Coordinated United Nations-led Action Needed to Tackle Transnational Criminal Networks, World Body’s Anti-drugs Chief Tells Security Council
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
6565th Meeting (AM)
Coordinated United Nations-led Action Needed to Tackle Transnational Criminal
Networks, World Body’s Anti-drugs Chief Tells Security Council
Threat to Development, Stability of Fragile States Cited in Briefing to Members
Warning that illicit drugs and organized criminal networks were wreaking havoc in many countries — even holding hostage the stability and development of entire regions — the top United Nations anti-drugs and crime official told the Security Council today that tackling those scourges required “urgent action” supported by a coordinated response, led by the world body.
As he briefed the Council, Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said many crises on the Council’s agenda — such as piracy in Somalia or Afghanistan’s ongoing struggle against a subversive and still-thriving trade in opiates — demonstrated starkly how the vast sums of money generated by transnational organized crime could destabilize transitions, disrupt political processes, and obstruct development.
“The time has come for urgent action,” he declared. “We need to take practical and pragmatic responses to these problems.” Emphasizing the scope of the challenge, he said drug trafficking alone fuelled a global criminal enterprise worth hundreds of billions of dollars — $68 billion in opiates, and $85 billion in cocaine annually — which seriously impacted development and security. Moreover, rich, crafty drug lords were now actively inciting violence and supporting terrorist activities.
“Confronting the global drug problem is a shared responsibility,” he said, adding: “Our response at the national, regional and international levels must be comprehensive, balanced and targeted.” With that in mind, he set out four potential areas for practical responses, including strengthening international collaboration, a process that could be facilitated by the United Nations, but which required concrete political will in order to have a real impact in suppressing an organized criminal market.
“Coordination has to begin with the United Nations system, but cannot end there,” he said, emphasizing: “The Security Council can no doubt play a leading role here.” Practical responses to the threat posed by drugs and crime must be grounded in an effort to bolster regional capacities, which could create a bulwark around fragile States while also enabling neighbours to play a proactive role. Citing examples in Central Asia, West Africa and the Middle East/North Africa region, he also called for reinforcing the rule of law, including through consistent and proactive investment in the criminal-justice institutions of weak States, and the adoption of comprehensive, cross-disciplinary strategies.
“We may have a chance to deliver if we address the challenges of organized crime and illicit trafficking in a coordinated and holistic way,” Mr. Fedotov said. In addition, he emphasized that UNODC, guardian of the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, and the Convention against Corruption, had developed such an integrated approach in its field missions and other programme activities in such places as Kyrgyzstan and Somalia, among others. He reported that the United Nations system task force established by the Secretary-General and co-chaired by the UNODC and the Department of Political Affairs had begun its work.
Following that presentation, Council members hailed the work carried out by UNODC, with several noting the critical importance of its activities and programmes aimed at helping West Africa push back a rising tide of drug-fuelled criminal activity. Others urged broad support for the core United Nations anti-drug treaties, as well as the Conventions against transnational organized crime and corruption. Some speakers encouraged targeted actions to build up national criminal institutions and strengthen punitive measures in fragile States, with the aim of making criminal activity less attractive to drug lords and gun runners.
Nigeria’s representative noted the timeliness of today’s meeting, following as it did yesterday’s release at Headquarters of the 2011 World Drug Report. That annual survey painted a sober picture of the global drug situation, revealing that traditional narcotics use was now being replaced by the use of synthetic and designer drugs. Confronting the problem was a shared responsibility, she said, stressing that global collaboration, building regional capacity, reinforcing criminal-justice systems and cross-cutting, cross-boundary strategies would increase the scope and strength of the international response.
Anand Sharma, India’s Minister for Commerce and Industries, said more than 90 per cent of the world’s opium production took place in his neighbourhood, as India was situated between the two large drug trafficking zones — the Golden Crescent centred on Afghanistan and the Golden Triangle in the area of Myanmar and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic. That had spawned a huge network of criminal groups with close links to various international terrorist networks, generating money and resources that fuelled terrorism and funded extremist groups, he said. A global response was needed and the United Nations was the best mechanism to develop it.
While the representative of the Russian Federation also called for more proactive, regionally-based measures to tackle the illicit drug trade and organized crime in Afghanistan, he also made a strong push for UNODC to help the United Nations improve its knowledge base on cybercrime, while crafting strategies to combat it, with the aim of elaborating an international convention dealing with that troubling phenomenon. Advocating careful consideration of UNODC’s “alarming” financial situation, he pointed out that the agency depended in part on voluntary funding, and encouraged the General Assembly to re-examine the situation in order to restore balance to its financing.
Also speaking today were representatives of Brazil, United Kingdom, United States, South Africa, Portugal, Germany, China, Lebanon, Bosnia and Herzegovina, France, Colombia and Gabon.
The meeting began at 11:00 a.m. and ended at 12:40 p.m.
Meeting this morning to consider threats to international peace and security, the Security Council was expected to hear a briefing by the head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
YURY FEDOTOV, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), briefed on the impact of transnational organized crime and drug trafficking on global peace, security and development, reporting that the United Nations system task force established by the Secretary-General and co-chaired by UNODC and the Department of Political Affairs had begun its work. Just yesterday, at a special meeting of the principals, the task force had taken decisions aimed at fostering more meaningful coordination within the system, as well as strengthening the Organization’s capacity to respond to illicit trafficking and organized crime. “We look forward to keeping the Council informed of the task force’s work and achievements,” he said.
He noted that the 2011 World Drug Report had been launched yesterday at New York Headquarters for the first time, with the participation of the Secretary-General, the President of the General Assembly, the heads of drug-control agencies from the United States and the Russian Federation, ambassadors, as well as public figures and representatives of non-governmental organizations and the media. “I think it has helped to raise public awareness of the global threat of drugs,” he said, pointing out that illicit drugs continued to undermine stability, security and health in many parts of the world, and that millions of people across the globe were suffering and dying as a result.
Meanwhile, he said, drug trafficking was fuelling a global criminal enterprise worth hundreds of billions of dollars — $68 billion in opiates, and $85 billion in cocaine annually — that had a serious impact on development and security. The world was also witnessing increasing acts of violence, conflicts and terrorist activities fuelled by drug lords. “Confronting the global drug problem is a shared responsibility,” he emphasized. “Our response at the national, regional and international levels must be comprehensive, balanced and targeted.”
Measures to reduce the supply of drugs must go hand-in-hand with efforts to reduce demand, he said, stressing that neither would be effective without the other. “The drug conventions provide a firm universal legal framework for such a balanced approach that is centred on health and grounded in respect for human rights.” Many crisis situations under consideration by the Council, such as Somalia’s piracy phenomenon or Afghanistan, starkly demonstrated the ability of the proceeds from transnational organized crime to destabilize transitions, disrupt political processes, and obstruct development. “These cases also show how one fragile State beset by drugs and crime can hold hostage the stability and progress of an entire region,” he said. “The time has come for urgent action,” he declared. “We need to take practical and pragmatic responses to these problems.”
Setting out four potential areas for such responses, he said they included strengthening international collaboration, a process that could be facilitated by the United Nations but which required concrete political will in order to have a real impact in suppressing an organized criminal market. “Coordination has to begin with the United Nations system, but cannot end there,” he emphasized, adding: “The Security Council can no doubt play a leading role here.” Practical responses to the threat posed by drugs and crime must be grounded in an effort to bolster regional capacities, which could create a bulwark around fragile States while also enabling neighbours to play a proactive part in the response, he said.
Citing as examples Afghanistan and neighbouring countries, West Africa and the Middle East/North Africa region, he also called for reinforcing the rule of law, including through consistent and proactive investment in the criminal-justice institutions of weak States, and the adoption of comprehensive, cross-disciplinary strategies. “We may have a chance to deliver if we address the challenges of organized crime and illicit trafficking in a coordinated and holistic way,” Mr. Fedotov said, emphasizing that UNODC, guardian of the Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, and the Convention against Corruption, had developed such an integrated approach in its field missions and other programme activities in such places as Kyrgyzstan and Somalia, among others.
ANAND SHARMA, Minister for Commerce and Industries of India, said that more than 90 per cent of the world’s opium production took place in his neighbourhood, as India was situated between the two large drug trafficking zones — the Golden Crescent centred on Afghanistan and the Golden Triangle in the area of Myanmar and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic. The illicit production and trafficking of drugs had spawned a huge network of criminal groups with close links to various international terrorist networks, he said, adding that they generated the money and resources that fuelled terrorism and funded extremist groups. A global response was needed and the United Nations was the best mechanism to develop it.
India was committed to strengthening the international normative and legislative mechanisms required to create such a framework, he continued. Last month, it had ratified the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its three Protocols, as well as the United Nations Convention against Corruption. He expressed support for UNODC’s efforts to help develop capacities through training and the creation of administrative, legal and institutional frameworks to fight transnational organized crime, saying that Indian agencies were working in that field alongside UNODC in some South Asian countries. India had contributed $200,000 to the agency’s Paris Pact Initiative, and would host the meeting of Heads of National Drug Law Enforcement Agencies this year, he said.
REGINA MARIA CORDEIRO DUNLOP ( Brazil) said that fighting organized crime and drug trafficking required a case-by-case approach that took the multidimensional nature of transnational crime into account. They should not be addressed exclusively through security-related tools, she said, emphasizing that repression alone was not a long-term solution. Sustained attention was needed in combating underlying causes, including the lack of development, high unemployment and economic difficulties. Also required was active engagement by the world’s largest consumer of illicit drugs, she said. Stressing that coordinated action by the United Nations system was more important than ever, she said it could help prevent organized crime and drug trafficking from threatening international peace and security. Regional organizations could also play a crucial role, she said, describing the South American Council to Combat Drug Trafficking as a promising avenue of cooperation, and welcoming the West African Coast Initiative’s important contribution in that regard.
VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) said today’s meeting was an important step in strengthening the contacts between the Council and UNODC. There was a need to use that Office as well as other specialized agencies to inform the Council’s work on serious threats to international peace and security, especially those situations already on its agenda. One pressing threat was the illicit production of and trade in drugs emanating from Afghanistan, which had spread beyond the Central Asia region to become an international challenge that required a coordinated and pragmatic response, he said.
He said his country advocated the creation of a comprehensive system to counter the spread of narcotics, including a jointly enforced “security belt” around Afghanistan, he continued. The Russian Federation placed great hopes in the international conference on bolstering technical assistance to Afghanistan and Governments in Central Asia, to be held in Vienna in December. It would aim for the adoption of a plan of action to counter drug trafficking and organized criminal activity, he said, adding that his country was prepared to promote accelerated steps in that area. He called for strengthening the international regime on marking and movement of precursors, including licensing activities regarding the shipment of precursors and related products.
It was also important to maximize the use of universal instruments and prevent the weakening of the important mechanisms set up under the United Nations Conventions against organized crime and corruption, he said. The time had come to elaborate a convention on cybercrime, and the Russian Federation looked forward to guidance from UNODC in that area. Advocating careful consideration of the alarming financial situation of the Office, he pointed out that it depended in part on voluntary funding, and encouraged the General Assembly to re-examine the situation in order to restore balance to its financing.
PHILIP PARHAM (United Kingdom) said the most recent studies revealed that organized crime was costing the United Kingdom alone between $30 and $65 billion annually. The situation was crippling fragile nations and regions, in which criminal networks had access to resources many times greater than those that local governments could devote to the fight. High levels of corruption also allowed criminals to flourish, he said, stressing the need to help build institutional capacities in the countries and regions most at risk. Experience had shown that weak judicial systems and a lack of policing capacity contributed significantly to the problem, he said. Moreover, the collapse of autocratic regimes provided favourable conditions for criminal actors to slip in, an issue that required the utmost attention in the wake of the changes under way in North African and the Middle East.
Emphasizing that the United Nations Conventions against organized crime and corruption remained the cornerstones of the fight, he urged all States to accede to them as soon as possible. It was important that the conventions have robust follow-up mechanisms, he added. While there was no doubt that criminal groups would continue to feed off instability, poverty and weak governance, they could be constrained and defeated through resolute efforts to bolster criminal and judicial institutions. The aim must be to reduce the threats by working to ensure that the risks to organized criminals far outweighed the benefits of any profits they might make.
U. JOY OGWU ( Nigeria) noted the timeliness of today’s meeting, following as it did the release of the 2011 World Drug Report. Illicit drug trafficking, cultivation, processing and abuse were rising unrelentingly in Africa, thwarting the continent’s development efforts. Other regions continued to exploit the under-resourced law-enforcement capacities of Africa, which had become a major warehouse and transit point for cocaine and other drugs. They threatened productive work, development and peacebuilding, she said.
She agreed with the Secretary-General that the World Drug Report painted a sober picture of the global drug situation, showing that traditional drug use was now being replaced by the use of synthetic and designer drugs. Confronting the global drug problem was a shared responsibility, she said, stressing that international collaboration, building regional capacity, reinforcing criminal-justice systems and cross-cutting, cross-boundary strategies would increase the scope and strength of the international response. Pointing to regional efforts in Africa, she said there were plans to expand them.
DAVID DUNN (United States), recalling the 200,000 people annual death rate cited in the 2011 World Drug Report, said that defeating the impact of illicit drugs would require transnational efforts. In the last several years, the international community had been on the right track, he said, noting that it had made implementation of the three United Nations drug-control Conventions a priority. He said his country was doing its part, recalling that in 2010, the United States had given $34 million in support of UNODC programmes, and was committed to continuing that support in 2011. It would give $500 million to the Government of Mexico to pay for equipment, training and expertise to combat that country’s drug problem. The United States was also committed to helping Central American nations through the Central American Citizen Security Partnership, and supported regional efforts such as the Paris Pact Initiative. The United States was pleased to be one of first countries to be reviewed under the new United Nations Convention against Corruption peer review mechanism, he said.
ZAHEER LAHER ( South Africa) said the drug and crime problem remained an immediate and pressing threat to many people around the world, noting that illicit drug trafficking and the criminal activities often surrounding it undermined stability and development. South Africa supported the priority areas set out in the UNODC Executive Director’s briefing, he said, adding that there were several key Africa-based examples of how coordinated actions could yield wider benefits. They included the strategy against piracy off the coast of Somalia, and the Kimberley Process aimed at curbing the trade in “rough diamonds”. Expressing hope that the programme for Southern Africa would help the subregion tackle illicit drug trafficking and organized crime, he called for a comprehensive and integrated approach that included countries of origin, transit and destination.
JOSÉ FILIPE MORAES CABRAL ( Portugal) said transnational organized crime, with its serious political and institutional implications, called for a scaled-up and better-organized approach by the international community. The Council must ensure that United Nations peacekeeping missions were better prepared to address threats posed by organized crime and that the institutions they were helping to build on the ground were resistant to crime and corruption. It was also necessary for all States to address issues that provided fertile ground for criminal networks to operate, including corruption, lagging development and porous borders. It would not be easy to combat organized criminal networks because they had enormous cash reserves, he said, pointing out that many had developed close relationships with non-State actors and armed groups bent on destabilizing national institutions and Governments.
CHRISTOPHE EICK (Germany) said his delegation shared the global concern over the impact of drug abuse and drug trafficking on socio-economic development and politics, particularly in West Africa, Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Many countries lacked efficient capacity to prevent the trafficking and use of drugs, and it was essential to help them improve their drug-control capacity. Noting that the violent activities of illegal armed groups and criminals were in some cases linked to those of terrorists, he said they undermined State authority and threatened to undermine joint efforts to build peace in Africa, notably Guinea-Bissau and Sierra Leone. The fight against organized crime and drug trafficking was also important for peacebuilding, he said. Welcoming the recent International Conference on Support for the Central American Security Strategy, held in Guatemala City, he said his country supported that and other regional and international mechanisms, including G-8 (Group of Eight) initiatives.
LI BAODONG (China), noting that drug production and smuggling were increasingly interwoven with transnational terrorism and international organized crime, said the international community should implement a comprehensive, balanced drug-control strategy. It must tackle illicit drug supply and demand, he added, emphasizing that drug-consuming, producing and transit countries must work in earnest to tackle the scourge. It was necessary to promote alternative economies in developing countries to replace the drug trade, and to provide them with the financial support needed to do so. China welcomed the creation of the United Nations Commission on Drugs and Transnational Organized Crime to consolidate efforts and work in synergy.
NAWAF SALAM ( Lebanon) said illicit drug trafficking and the associated violence was now connecting some of the world’s richest and poorest countries in a deadly struggle against ruthless, well-financed criminal networks. The fight required universal adherence to United Nations anti-drug and anti-crime treaties, which must be implemented in full. It also required firm commitment by all Member States, including through building resilient institutions and strengthening the rule of law, a task in which the United Nations had an important role to play. At the same time, it was clear that national strategies alone could not solve all the problems, he said. It was therefore necessary to strengthen international collaboration and promote regional strategies and actions. Such a collaborative response required joint initiatives that would include countries of origin, transit and destination. The United System Task Force on transnational organized crime was a good first step towards mainstreaming the issue into the wider United Nations development agenda, and Lebanon looked forward to integrating it into its poverty-reduction initiatives.
IVAN BARBALIĆ (Bosnia and Herzegovina) said the tentacles of organized crime reached deep into societies and spread across borders. “Obviously no country can stand alone in this fight; it must be fought on an internal/national and an international front,” he said, stressing that fragile countries needed to adopt a proactive approach in developing an institutional framework. That could be followed by the implementation of repressive measures to halt criminal activities, he said. On a broader scale, countries must share responsibility for fighting crime at the regional and international levels, especially drug trafficking, since it had the greatest impact on peace and security. The international community must re-invigorate its efforts in applying preventive activities, strengthening institutional frameworks and the rule of law, and promoting cooperation between Member States, the United Nations and other international organizations.
BÉATRICE LE FRAPER DU HELLEN (France) said the money derived from organized crime and drug trafficking funded armed groups and criminal networks, whose operational capacity now surpassed the law-enforcement capacities of many countries. Noting the Council’s concern over the increasing numbers of criminal networks in Guinea-Bissau, he also called for stronger global and regional cooperation to address heroin trafficking in Afghanistan, where clashes between criminal networks had cost hundreds of lives and displaced thousands of people. More cross-cutting attention was needed in assessing threats and putting strategies in place to combat them, he said. Since criminal groups could easily adapt, there was a need for stronger efforts at all levels to combat them. Last month in Paris, he recalled, ministers from Europe, the United States and elsewhere had met to hammer out strategies to combat transatlantic cocaine trafficking. Their action plan aimed to improve intelligence capacity through stronger information-sharing among States, bolster maritime cooperation and ensure stronger criminal justice mechanisms, among other things.
NÉSTOR OSORIO (Colombia) said that, according to UNODC, more and more people of different nationalities in Europe were falling victim to transnational organized crime, while the most important flows of the trafficking of migrants were from Latin America to North America and from Africa to Europe. The United Nations estimated that trafficking in persons in Europe generated $3 billion annually, while the trafficking of migrants from South America to North America produced $7 billion annually. Although the value of the illicit traffic in small arms globally was a mere fraction of the $53 million made in the legal trade, it imposed an incalculable cost on human life worldwide, which confirmed the need for effective measures and mechanisms to strengthen international cooperation in combating transnational organized crime.
Council President NELSON MESSONE (Gabon), speaking in his national capacity, welcomed recent UNODC initiatives to address the multifaceted threats posed by transnational crime. They undermined development and hampered peacebuilding in fragile States. They increasingly eroded social fabrics as criminal actors began increasingly to take advantage of new technologies to ply their deadly, disruptive trade, he said, calling for coordinated international action to bolster the rule of law, as well as judicial and criminal institutions in all countries.
Mr. FEDOTOV, taking the floor once again, thanked all Council members for their support, including financial contributions, noting that while the financial situation was not easy, UNODC was grateful for the support. “Still, for the foreseeable future we will have to depend on voluntary contributions; that is just a fact of life.” He said he was pleased that Council members had cited the need for a coordinated fight against drug lords and criminal networks, and encouraged that the Council was prepared to help bolster national-level judicial and criminal-justice institutions, as well as to increase the focus on victims of illicit drugs and human trafficking. UNODC was working with many regional organizations and looked forward to further cooperation in Afghanistan and elsewhere, he said, welcoming the recent launch of a peer review mechanism under the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.
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