Disrupt criminal markets, not just the mafias High-level meeting of the UN General Assembly on transnational organized crime PDF Print E-mail
UNODC Speeches (2002-2010)



Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,


In the past quarter century, organized crime has gone global.  It has reached macro-economic and armed dimensions to become a threat to the stability of nations. The report on The Globalization of Crime issued today by my office (the UN Office on Drugs and Crime) provides the first comprehensive assessment of global crime markets:  drugs, arms, modern slaves, illicit resources, counterfeits, as well as maritime piracy and cyber-crime. 


The threat is not just economic.  The threat is strategic, as criminals today can influence elections, politicians and the military – in one word, they buy power.


Some governments are unable to resist, as they lack the resourcess. Some others would be able to contain the problem, but show a benign neglect  -- and I have in mind some rich nations.

Regarding the vulnerable countries, nation well meaning but with little means, we should help them fortify their resistance to crime. This requires improving their development and their security. Reaching the Millenium Development Goals would be an effective antidote to crime, that in itself is an obstacle to development. A stronger emphasis on securing justice in peace operations would reduce instability, that is a magnet for crime.


Regarding the rich countries, I recommend greater vigilance:  all illicit flows in our report head north. The world’s biggest economies, namely the G8 and the BRIC countries, are the biggest markets for illicit trade – even if they have the most to lose if organized crime is allowed to manipulate market competition.


Therefore, the greatest challenges is to reduce demand for illicit goods – like reducing vulnerability to human trafficking, improving drug pervention, raising consumer awareness about the origin of products (like the Kimberly process), and getting the private sector to keep illicit goods out of their supply chains.  


Demand – and not only supply, fuels illicit markets. Arresting some traffickers may divert the flows, but it will not shut them off: other criminals will fill the void as long as there is money to be made. Therefore, in addition to disrupting the mafias groups, we need disrupting their markets. 


In also invite you to crack down on the accomplices of crime, white-collar professionals – lawyers, accountants, realtors and bankers – who cover up and launder mafia proceeds.


In closing, I wish to add that, in our inter-connected world, national responses just displace the problem from country to another.  For this very reason, ten years ago – in Palermo – Member States signed the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.


Unfortunately, over the past decade, the treaty has suffered from benign neglect. Since then, crime has internationalized faster than law enforcement and world governance.


I therefore urge you to take more seriously the world’s only crime-fighting instrument. Universal adherence would be a start – also for the 3 Protocols. Some, like the firearms Protocol, are lagging badly.


But it is implementation that counts. A piece of paper will not strike fear into the hearts of the mafia; its implementation will.  The best way to mark the tenth anniversary of the Palermo Convention would be to make progress on an implementation review mechanism that would measure progress and identify needs.


I therefore urge you to send a clear signal from this meeting on the need to strengthen international cooperation to fight crime. And use the Fifth Session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNTOC (this October) to give teeth to the Palermo Convention.


That you for your attention.



17. The complementary role of legal and operational instruments against modern slavery

Introduction to the debate on a UN Global Plan of Action

New York, 19 March, 2010


Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,


My thanks go to the two facilitators, the Ambassador of Portugal and Cape Verde, for their invitation to attend this meeting and their excellent work:  around the world, I’m sure so many grateful victims pray for you.


The legal basis


          Over the years, the Protocol against Trafficking in Persons has created the legal basis for action.  The issue has moved up the political agenda, with the support of the General Assembly, the UN Secretary General and many UN entities. It has caught the attention of the public, and those (media, celebrities) that shape it. This is most important:  success will not depend on bureaucrats, but on society’s willingness to fight modern slavery -- as is happening in equally titanic struggles to contain pandemics, manage the environment and cope with under-development.


Yet, if you ask yourself:  since the Protocol entered into force, has the anti-slavery cause made progress?  Professionally, I simply don’t know!,  and for three reasons.  First, despite our push for universal ratification of the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (of which the anti-trafficking protocol is part), there are still big gaps among both rich and poor countries.  Second, these instruments still do not have a review mechanism to measure what’s happening on the ground, as well as to identify areas for technical assistance.  You can amend this gap: this year, on the tenth anniversary of UNTOC, member states will have a golden opportunity to agree to such mechanism: go for it.  Third, efforts have been disjointed, without a blue-print for action able to induce, not impose coordination.


The operational dimensions


          Legal instruments are necessary, but not sufficient.  An operational platform is thus needed to deal with the many dimensions of the problem:  poverty, marginalization, ignorance, gender violence, child soldiering, conflicts, and the perverse demand for modern slaves’ work.  In fact, this crime goes to the heart of two Millennium Development Goals:  ending poverty and empowering women.


Reaching such goals will be easier if the international community uses clear blue-prints and benchmarks to enable all stakeholders – public and private, UN entities, funding partners, civil society – to make, and measure progress.  Whether this can be achieved by means of a Plan of Action, or in other ways –  is for you you decide.  What matters most is the mobilization of forces on the ground so as to strengthen, not undermine or duplicate, the Protocol of which UNODC is the proud guardian. 


Bonding legal and operational initiatives


Rules of engagement (a legal instrument) without a game (operations) are futile; a game without rules is chaos. With the help of a few questions, I’ll show that concrete operational measures will help you meet the legal obligations you sign up to.  I’ll focus on the Protocol’s 3 “P” (prevention, prosecution and protection).


Let me start with prevention.  You committed to establish a national strategy:

1.      In your campaigns with civil society, information and media, to warn potential victims of the dangers they face, have you linked up with global efforts to raise awareness and discouraged demand?

2.      Poverty, ignorance and lack of opportunity are not legal, but contextual conditions:  did you mobilize funds to alleviate the vulnerability of people?

3.      Law enforcement agencies run networks to exchange information on trafficking routes, traffickers’ and victims’ profiles:  did you plug into them?

4.      Did development institutions channel assistance to vulnerable regions/groups, and did intelligence agencies cooperate to stop transactions?


Regarding prosecution, you must have enacted anti-trafficking laws:

  1. While penalties must be congruent to the severity of the crime, was your judicial system up to the task, or did it need technical assistance?
  2. While distinguishing victims from criminals, did you mobilize international institutions specialized in the protection of women and children?
  3. Would coherence among specialized agencies, help your country, or countries source/destination of your victims, rendered your work easier?


Victim protection requires programs for their physical and social recovery:

1.       Your social workers cannot master the languages of victims coming from the four corners of the world:  did you use the specialized technology now in place to alleviate the suffering? Were these high-tech tools helpful?

  1. Rescued victims require visas, housing and resources to start a new life, as well as compensation.  Did you use specialized philanthropic services?


The Protocol of course is all about governments’ role in fighting slavery:  it says little about the concrete role of individual UN entities and other stakeholders – media and the private sector -- whose involvement and coordination is crucial.  Also the Protocol is silent about the need to collect and share data and information, to calibrate policy.  UNODC 2009 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons was a heroic exercise, but still far from the quality of our analytical works on drugs.


Thank you for your support and for your attention.

Last Updated on Sunday, 04 May 2014 17:39