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Ministry Statements and Speeches 2012

Thematic Debate of the 66th session of The United Nations General Assembly on Drugs and Crime as a Threat to Development

Introductory comments by HE Jim McLay, Permanent Representative, New Zealand Permanent Mission to the United Nations, 26 June2012

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen

On behalf of the President of the General Assembly, the Group of Friends in Support of UNODC’s efforts in the fight against drugs and crime, and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, I am pleased to welcome you to Interactive Panel II, “Challenges in mainstreaming crime prevention into development initiatives, and ways of improving the international community’s coordinated efforts to address crime’s adverse impact on development.”

This afternoon’s panel session will focus on five themes:

Following presentations by the panellists, the floor will be open to delegates and other participants to pose questions and to share their experience and perspectives. We are particularly honoured to have with us today Ministers and others who have come from capitals to participate in this timely and important debate. 

We have asked all the panellists to speak briefly and have kept the number of panellists to a minimum to allow sufficient time for engagement from the floor in what we hope will be a rich and robust interactive discussion.  I do ask that you limit your interventions to a maximum of three minutes. Although there will be no established list of speakers, with your indulgence, I will give some preference to those Ministers who have joined us from afar.

Ladies and Gentlemen

Over the past decade, there has been significant growth in organised crime and illicit trafficking. While such activity has long been with us, both the scale and the geographic scope of the current challenge are unprecedented.  In 2009, the value of illicit trade around the globe was estimated at US$ 1.3 trillion and is increasing.   To put these figures into perspective – if this was translated into national GDP terms, this illicit trade would have constituted the 14th largest economy in the world in 2011, larger than that of Mexico or the Republic of Korea and more than 80 times the GDP of my own country, New Zealand.

Given the scale and scope of this menace few, if any, countries are exempt.  In all cases, criminal influence and money are having a significant impact on the livelihoods and quality of life of citizens, most particularly the poor, women and children.

It is now widely acknowledged that criminal networks have a strongly negative impact on sustainable development in countries where they are strong and active.  Their presence and activities deter investment, both domestic and foreign, in legitimate economic activity.  They can erode the capacity and integrity of core state institutions – notably, those institutions on which development prospects depend, and can undermine the delivery of essential services.  Where they intersect with factors driving instability and conflict they can significantly undermine the security conditions necessary for achieving sustainable development.

All of which led the 2005 World Summit to express “grave concern at the negative effects on development posed by transnational crime, including the smuggling of and trafficking in human beings, and the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons.”  The General Assembly has reiterated this concern and noted the increasing vulnerability of states to such crime in Resolution 66/181 (Strengthening the UN Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Programme).

The UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) and its protocols on human trafficking, migrant smuggling and trafficking of firearms, as well as the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), make up the key framework for a strategic response; calling on State Parties to take “into account the negative effects of organized crime on society in general, in particular on sustainable development”, and “to alleviate the factors that make persons, especially women and children, vulnerable to trafficking, such as poverty, underdevelopment and lack of equal opportunity.”

Concerted action is being taken at the global and regional level to strengthen cooperation and provide assistance to address this menace.  The role of international expert bodies such as UNODC, INTERPOL and the World Customs Organisation, in supporting this global agenda and in providing technical assistance is indispensable.

Regional organisations also have an important role to play.  In my own region, the Pacific, these efforts take place within a framework provided by the Pacific Islands Forum and associated institutions, with the Pacific Islands Chiefs of Police and the Oceania Customs Organisations making particularly significant contributions. 

Despite these efforts, many experts believe we are losing the battle against transnational organised crime.  The threat such networks continue to pose to peace, security and prosperity in many states and regions of the world is now indisputable.   Where such networks are particularly strong, or where local governments are notably fragile, transnational criminal actors have the potential to become firmly entrenched, and even to challenge the pre-eminent authority of the state.

Today’s discussions are, therefore, both timely and requiring of our urgent priority attention.  As we move towards taking stock of the Millennium Development Goals in 2015, there is a growing recognition that organised crime is a major impediment to their achievement.  This debate seeks to unite Member States, the UN System, international organizations, and civil society in common endeavour and to emphasise the value of a comprehensive approach and inclusive international partnerships in effectively fighting crime and drugs to facilitate achievement of the MDGs.  

The outcome of the debate will include a President’s Summary, to be transmitted to the 13th United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, to be held in Doha in 2015 - the main theme of which shall be “Integrating crime prevention and criminal justice into the wider United Nations agenda to address social and economic challenges and to promote the rule of law at the national and international levels, and public participation.”

And now I am pleased to give the floor to our distinguished moderator, Mr. Yury Fedotov, Executive-Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. Mr. Fedotov you have the floor.

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Page last updated: Wednesday, 09 January 2013 14:49 NZDT