23 February 2005
UNODC Executive Director Calls for Stronger Law Enforcement in Naples
VIENNA, 23 February (UN Information Service) -- Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), addressed an audience of over 300 students on 17 February at the Instituto Tecnico Industriale G. Ferraris in Naples, where a mafia war has left more than 70 citizens dead since August 2004. Among the victims was a 14-year-old girl, Annalisa Durante, who was gunned down as she chatted with friends outside her home in the neighbourhood of Forcella, Naples.
Mr. Costa was inspired to speak to students at the Instituto after reading stories about the mafia war in Naples. He told the students: "The citizens of Naples have been the real victims of this mafia war. The links between drug trafficking and organized crime are clear, but the killing wont stop, the violence wont end, until authorities are willing to mount a comprehensive and effective response. Its their job to protect you, but if the attitude is in certain areas of Naples, its impossible to eliminate drugs and crime-- nothing is going to change."
Mr. Costa said his goal in addressing the students at the school was to engage the student body in a lively discussion, not a lecture. "I wanted them to learn about the UN, and what we do at UNODC, but I also wanted to learn about them," he said. The Executive Director briefly discussed the UNODC and its mandate, but spent most of his time sharing a positive message about a drug- and crime-free future, and answering questions.
"I wanted the students to understand the negative consequences that organized crime and drugs can have on society, but I quickly discovered they already understand the downside -- they live it every day", said Mr. Costa. "My job, in the end, was to convince them that these situations can be turned around, and that people who live in affected neighbourhoods have a role to play in making that happen."
In Naples, Mr. Costa also visited the Nisida juvenile detention centre, a facility that specialises in helping juvenile inmates to reintegrate into society. Mr. Costa told the young people that their future was still up to them. "The life expectancy of men in Italy is 74 years, but it drops to 37 years for those involved in lives of crime, two-thirds of which will be spent in jail. The choice is in your hands," said Mr. Costa.
Mr. Costas trip to Naples came a day after his visit to Rome, where the UNODC Executive Director signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the National Anti-Mafia Bureau. The MoU is designed to improve the judicial function of the Italian court system in dealing with the prosecution of criminals involved in organized crime, drugs, and human trafficking. The goal of both parties is to enhance the skills of law enforcement officers and prosecutors, and to encourage cooperation between the Bureau and UNODC. The idea of a shared database connected by intranet was also discussed, as was its potential for improving communication and information sharing between the signatories.
While in Rome, Mr. Costa also delivered a speech to the National Counter-Narcotics Agency. Included in those remarks was his call for roadside drug testing to prevent driving under the influence of drugs and reduce fatal car accidents. "These tests would not only have the actual effect of preventing more drug-related deaths on our highways," Mr. Costa told the audience; "experience in other countries has proved random testing also has a deterrent effect -- an achievement compatible with our drug control mandate at UNODC, and reflective of growing anti-drug sentiments in Europe."
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