29 June 2004

“A Milestone” Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Crime Convention Opens in Vienna

VIENNA, 29 June (UN Information Service) -- The inaugural session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime was convened in Vienna from 28 June to 9 July, 2004.

In a message to the Conference, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan noted, “Organized crime is prominent among the new threats to peace and security. It undermines efforts towards sustainable development and respect for the rule of law.”  Moreover, he added, “It was the ‘Vienna Spirit’ that led to the successful conclusion of the negotiations of the Convention and the Protocols. I am confident that that same spirit will be brought to bear on ensuring full implementation. Such implementation can make a real difference to millions of peoples’ lives, and will be an important contribution to saving succeeding generations not only from organized crime itself, but also from the scourge of war and the misery of poverty.”

The Conference elected Victor G. Garcia III, Permanent Representative of the Philippines to the United Nations in Vienna, as its President for the first session. The Conference also elected the representatives of Algeria, China, Cyprus, Ecuador, Guatemala, Nigeria, Norway and Slovakia as the other members of the bureau. Eduardo Vetere, Director of the Division for Treaty Affairs of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), opened the Conference of the Parties on behalf of the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

In his opening remarks, the newly-elected President said that the Organized Crime Convention and its Protocols gave the Conference a broad and challenging mandate. He encouraged the Conference to start looking at and focusing on the best ways to translate this mandate into action during this first session. While the implementation of the instruments must be the responsibility of all governments, he underscored that the international community must rally to fill in the inevitable gaps in capacity, particularly in developing countries, for effective implementation. He urged the Conference to be creative and innovative, as well as to keep an open mind.

“The Conference represents a milestone,” said UNODC’s  Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa in his address at the inaugural session. Recalling the “Spirit of Vienna”, he encouraged the Conference to give serious thought to what would be needed to ensure effective implementation of the instruments and how the Conference would accomplish these goals.

“The question of when to do so can be easily answered:  right now, as organized crime is causing too much pain, destabilizing too many societies and creating an environment prone to corruption,” said Mr. Costa, stressing the importance of technical cooperation to assist those States Parties that are willing to comply with the instruments but do not have the necessary means. He said his Office would remain fully committed to assisting those States. Finally, he reiterated his appeal to those States that had not done so to join the Convention and its Protocols, and in particular the Firearms Protocol, which has not yet entered into force.

The Conference unanimously adopted a comprehensive set of rules of procedure that had been prepared by the Ad Hoc Committee that carried out the negotiations for the Convention and its Protocols.

The first session of the Conference will consider several agenda items, including: mechanisms for achieving the objectives of the Conference of the Parties in accordance with article 32; notification requirements in accordance with the Organized Crime Convention; the Trafficking in Persons Protocol; and the Smuggling of Migrants Protocol.

The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (Palermo Convention) entered into force on 29 September 2003, after receiving its fortieth ratification. As the first global instrument in this area, the Organized Crime Convention and its three supplementing Protocols have received considerable attention and support from the international community. The Organized Crime Convention came into force in only two-and-a-half years, followed by the entry into force of the Protocols against Trafficking in Persons and the Smuggling of Migrants. As of today, there are 79 States Parties to the Organized Crime Convention; 62 to the Trafficking in Persons Protocol; 56 to the Smuggling of Migrants Protocol; and 21 States Parties to the Firearms Protocol. Around 500 participants have registered for attendance.

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