Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the twenty‑seventh session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, in Vienna today:
It is a great pleasure to be here in Vienna for the first time as Secretary‑General. I thank the United Nations staff based here, the representatives of Member States, civil society and all our partners for your work on some of the most challenging problems the international community faces today: transnational crime, human trafficking, corruption, drug policy, cybercrime.
My overriding priorities since taking office are preventing conflicts and crises, and mobilizing efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and this Commission have a crucial role to play.
I would like to say a few words about your work, in the context of our global efforts. I welcome the three resolutions on human trafficking tabled at this Commission. This heinous crime is flourishing as a result of protracted conflicts, growing inequality and the absence of an organized international response to migration. The results are all around us: appalling deaths on the high seas and across deserts; forced labour and sexual servitude; the recruitment of child soldiers; and many other forms of exploitation and abuse.
But, these are just the visible signs of vast, cross-border criminal networks. We need to tackle these networks in their entirety, from recruiters to ship captains and brothel owners, all the way to the gang bosses who make fortunes from human misery. This will require much stronger cooperation among Member States, based on the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocol on human trafficking. The United Nations Security Council is targeting the financing of human traffickers. The Global Compact on Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration that will be adopted later this year should be another milestone.
When we discuss crime prevention and criminal justice, we should always remember that laws work by compliance rather than coercion. It is the public’s perception of what is fair and just that best guarantees the effectiveness of law and its enforcement efforts. This brings me to the top of the list of contemporary criminal justice issues: the fight against corruption. I attach great importance to your work against this crime, which denies people opportunities, undermines economic growth and the rule of law, and damages people’s faith in Governments.
Thanks to 24-hour news and social media, corruption is increasingly visible. It is rejected and repudiated by ordinary people all over the world, who want leaders and institutions that demonstrate transparency and accountability. Combating corruption requires a culture of integrity, led from the top. The United Nations Convention against Corruption, agreed 15 years ago and adopted by 184 parties, is delivering real change. Legal institutions around the world are taking action. I commend UNODC’s work in this area, but much more needs to be done. I urge you to strengthen the UN’s support to Member States in tackling corruption, strengthening good governance and the rule of law.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime also has a key role to play in addressing the global menace of drug abuse and trafficking. When I was Prime Minister of Portugal, I used the flexibility afforded by the three international drug-control conventions to introduce non-criminal, health-based responses to the possession of drugs for personal use. We increased the resources allocated to prevention, treatment and social reintegration programmes, and we retained a very strict policy on the criminalization of drug trafficking. The policy was hailed as a major success. HIV rates among injecting drug users fell dramatically; drug‑use rates also fell by almost 50 per cent. Portugal now has one of the lowest death rates for drug use in Europe.
So, I strongly endorse a balanced, comprehensive approach to drug policy, giving full weight to prevention and treatment, in line with progress made at the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem in 2016. I hope the next ministerial meeting will build on these agreements.
While each country must decide its own drug policy, I believe there is consensus around the need for a people-centred approach, based on results rather than dogma or prejudice. The United Nations, through the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, stands ready to support.
As conflicts have grown over the past decade, terrorist attacks have increased and spread, destabilizing societies and entire regions. I have made counter-terrorism a top priority for the entire United Nations system, from tackling root causes to supporting victims. One of my first reforms as Secretary‑General was to establish the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism to strengthen strategic leadership and coordination in implementing the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and in supporting Member States to do so.
Three months ago, I signed a Terrorism Coordination Compact to improve coordination among the United Nations, INTERPOL and the World Customs Organization. Next month, I will convene the first United Nations High-level Conference of Heads of Counter-Terrorism Agencies of Member States.
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime has an essential role in providing technical assistance to bolster the universal legal framework against terrorism — an important plank in our global efforts. UNODC has an unparalleled ability to work with Governments to make a difference on the ground. I encourage you to strengthen your efforts as we face a formidable and highly adaptable foe.
Let me now say a few words about your primary focus at this session of the Commission. Cybercrime is an area in which there is much work to do and no time to waste. New technologies, including big data and analytics, artificial intelligence and automation, are ushering in a transformative era, sometimes called the fourth industrial revolution. They should enable us to create conditions for growth and development that benefit everyone, to combat and mitigate the impact of climate change and to protect our environment.
But, they are also enabling new forms of crime. Cybercrime is estimated to generate some $1.5 trillion in revenue per year. And as with most crime, it targets the most vulnerable. Developing countries often lag behind in their cyberdefences. The online sexual exploitation and abuse of children is proliferating, and women and girls are disproportionately harmed.
I commend the work of this Commission, and of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, to raise awareness, and to provide vital training for police, prosecutors and judges in more than 50 countries. More broadly, we need a major collective effort to ensure that these technologies are used for everyone’s benefit. The United Nations is a platform open for all stakeholders to come together and consider these issues.
Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals, and delivering on the prevention agenda, will require the United Nations to be more responsive and resourceful than ever before. All parts of the United Nations system — in Vienna, New York and our offices and missions around the world — will have to work closely together, and with partners from across civil society, the business sector, academia and of course above all, Governments.
The debates and approaches agreed here in Vienna are crucial. I wish this Commission every success in advancing efforts against national and transnational crime, while strengthening good governance, the rule of law and human rights.