|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Press Conference on Joint Security Initiative by Department of Peacekeeping
Operations, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
United Nations officials at the helms of the world body’s peacekeeping and drug enforcement activities today announced the signing of an agreement to further strengthen the partnership between those crucial security functions.
Yuri Fedotov, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and Under-secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Alain Le Roy, briefed members of the media on the newly launched Joint Plan of Action during a Headquarters press conference. Also joining them to sign the agreement was Ann-Marie Orler, the United Nations Police Adviser for the Peacekeeping Department.
“UNODC and DPKO are working together to integrate drug control into their missions,” said Mr. Fedotov as he introduced the Joint Plan of Action. “Our combined efforts to build peace and security in post-conflict regions will benefit women and men, families and children who now live in fear of becoming victims of drug traffickers or other criminals,” he added.
Mr. Fedotov, who is also the Director-general of the United Nations Office at Vienna, said that the agreement was designed specifically to further strengthen the partnership that the two offices had built in recent years. As peacekeeping and drug control complemented each other, he noted, the partnership would benefit the efforts of both departments to strengthen international peace and security.
An example of the need for integrated peacekeeping and drug control efforts was West Africa, he continued. Due largely to its strategic location — and to other factors including weak governance and poverty — the region had become a hub for illegal drugs and weapons, he said. To counteract that crisis, UNODC in 2010 launched a regional programme that would respond to the needs of 16 West African States, based on the principle of “shared responsibility” between multiple actors.
That regional programme included several components, including the pilot West Africa Cost Initiative, which was a joint undertaking of UNODC, the Peacekeeping Department, the United Nations Department of Political Affairs, the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) and other partners. To date, that project had already mobilized about $4 million, he said, adding that joint programmes were also being undertaken in other regions, and in countries such as Sudan. “Together we can help build and restore communities that are safe, healthy and just.”
Mr. Le Roy added that the Department of Peacekeeping Operations worked with the Organization’s drugs and crime office wherever it maintained a peacekeeping mission. Within the Department itself, there was an Office of Rule of Law and Security Institutions, he said, which encompassed both a criminal justice division and police division.
“There are many ways we can strengthen our capacity in the rule of law,” he added, citing such opportunities as providing judicial training for officers, prison guidance and prison models for rapid deployment.
Responding to a question about the relationship between security and drug trafficking in regions where Al-Qaida and other insurgents were active, Mr. Fedotov said that while little hard data existed, there was evidence that revenue from drug trafficking was used to fund terrorist activities in Afghanistan and neighbouring countries. “It is clear that illicit drug trafficking is an important and huge criminal business” representing “hundreds of billions” of dollars, he said. “Supporting terrorism is one of the dimensions of this transnational organized crime.”
On a related matter, Mr. Le Roy and Mr. Fedotov also responded to questions from press correspondents about an incident that had been reported in Côte d’Ivoire over the weekend. The world body’s peace mission there — known as the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) — had issued a subsequent statement about a shipment of attack helicopters that had reportedly been delivered to the forces of former president Laurent Gbagbo by a Belarusian plane.
A correspondent said that delivery would have meant a breech of the United Nations’ arms embargo of the Gbagbo regime, which continues to cling to power in that West African state despite having lost a certified presidential referendum.
Mr. Le Roy confirmed that the reports of that shipment had in fact been false. The report had emerged from UNOCI in error, he said, adding that he had met this morning with the Chargé d'affaires of Belarus to express the “deep regrets and apologies” of his Department.
Such mistakes were extremely rare, he added, and an investigation would be launched into how the error occurred. Nonetheless, he reiterated that UNOCI continued to carry out its mandate of monitoring the arms embargo, collecting arms on the ground and disposing of arms and related materials as appropriate.
He also noted that tensions were mounting in general in Côte d’Ivoire, with an increased number of clashes, escalating violence and further incidents of the harassment of peacekeepers. The Peacekeeping Department would brief a closed session of the Security Council on the situation in Côte d’Ivoire tomorrow, he added.
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