30 April 2004
United Nations Drugs and Crime Chief Stresses Importance of Crime Prevention for Development Activities
VIENNA, 30 April (UN Information Service) -- Crime today is unprecedented, both in magnitude and in manifestation, said Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), at the opening session of a two-day international conference Governance and the Politics of Development in Vatican City, Rome, today.
Mr. Costa cited corruption, as the most malignant criminal offence that causes losses of over US$ one trillion to legitimate businesses annually, thus becoming a big enemy of development; drug trafficking that turns the misery of millions of people into lavish life-styles for the criminal intermediaries who cash in over US$ 200 billion a year; trafficking in human beings as the modern form of slavery with one million people a year trafficked annually; and, finally, terrorism, with thousands of innocent lives lost for the crazy goals of a few madmen.
Failed governments, mass poverty, income inequality, corrupt behaviour and armed conflict have become a weapon and shield for criminals, traffickers and terrorists, Mr. Costa said. They have turned contemporary public goods -- for example, the globalization of activity, market deregulation, privatization, hi-tech communication and rapid transportation -- into public bads.
Mr. Costa presented evidence of the evolution of major crime groups into complex networks, with activities in many countries, taking advantage of open markets and of governments different levels of commitment and readiness to combat them.
Speaking about the need for a global response to this global challenge through increased international governance, Mr. Costa stressed the importance of the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organized Crime and the recently adopted Convention against Corruption. Most importantly -- he said -- there was a need for society as a whole, from families and schools to places of faith, to confront the threat facing it.
Civil society cannot surrender to the notion that these social malaises are unavoidable because they are so widely spread and part of the modern world, yet, law enforcement is not the only answer to anti-social behaviours. Even more important are preventive measures, especially keeping our youth away from drugs, crime and terrorism, Mr. Costa said. If the billions of dollars spent on law enforcement against organized crime (and terrorism) were actually invested in prevention and development, perhaps most of the tragedies above would be avoided -- and the billions of dollars spent on police enforcement would not be needed after all.
* *** *