For information only - not an official document.
Press Release No: UNIS/NAR/693
Release Date: 8 August 2000
UN to Target Organized Crime

 VIENNA, 8 August (UN Information Service) — Organized crime, once a national problem for a number of countries, more and more forms the dark side of globalization, reaching across continents and exploiting today’s open borders and high technology. With astronomical profits from an ever-evolving set of activities, it has seemed unbeatable. The United Nations member states want to change that.

With unprecedented swiftness, a committee with the participation of 120 countries has forged a new treaty that could close the major loopholes that allow organized crime to flourish and that block international efforts to combat it. The treaty is intended to serve as a blueprint for countries to improve their systems to shut down international criminal organizations, eliminate “safe havens”, protect witnesses and block money laundering.

The treaty — to be known as The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime  — will be sent to the General Assembly for formal adoption at its Millennium meeting in November. It will be opened for signature at a high-level conference in Palermo, Italy from 12 to 15 December, as the first legally binding UN instrument in the field of crime. 

The final draft defines organized criminal groups as structured groups of three or more people acting in concert to commit one or more serious crimes for material benefit. Signatories would be required to establish in their domestic laws four criminal offences:
- participation in an organized criminal group;
- money laundering;
- corruption; and
- obstruction of justice.

The new instrument spells out how countries can improve cooperation on such matters as extradition, mutual legal assistance, transfer of proceedings and joint investigations. It contains provisions for victim and witness protection and shielding legal markets from infiltration by organized criminal groups. Parties would provide technical assistance to developing countries to help them take the necessary measures and upgrade their capacities for dealing with organized crime.

Provision in the treaty for regular monitoring of countries’ compliance is evidence of the international community’s willingness to use the convention as the main tool for fighting transnational crime.

“In agreeing on this unified draft, the world community is freeing itself of the decades-old losing approach of trying to address international crime with local solutions”, said Pino Arlacchi, Executive Director of the UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (ODCCP) in announcing the breakthrough. “We can now affirm that the tide is turning on cross-border crime.”

The ad hoc committee which prepared the text is also preparing three draft protocols by which countries would undertake in-depth measures to combat trafficking in women and children, migrants and illicit arms.

With interlinked gangs moving some 4 million people every year as human cargo, the annual earnings from trafficking in “human cargo” has reached $5 to 7 billion, but the UN says the enterprise is “undercriminalized”. The protocols on trafficking in human beings new forms of slavery and on smuggling of illegal migrants are intended to beef up and internationalize efforts to stem these practices.

The third protocol would commit parties to setting controls on the illicit manufacture and sale of firearms, which have been playing an increasing role in civilian violence, terrorism and organized crime.

For further information, contact:
Sandro Tucci, Spokesman
UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention
Tel. (43-1) 26060 5629

For the text of the draft convention visit the ODCCP web site at

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