11 June 2021

Deputy Secretary-General Hails United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime Strategic Vision to Harness Untapped Energy of Africa’s 226 Million Young People

Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) high-level event titled, “Strategic Vision for Africa 2030:  Investing in a Transformative Approach to Promote Peace, Security and Development”, held today:

I am delighted to address you today at this high-level event on UNODC’s Strategic Vision for Africa 2030 and would also like to acknowledge Ghada Waly’s excellent work and leadership in convening this event.

The Decade of Action is a crucial time for securing the well-being of Africa’s people, and of their societies, economies and environment.  It is a road filled with challenges, but also opportunities.

Africa has made tangible progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals and the African Union Agenda 2063 in recent years, and we must work together to defend these hard-won achievements from the fallout of the COVID-19 crisis.  Seizing opportunities requires a holistic approach that builds on what the United Nations has achieved working alongside the region to sustain peace and security, protect human rights and promote development.

UNODC’s mandates addressing drugs, crime, corruption and terrorism span the pillars of United Nations action, and the Office is well placed to support accelerated action and impact through its new Strategic Vision for Africa, leveraging existing joint work with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT), peacekeeping missions and other partners.

Through its offices in the regions and in countries, UNODC is advancing regional and international cooperation, as well as judicial reforms, to tackle linkages between organized crime such as human trafficking, migrant smuggling, corruption and terrorism.

In cooperation with the Lake Chad Basin Commission, UNODC is advancing the Regional Stabilization Strategy through gender-sensitive approaches to prosecution, rehabilitation and reintegration of persons associated with an extremist group.  In the Middle East and North Africa region, UNODC is helping to address HIV in prisons, with services provided to more than 70,000 prisoners.  With UNODC’s support, the African Young Parliamentarians Network was created in East Africa to support young legislators to combat corruption and promote the rule of law.  UNODC and the African Wildlife Forensics Network have brought together more than 120 practitioners from 15 African countries in the last two years for training on good practices in wildlife crimes investigations.

However, much more is at stake now as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has left many people at greater risk of exploitation from corruption and unethical behaviour.  The crisis has exposed deep-rooted inequalities in our societies, including in our justice systems.

Africa continues to grapple with regional crises and threats.  Three regions in particular — the Sahel, the Lake Chad Basin and the Horn of Africa — suffer from conflict, violence and development deficits.

As always, the most vulnerable suffer the most.  Women and girls experience the consequences of crime and conflict differently; they are far more likely to be the victims of trafficking and sexual violence; and they are frequently used as weapons of war or to generate profits for criminal enterprises.

Illicit financial flows feed crime, and fuel further conflict and instability in Africa, while draining the continent’s resources from its people.  Even as Africa strives to increase the mobilization of domestic resources to recover from the pandemic, it is losing almost $89 billion a year to illicit capital flight, far exceeding the official development assistance (ODA) that flows to the continent.

The path to recovery from the pandemic offers a unique chance for Africa to better safeguard its people from organized crime, terrorism and corruption, and to provide better access to security, justice and social and economic progress.

Young people have been among the most affected by the COVID-19 crisis.  They can and must have a leading role in fostering recovery and resilience, and in mobilizing support for governance structures that meet today’s challenges.  UNODC’s Strategic Vision aims to harness this largely untapped power for positive change.  It aims to leverage all of the continent’s capacities, and the potential of its 226 million young people, to create renewed momentum towards achieving the 2030 Agenda [for Sustainable Development] and the African Union Agenda 2063.

This Vision will support legislative reform, strengthen institutions for better service delivery, and tackle social norms and attitudes throughout the continent, while working closely with civil society and building effective partnerships and networks.  It will also tackle the root causes of gender-based violence, promote the role of women and youth as champions of justice in societies and institutions, and address discrimination and stigma through the lens of human rights.

We will need innovation more than ever during this Decade of Action.  We need new approaches to meet the real needs and aspirations of Africa and its people, and to deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals.

By addressing drivers of instability including violence, crime and corruption; tackling radicalization to violent extremism; and protecting youth and women while empowering them to drive solutions, UNODC’s Strategic Vision can strengthen United Nations system action to address cross-cutting and cross-regional challenges.

The Vision also provides entry points for UNODC to work hand in hand with resident coordinators and United Nations country teams in the development of the Common Country Assessments and United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Frameworks.

I call on UNODC’s partners to fully support this approach.  Building on this vision, we can stand with Africa in the fight against inequality and injustice, and in pursuit of a more secure and prosperous continent, where all people are protected and where their resources are used for the benefit of all.

For information media. Not an official record.