16 April 2009

UN Commission Assesses Growing Threat of Organized Crime to Security

VIENNA, 16 April (UN Information Service) - The United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice opened its 18th session today amid a rising wave of organized crime. The Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Antonio Maria Costa, warned that "crime has gone global" and "poses a security threat to cities, nations and entire regions".

This Session, which runs from 16 to 24 April, addresses world crime trends and responses at a time of an unprecedented rise in organized crime. As Mr. Costa pointed out in his opening remarks, drug cartels are spreading violence in Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean. West Africa is under attack from narco-trafficking. Collusion between insurgents and criminal groups threatens the stability of West Asia, the Andes and parts of Africa, fuelling the trade in smuggled weapons, the plunder of natural resources and piracy. Kidnapping is rife from the Sahel to the Andes, while human trafficking has spread throughout the world. Some city neighbourhoods have been overrun by gangs, while cyber-crime and economic fraud threaten citizens and states.

The Executive Director of UNODC predicted that this situation would worsen as a result of the financial crisis, although he said that there could be a silver lining: an end to bank secrecy, tax havens, as well as regulation and compliance failure.

Mr. Costa said that the blueprints for dealing with this challenge already exist, like the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the United Nations Convention against Corruption. But "implementation has been patchy, there is almost no information on world crime, and efforts to fight crime have been disjointed". As a result, he said, "countries face a crime situation of their own making". He urged countries to use this crisis "to change the way we fight crime and corruption".

"The political will of States is mightier than the greed and firepower of criminal groups", he said. He urged greater international cooperation to fight organized crime, saying "working together does not mean surrendering sovereignty, it means defending it".

During the current session, in addition to reviewing ways to prevent crime and strengthen criminal justice, the 40-member Commission will hold thematic debates on economic fraud and identity-related crime as well as penal reform and the reduction of prison overcrowding.

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For further information, please contact:

Walter Kemp
Spokesman and Speechwriter, UNODC
Telephone: (+43-1) 26060-5629
Mobile: (+43-699) 1459-5629
Email: walter.kemp@unodc.org