Less Crime for More Development PDF Print E-mail
The shaping of policy at UNODC (2002-2010)

Posted: 18 April 2008

Photo: UNODC/Thomas HaileyBeing called the Office on "drugs and crime" is pretty sinister. It says what we are against, not what we are for. We are known as being the centre of the UN's fight against "uncivil society", and for battling the "dark side of globalization". But I would prefer to tell people what we are in favour of, namely security and justice for all.

We are half way through the 15 year period of implementing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The rule of law is not one of those goals, and yet without it they will be hard to reach. 

Economic analysis has consistently shown that weak rule of law leads to weak socio-economic performance:  in countries ravaged by crime and corruption, and where governments have lost control of their land, the poor suffer the most, and the services provided to them get delayed, or never arrive. The poorest -- the so-called "bottom billion" -- have no access to justice, health and education and face rising food prices: how can such countries meet the MDGs?

Poorly-governed crime-ridden countries are the most vulnerable to crime, and pay the highest price in terms of erosion of social and human capital, loss of domestic savings, reduction of foreign investment, white-collar exodus, increased instability, and faltering democracy. That is why UNODC is urging states to strengthen the rule of law, not only as a noble end in itself, but also as a means of achieving the MDGs.

One example is violence against women. At least one out of every three women is likely to be beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime. Women aged 15-44 are more at risk from rape and domestic violence than from cancer, motor accidents, war and malaria. Stronger legal measures and responses that will make women feel safer, guarantee equal access to justice, and address their special needs would go a long way towards promoting gender equality and empowering women (which is MDG number 3).

Another example, the environment. Taking tougher legal action to stop illegal logging, bio-piracy, and the dumping of hazardous waste would contribute to ensuring environmental sustainability (MDG number 7). So too would addressing urban crime, not least for the millions of people around the world who live in slums.

Reducing the threat posed by crime can help eradicate extreme poverty (MDG number 1). UNODC research has shown how instability caused by drugs and crime, for example in Africa, the Balkans, Caribbean or Central America, has an impact on development, and vice versa. For example, we have estimated that Haiti and Jamaica could double their annual economic growth if they brought their homicide rates down to the level of Costa Rica.

There is a perverse irony though. Reducing crime means investing in security and justice. Where budgets are tight, this may mean taking resources from ministries that promote development (like education and health). In one West African country which is under attack from drug traffickers, last year alone the amount of money spent on border security and crime fighting was equivalent to those needed to build 600 schools and health centres. That is why development aid and technical assistance are vital.   

In order to reach the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, we have to eliminate impediments to development - and one of the biggest is crime. That is why UNODC, in the spirit of "One UN", works with states and international partners to promote development by achieving security and justice for all.



Last Updated on Thursday, 20 January 2011 11:09