25 February 2015

‘We Must Safeguard Sustainable Development through Effective Crime Prevention,’ Deputy Secretary-General Tells General Assembly

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson’s remarks, as delivered, at the General Assembly Debate on Integrating Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in the Post-2015 Development Agenda, today, in New York:

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak to you today about the importance of integrating crime prevention and criminal justice in the post-2015 development agenda.  I want to thank the President of the General Assembly, along with the Missions of Italy, Mexico, Morocco, Qatar and Thailand, for this initiative.

2015 is a vitally important year for the United Nations — I would say a potentially historic turning point for the world — as we aim to forge a new set of sustainable development goals to be decided in New York in September.

I am sure important contribution to the ongoing negotiations will come from the Thirteenth Crime Congress, which will be held this April in Doha.  At the Congress, participants will consider the important role of crime prevention and criminal justice for sustainable development.

These events offer fresh opportunities for us all to highlight what I have long believed, and what the Secretary-General has often emphasized:  “There can be no peace without development, no development without peace, and no lasting peace or sustainable development without respect for human rights and the rule of law.”

Many of you have heard me say this many times before, but I will continue to make this point home until it no longer needs to be said because it is being accepted and done.  It is my deep conviction that without this holistic approach, this horizontal approach, our efforts to ensure a life of dignity for all will be only partial and precarious.

This year, as you know, also marks the seventieth anniversary of the United Nations.  In the Charter, we reaffirm our “faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small”.

This brief clause from the Charter contains several key principles which should guide all of our work:  “fundamental human rights”, “dignity”, “worth”, and “the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small”.  Equality is a core element of the rule of law — equality among people and nations and equality before the law.

We live in a world with a tragic gap between the words of the Charter and the ordinary lives of billions of people.  We see the worst effects of these gaps in the headlines every morning, every single day — from gruesome terrorist attacks, which go beyond imagination, to terrible poverty, to victims of street crimes and sexual violence in conflict.

The list is so long.  Huge numbers of people across the world continue to suffer from the devastating consequences of poverty, crime, terrorism, exclusion, persecution and deprivation.  Many of them find themselves vulnerable and unprotected by the shield envisaged in the preamble to the UN Charter.

They demand — and deserve — accountable governance, fair and accessible justice systems, peaceful societies, personal security and a life of dignity.  And let us always recall the first three words of the Charter, “We the Peoples”.  We are here to serve them.  We have a duty to help people grasp the opportunities they are now denied by forging a strong universal agenda, firmly rooted in human rights and the rule of law.

As we move forward with our plans for transformative sustainable development, we must acknowledge the debilitating and destabilizing effects of crime and violence.

Corruption, violence, exploitation, smuggling of migrants, trafficking of human beings, drugs and firearms, cybercrime, wildlife crime, terrorism and piracy dig and bite deeply into our societies.  All these factors are threatening security, economic development and daily lives for millions and millions of people around the world.

In financial terms, UNODC [United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime] estimates that illicit financial flows from transnational organized crimes represent a more than $2 trillion hurdle to achieving peace and preserving development gains.  Staggering figure — $2 trillion.  Compare that to a total of $134.8 billion in net official development assistance (ODA) in 2013.

Sustainable development is seriously hampered where there is violence and crime — and where there are no means to resolve grievances.  Insecurity, corruption and crime impede access to health to education and other basic services.  They steal these services from the people who need them.  This undermines trade and commercial relations, job opportunities and the protection of property.  All this harms individuals and damages societies.  A deeply worrying trend is the growing relationship between organized crime and terrorism.  Something we have to watch very, very carefully.

All forces for good must unite, both nationally and internationally, to fight these scourges.  All countries need effective crime prevention and criminal justice systems that adhere to due process and guarantees of fair trial.  All countries need reliable protection systems for victims and witnesses which are impartial and independent and which function according to human rights-compliant laws.

We must safeguard sustainable development through effective crime prevention and the promotion of human rights and the rule of law.  This requires the support of all partners:  Governments, intergovernmental organizations, civil society, the private sector, the media and the public.

I urge every nation to adopt and implement the international instruments on terrorism, the international drug control conventions, and the conventions on corruption and crime, as well as protocols on human trafficking, and smuggling of migrants and firearms.

I also call for greater efforts to gather national data in these areas.  Governments and the international community need detailed crime research and analysis to make effective policy choices.  Most Governments and the UN system already gather the data, but we need to strengthen our efforts, to share and disseminate information.

The source of wisdom is having the facts.  We need to have the data and share it.  The Secretary-General and UN Member States are now setting out a path towards a future of development and dignity for all the peoples of the world.  A future founded on justice, fairness and equality for all.  A future driven by the engine of social and economic opportunities, and of sustainable development in its broadest sense.  That future is within reach.  It is within our grasp.  We must not let it slip past us.

Building on the lessons of the Millennium Development Goals and the realities around us in the world, we know that our vision for sustainable development must be rooted in human rights and underpinned by the rule of law.  I hope that today, Mr. [General Assembly] President, will be another milestone in building the global partnership for the future we want and that all people deserve.

For information media. Not an official record.