments, among them the Palermo Convention and its Protocols. The “Managua Plan” complemented other Central American strategies. On the issue of gangs, he said El Salvador’s President had assigned high priority to peoples’ safety and security, and had launched consultations across various sectors to hear suggestions on the national policy for justice. His Government appreciated steps taken by Brazil, Spain and others for their assistance in promoting civic safety. Central American countries were making efforts to fight transnational organized crime, including money laundering, and there was a need for international cooperation in such collective problems. With that, he appealed for such cooperation, so as to reinforce national capacities.
JUAN ANTONIO YAÑEZ-BARNUEVO (Spain), speaking on behalf of the European Union, opened by noting that transnational organized crime constituted one of today’s most dangerous threats and hampered the sustainable development of societies. Transnational organized crime was a global phenomenon with multiple manifestations and it had evolved with concurrent technological developments, becoming more fluid, sophisticated and able to cross borders. Thus, it was a “challenge that can only be effectively met with an adequate joint response at national, regional and international levels”, he said.
The European Union stressed the importance of the United Nations for and supports multilateral approaches to combat organized crime. Ten years ago, the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the Protocols thereto were opened for signature, and 154 States have become parties to the convention. The European Union is party to the conventions. “But we are still far from universal ratification,” he said, urging for universal adherence by all States. He called for effective implementation. Moving on to specific issues of organized crime, human trafficking is one of the most shameful, and one of the greatest challenges. He stated the European Union was “fully dedicated to combat this form of modern slavery.”
ELIZABETH VERVILLE, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, United States, opened by noting that the Convention was ten years old, and called it a “watershed” in its efforts to combat serious crime. The Convention is the first legally binding instrument to commit members towards collective action and international cooperation against these threats. Of significant note was the Protocol on Trafficking in Persons, which contained the fist internationally agreed definition of such trafficking as a crime in its own right. The Protocol had successfully raised the consciousness of states, leading many for the first time to create specific criminal provisions within their domestic law in order to prosecute the perpetrators.
It was important to work collectively to translate the requirements of the Palermo Convention into concrete action. She said States were increasingly using the instrument for law enforcement purposes; its supplemental Protocols had been applied on more than 25 occasions as a basis for extradition and mutual legal assistance requests, including for illegal arms trafficking, money laundering and fraud prosecutions. She went on to say that the UNODC was a key provider of technical assistance in applying the provisions of the Convention. In addition to treaty commitments and multilateralism, she said that States could prevent their territories from becoming safe havens for criminal organizations and assets by refusing or revoking visas of corrupt officials, their family members, or those that corrupted them. Lastly, she said combating the problem required a multidimensional strategy with short- and long-term actions.
HENRY MACDONALD (Suriname), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said transnational organized crime was a major destabilizing factor affecting security in the Western Hemisphere and elsewhere. The increasing availability of illicit small arms and light weapons in the region, and their close links to global trafficking in illegal drugs, the effects of money laundering, terrorist activities, cybercrime and trafficking in persons, among other factors, had evolved into a multidimensional threat negatively impacting public security and safety. The Caribbean was particularly affected by that threat. Various Governments in the region were already aggressively pursuing several bilateral, regional and global measures to tackle cross-boarder organized crime. Most had identified new approaches, ideas and resulted in exchanges of information and experiences.
CARICOM States were undertaking legislative and institutional reform, and building capacity through their respective national security and criminal justice frameworks, he continued. Many had ratified or acceded to the Convention and its Protocols, including the Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, their Parts and Components and Ammunition. The region had shown its commitment to fight transnational organized crime by creating the CARICOM Heads of Government of the CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security, as well as through the use of newly emergent technologies and training and skills enhancement programmes for regional law enforcement agencies.
Furthermore, CARICOM States had fostered judicial cooperation and legislative reform and introduced critical e-tracing technology to fight organized crime, he said. The adoption of the 2009 Political Declaration on Combating Illicit Drug Trafficking, Organized Crime, Terrorism and Other Serious Crime in the Caribbean further affirmed CARICOM’s ongoing commitment to that issue. CARICOM maintained its strong position on the need to strengthen collaboration and cooperation among States and the UNDOC to address that challenge. But due to its limited resources and vulnerable economies, it needed a coordinated, multilateral approach to effectively counter those threats.
JORGE VALERO BRICEÑO (Venezuela), underscored the undisputed importance of the Convention to promote State cooperation to prevent, investigate and prosecute transnational organized crime. For the first time, it established a definition of organized crime and set forth criminal guidelines for the consideration of States Parties. Venezuela recognized the new trends of organized crimes, which were serious violations of human coexistence and must be tackled in a determined manner, in line with national regulations and taking into account international cooperation. The advanced economic, technological and operational platform of criminal organizations had made them strong enterprises, in some cases capable of exceeding State power.
Given such challenges, he urged increasing international cooperation through the implementation of efficient measures, as provided for by the Convention. Universal adherence to that instrument was more urgent than ever. A holistic approach was needed, as was an examination of root causes. Poverty and social injustice were “hotbeds” of such crime, and had resulted from a capitalist economic and social model that fostered such phenomena. Cautioning against moves to “securitize” issues related to transnational organized crime, he said Venezuela did not share the idea of addressing such matters in the Security Council, which was not empowered by the United Nations Charter to fulfil functions on those issues. Rather, they should be addressed through mutual reciprocal cooperation, not punitive measures of a military nature. Indeed, there was a risk that such a fight could serve as a pretext for subjugating nations.
MARION WALSH, Director of the Anti-Human Trafficking Unit of Ireland, aligning with the European Union, said her country was party to the Palermo Convention and the Protocol to prevent trafficking in persons. Indeed, the world had seen a growing sophistication among criminals and the rule of law must prevail. To do so, law enforcement must match the speed of criminal behaviour. Most criminal acts had cross-border elements, which made the Convention all the more important, and all resources must be used to combat them. In Ireland, there was need to improve bilateral and multilateral cooperation, notably in information exchange. The Government acknowledged the tenth anniversary of the Convention’s opening for signature and noted the growing number of State parties to it.
Ireland was no stranger to transnational organized crime, she said, noting that 16 per cent of the European Union’s territorial waters came into Ireland’s zone. So, the illicit drug trade had not passed Ireland by — the country had suffered the associated effects of violence and gangs. The Government had established a targeted strategy to address that situation, which had led to seizures and prosecutions. However, the impacts of such legislation meant that the most dangerous criminals often moved abroad, and thus, information exchange was vital. Ireland would work with all State parties to ensure there was no hiding place for criminality. On human trafficking — “a form of modern day slavery” — she said Ireland was a destination country. While the numbers were small, one victim was one too many, and the Government aimed to create a more hostile environment for such behaviour. It had put in place a strong legislative framework and, last year, had published its first action plan to combat human trafficking. In closing, she stressed that Ireland’s commitment to tackling transnational organized crime was resolute.
SIRISAK TIYAPAN, Director-General of the International Affairs Department Office of the Attorney General of Thailand, said his country had long experienced the threat of transnational organized crime. It had been utilized by criminal groups operating across borders as a country of origin, transit and destination for their illegal activities and gain, as well as a safe haven for criminal groups. “We have monitored with growing concern, that narcotics trafficking, trafficking in women and children, and illegal smuggling of firearms have intensified,” he said. Thailand was cognizant of the increasing magnitude and the impact of transnational crime on national security and public welfare, and on development as a whole.
Thailand had revised its Narcotics Offenders Suppression Act, which extended jurisdiction to cover drug trafficking committed outside the territory of the country. The 2008 Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act had established a national anti-human trafficking committee chaired by the Prime Minister. It had also set in motion an effective national structure. In addition, the country had spared no effort to cooperate with the United Nations and the international community in combating transnational crime in all its forms in the best manner possible. Regionally, as a member of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), Thailand has endorsed numerous declarations and instruments established to combat transnational organized crime in the region. Lastly, he said that as this marked the tenth anniversary of the Convention, Thailand would express its firm support for that instrument and urge its successful implementation.
SAMUEL BLAKE, Director of the Organized Crime Division of the Ministry of National Security of Jamaica, said that on the tenth anniversary of the Convention, a “grave reality” was dawning as concern grew over the impact of transnational organized crime and its effects on the development process. As a small island developing State, Jamaica continued to grapple with the negative impacts of organized crime. Recent events in the capital, Kingston, highlighted a pertinent fact: easy access to small arms and light weapons and the illicit wealth generated from transnational organized crime and narcotics trafficking promoted conflict and exacerbated violence. It also threatened to undermine State authority and economic stability.
Continuing, he said that Jamaica’s concrete responses to the challenges of transnational organized crime included legislative measures, for example, in the area of criminal justice (plea bargaining) and the Financial Investigations Division Act. Despite the challenges, the Security Forces were restructuring and upgrading the Transnational Crime and Narcotics Divisions. Returning to the issue of small States, he said criminals exploited open borders with impunity. Indeed, Jamaica faced significant challenges due to the porous nature of its own borders. Therefore effective border security is needed. At the regional level, Jamaica worked with Caribbean Community (CARICOM) partners, and joined its urgent calls for the reopening of the UNODC in Barbados.
LIBRAN CABACTULAN ( Philippines) said that his country remained at the forefront in the fight against transnational organized crime, fully implementing legislation on money laundering, asset recovery, terrorism, violence against migrants, and trafficking in persons. His Government had made useful amendments to such legislation as the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001 and the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995, and had criminalized terrorism and terrorist financing through the Human Security Act of 2007.
With regard to trafficking in persons, he said several developing countries lacked the resources to prevent such crimes, noting that human trafficking remained the third largest organized crime activity. Given that, his Government had updated the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003 so that it strictly prohibited the purchase and sale of human organs. He also noted with concern that no receiving Western country had ratified the Convention for the Protection of all Migrant Workers and Members of their families, urging all countries to provide a full range of protection for victims of illegal recruitment and trafficking.
An international framework for law enforcement cooperation should promote a holistic anti-transnational crime agenda through complementing measures within national jurisdictional boundaries, he stressed. Viewing the strengthening of international cooperation as a cornerstone of the fight against organized crime, he called for universal adherence to the Convention.
Right of Reply
Speaking in Exercise of the Right of Reply, Ukraine’s delegate noted that the UNODC’s Globalization of Crime report mentioned his country. He expressed his deep indignation at the chapter on Eastern European arms supplies. He was sorry that the integrity of the entire document had been compromised by five pages, which made him wonder whether it had been drafted by those outside of the agency. Ukraine categorically rejected that a United Nations Member State was the source of such a problem. Such a suggestion was unprofessional, at a minimum, and inconsistent with norms of impartiality. Ukraine traded arms with legal Governments, and in Sudan, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It was working in open, transparent manner, in line with United Nations edicts.
Explaining that the Eleventh International Export Control Conference was the largest ever, he said that Ukraine was the only former member of the former Soviet Union to take part in all export control regimes. Ukrainian authorities had prevented various attempts to smuggle arms into the country with false information. The Government had always stressed that such reports should be prepared by experts in the field. Arms control went far beyond the scope of the Office and was being addressed in forums where Ukraine was a participant. Which information sources had been used in compiling the report? Did the Drugs and Crime Office request and receive assessments from the sanctions committees that would have proven Ukraine’s activities? Relying on information from open sources in such a sensitive sphere could not be justified. Creating a distorted picture of Ukraine on the international arms markets was perhaps the aim of others.
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* The 95th Meeting was not covered.