25 April 2012

Watchtowers to Control Illicit Flows Need Watchwords: Information, Intelligence, Data Collection, Analysis, Secretary-General Tells Security Council

25 April 2012
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Watchtowers to Control Illicit Flows Need Watchwords:  Information, Intelligence,


Data Collection, Analysis, Secretary-General Tells Security Council


Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks, as delivered, at the Security Council meeting on Threats to International Peace and Security:  Improving UN Capacity to Assist States to Council Illicit Flows, today, 25 April, in New York:

I thank the United States for using its presidency of the Council to draw attention to this important issue.  Across the globe, insecure borders enable the trafficking of drugs, weapons, contraband, terrorist funding, materials related to weapons of mass destruction, conflict minerals, wildlife and people.  Such illicit flows undermine State sovereignty.  They destroy communities and individual lives.  They are threats to peace and security and are rightly the focus of this Council’s close attention.  Countering them means action on many fronts.

Strengthening border security is crucial.  Member States are obliged under international law to secure their borders against illicit flows.  But, fragile and vulnerable countries — some of them devastated by war, others struggling to transform themselves — often lack the capacity to overcome the conditions that allow these crimes to flourish.

The United Nations is, thus, hard at work helping many States to build that capacity.  In Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Project AIRCOP is designed to strengthen controls at international airports.  The sea equivalent is the Global Container Control Programme.

Although more than 500 million maritime containers move around the world each year, accounting for 90 per cent of international trade, only 2 per cent are inspected.

Strengthening customs and immigration systems is essential.  Border strengthening is effective, but not if done in isolation.  We also need to give priority to establishing public institutions that deliver a sustained level of security and justice for citizens.  Border security can never come at the expense of migrants’ rights.  Nor can it be used to legitimize inhumane treatment.

The United Nations Task Force on Organized Crime and Drug Trafficking, co-chaired by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Department of Political Affairs, is developing comprehensive approaches.  Regional cooperation is a key to addressing both illicit flows and human trafficking.  So are legal tools.  I urge Member States to ratify and implement the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organized Crime and its protocols, as well as the UN Convention against Corruption and the legal instruments against terrorism.

Countering illicit flows also requires us to do more to prevent money-laundering.  We need systems that can detect and monitor the enormous flows of illicit money generated by cross-border crimes, most of which is laundered through the global financial system.

Illicit flows are directly linked to terrorism.  Our counter-terrorism strategies rely on States to take measures related to the cross-border movement of people, goods and cargo, small arms and light weapons, nuclear, chemical, biological, radiological and other potentially deadly materials.  We are helping Member States to strengthen their institutional and legislative frameworks in this area.  The Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force Working Group on border management is compiling a comprehensive compendium of international instruments, norms and best practices.

The illicit flows that pose the gravest threat are, of course, those related to the possible terrorist acquisition of weapons of mass destruction.  Efforts to address this challenge include the United Nations Global Counter-terrorism Strategy, as well as implementation of Security Council resolution 1540 (2004) through the activities of the 1540 Committee.  Trafficking in firearms and ammunition also helps to fuel terrorism, as well as violence and armed conflicts, while hindering social and economic development.  We are helping Member States to strengthen their institutional and legislative frameworks in this area by developing technical guidelines for the safe management of ammunition, as well as international control standards for small arms and light weapons.

There are no quick solutions to illicit flows.  There is only a sustained process that requires the commitment of all.  Our watchtowers must be accompanied by watchwords:  information, intelligence, data collection and analysis.  This is an area where the United Nations, with its ability to provide objective and balanced information, can play a key role.  We will continue to identify new threats and bring them to the attention of this Council, so the international community can respond.

As you know, prevention is one of my priorities.  Preventing illicit flows is beneficial to countries, communities and individuals.  It is important for security, development and human rights.

In six months, I will return to the Council with a report providing a comprehensive assessment of the United Nations work to help Member States counter illicit flows.  Thank you again for addressing these matters and working to improve our work in this crucial area.  Thank you.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.