Background

The Board addressed this item on the basis of a note prepared by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, in consultation with relevant agencies, entitled “Organized crime and corruption are threats to security and development: the role of the United Nations system”, and finalized in the light of HLCP discussions at its last session. The note reviewed the impact of transnational crime in three critical sectors: peace and security; development; and human rights, democracy and good governance. It identified a number of actions for the review of CEB, as well as recommendations for its consideration on a strategic system-wide response to organized crime, building on the work and expertise of concerned agencies. In that regard, it highlighted recent progress in achieving a global consensus on curbing organized crime and corruption through the entry into force of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime with its three Protocols, against trafficking of human beings, smuggling of migrants and trafficking in firearms, respectively, as well as the adoption by the General Assembly, in its resolution 58/4 of 31 October 2003, of the United Nations Convention against Corruption.

The Secretary-General observed that the rise of criminal networks in the wake of globalization, and the link between transnational crime and terrorism, made a concerted response by the United Nations system essential and urgent. It was important to address the issue as an integral element of the work of the United Nations system to achieve peace and sustainable development.

The Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime noted that significant shifts had taken place in recent years, with organized crime taking on truly global proportions, and that measures to curb such activity needed to be global as well as cross-sectoral. Data illustrated these shifts in a variety of commodities, such as drugs, arms, cultural property, flora and fauna and human organs, with markets crossing the divide between the developed and developing world, linking global demand with points of supply. Further, developments in organized criminal activity were closely linked to conflict zones and areas of weak governance, as well as to terrorism.

Discussion

Board members expressed support for the note, underscoring the manifold impact of organized crime on their mandates and activities. Organized crime posed significant threats to the international financial system, the postal system, telecommunications, maritime safety and security, civil aviation, tourism, the environment, intellectual property, and the preservation of cultural heritage, among others things. A link existed between transnational crime and petty and street-level crime, primarily in cities. The suggestion was made that the relationship between city governance and organized crime be assessed and the capacity to develop, coordinate and implement crime prevention mechanisms at the local level be strengthened. In addition, the illicit transfer of hazardous wastes across national borders and the export and use of outdated pesticides in developing countries, noxious consumer goods, as well as of endangered species, were a major source of revenue for criminal organizations. 

Action

The Board endorsed the measures outlined in the note aimed at building an effective system-wide response to curbing transnational crime, both in the short and medium term. They included a set of specific actions for immediate implementation, as well as a series of broader interventions in the short and medium term across the United Nations system, as follows:

For immediate implementation

  • A review by the relevant agencies of the implications of the links between ongoing conflicts and organized crime, taking into consideration the specific areas for action identified in the note;
  • Actions identified in respect of collaborative interventions to counter the trafficking in human beings and the smuggling of migrants, including responding to the vulnerability of trafficking victims to HIV/AIDS, be taken up by the Geneva Migration Group, as appropriate to its mandate;
  • Promotion of multi-agency assessments to determine the extent of involvement of organized criminal activity in the trafficking of the following illicit commodities: small arms and light weapons in conflict zones; nuclear and other radioactive materials, as well as biological and chemical-weapon relevant materials; endangered species, ozone-depleting substances and other commodities outlawed under multilateral environmental agreements; and cultural property;
  • An urgent assessment, drawing on the resources of the relevant agencies, to be conducted of the extent of HIV/AIDS in prisons.

For implementation in the short and medium term

  • Promotion by the agencies of the United Nations system, with due regard to their mandates, of the ratification of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, the signing and entry into force of the United Nations Convention against Corruption, as well as the signing and ratification of other conventions addressing organized criminal activities in various fields;
  • Seeking of the agreement of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime for the development of a United Nations system-wide strategic response to organized crime. Issues that could be built into this strategic response include: mechanisms in which United Nations agencies and other organizations can help to motivate States to ratify the Convention and its Protocols, as well as the Convention against Corruption; and encouraging the Conference of the Parties to develop a multi-year action plan for implementation, including a programme for technical cooperation;
  • Inviting competent organizations outside of the United Nations system to contribute to a further examination of the issues outlined in the note;
  • Development of a cross-agency system for sharing best practices in countering organized crime, with a particular focus on preventive mechanisms, including in the important area of education and awareness-raising;
  • Requesting the United Nations Development Group to consider, as part of its annual work programme, the inclusion of issues of organized crime and corruption in programme planning mechanisms, including in the common country assessment and the United Nations Development Assistance Framework;
  • Contribution by relevant agencies of the United Nations system to the next session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice to be held in Vienna in May 2004, given the fact that the theme of the meeting, “The rule of law and development”, encompassed many of the critical issues outlined in the note;
  • Encouragement of further discussion and analysis of these issues at the Eleventh United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, to be held in Bangkok in April 2005 and, given the importance and urgency of responding to those matters, active participation by agencies of the United Nations system in the discussions at the Congress;
  • Inviting the organizations of the United Nations system to pursue actively and in a collaborative way the programmatic activities set out in the note.