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Transnational Organized Crime and Corruption

Transnational Organized Crime and Corruption

Elizabeth Verville, Special Representative to the 11th UN Congress on Crime
Prevention and Criminal Justice
Statement by the United States During the High-Level Segment of the 11th UN
Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice
Bangkok, Thailand
April 24, 2005

Thank you Mr. Chair. On behalf of the United States, I would like to thank our Thai hosts and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) for the hard work and preparation that went into this meeting, and in particular, I would like to thank the Royal Thai Government for making us feel so welcome as guests in their beautiful capital.

Since the last Crime Congress, the international community has moved towards a global consensus on necessary tools to protect our societies and citizens from the harm of transnational crime and corruption. We have developed ground breaking conventions and protocols that provide us with comprehensive approaches to combat these threats, as well as frameworks for cooperation to work together against all serious crimes. Three of these Conventions and protocols are already in force and the remaining instruments are nearing entry-into-force.

The United States believes that this Congress can be proud of these achievements; however, it is not enough to have concluded these instruments. We must ensure their effective implementation. The United States is keenly aware that overcoming the evolving threats of transnational crime and corruption is essential to promote international security, democratic stability, and economic development in the 21st century. Thus our first priority must be to cooperate to transform these instruments from documents into practical reality. This cannot be done overnight, but the process is underway. We believe this Congress should resolve to intensify efforts to complete this process.

The United States strongly supports meaningful programs that promote effective implementation of the Conventions. Since 2002, the United States has provided approximately $55 million to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, a portion of which has been specifically earmarked to promote ratification and implementation of the Conventions. Other countries have also contributed, and we hope their number will increase. The United States is committed to effective implementation as our highest priority.

Ultimately, all of us will be judged not by what we say in meetings like this, but by what we achieve in practical efforts that make a real difference in the lives of our fellow citizens. We have a real chance to do that now as we move to ratify and implement the Conventions. We need to ensure that our efforts remain focused on concrete accomplishments.

Organized criminal interests possess a universal tendency to corrupt political institutions and undermine democratic accountability in states which they operate. The United States has worked with our fellow member states, the United Nations, and other international organizations to meet these challenges. Together, we have worked to develop innovative legal mechanisms, training, and technical assistance programs and to enhance the capacities of criminal justice systems and law enforcement agencies.

There is a long list of subsets of transnational organized crime, many that we have discussed at length over the course of this Congress. One particularly odious form is trafficking in persons. The United States has accelerated its response to this challenge at home, and we are actively fighting it abroad. In 2000, the U.S. Congress passed the Trafficking Victims Protection Act which seeks to ensure just and effective punishment of traffickers and provide for protection of trafficking victims. Those found guilty of trafficking crimes face significantly increased jail time--up to 20 years in prison from the previous maximum of 10 years for many infractions, and up to life imprisonment in certain circumstances.

Internationally, the U.S. Department of State has committed approximately $106 million over the past four years to provide training and assistance for foreign government officials, victims' service providers, and international organizations in order to raise awareness. The U.S. Government as a whole has provided close to $295 million in anti-trafficking foreign programming in that period. Such assistance is helping governments pass anti-trafficking legislation, identify and prosecute traffickers, and prevent trafficking, as well as supporting non-governmental organizations in providing care to at-risk populations and trafficking victims.

The United States also provides financial support to the anti-trafficking efforts of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. Over the last three years, we have provided nearly $1.6 million to UNODC to combat human trafficking. We are currently discussing with UNODC and the Indian Government a significant financial contribution to develop an anti-trafficking law enforcement training program. Our Departments of State, Justice, and Homeland Security plan to travel to India next month to further develop this program proposal.

Cybersecurity is also rising to the top of concerns of the international community, as criminals attempt to exploit information technology to harm our nations' citizens. To address the rise in "high tech" or "cyber" crimes, the United States has offered a broad range of training and technical assistance. Within the last four years, the U.S. Department of Justice has trained over 50 countries on cybersecurity, including training on the development of adequate cybercrime laws. With our assistance, at least six countries have obtained, or are in the process of obtaining, reviews of draft or revised legislation to address new crimes or old crimes in new forms. On this issue, the United States is strongly committed to assisting nations to detect, investigate, prosecute, and prevent cybercrimes, and to enhance cybersecurity. We expect to continue increasing our resources to promote this end.

While a list of all transnational crimes is too long to enumerate, nearly all have one thing in common their perpetrators need to disguise the illicit proceeds so that the money appears to be legal.

The United Nations Global Programme against Money Laundering, through its unique mentoring program, has been very effective in developing comprehensive anti-money laundering regimes capable of thwarting terrorist financing. It has demonstrated an unparalleled ability to locate world-renowned experts and send them to countries or regions where they spend a year or more in assisting in the development of such anti-money laundering regimes including the establishment of Financial Intelligence Units. The program complements bilateral and regional anti-money laundering training and assistance provided by the United States, as well as many of the existing international anti-money laundering commitments.

The energy, innovation, and effectiveness of the Global Programme against Money Laundering and its willingness to work cooperatively with member states and other multilateral organizations deserve special mention. The United States is pleased to announce that we will be continuing these efforts by contributing additional funding to the program in fiscal year 2005. We urge other countries to join with us in supporting this unique program.

The UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime codifies many of the most effective law enforcement and crime prevention strategies currently in existence into international law--a great achievement of which we can all be proud. The United States is very pleased to offer its technical and financial support to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime as it works to promote the ratification and implementation of the Convention internationally, as well as its supplementary protocols on trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants.

At the same time, universal ratification and implementation of the 12 legal instruments to combat terrorism are integral parts of the international community's efforts to develop an effective global counter-terrorism capacity. The U.S. Government supports the efforts of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the UN Security Council to urge all States, as a matter of urgency, to become party to and adopt these international conventions and protocols. To this end, the United States welcomes and provides financial support to the efforts of UNODC's Terrorism Prevention Branch in assisting countries to successfully adopt the counter-terrorism instruments. The United States also welcomes the UN General Assembly's unanimous adoption of the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.

In October 2003, approximately 130 countries from around the world successfully concluded the United Nations Convention against Corruption. This Convention represents the most comprehensive set of international commitments, to date, for fighting corruption and has the potential to greatly enhance international cooperation and action against corrupt actors. The United States welcomes the efforts of UNODC and our international partners to support universal implementation of this important instrument.

Almost every government in this room contributed to the two-year effort that gave life to the Convention against Corruption. We must work even harder at home to give life to the Convention commitments. Political will to fight corruption does not sustain itself. It is something that needs nurturing, but is also easily energized by decisive action and the support of civil society and the local and international community.

Through the fostering of a culture of lawfulness, governments with political will and motivated civil society can nurture the "popular will" needed to sustain the fight against corruption. I would like to draw your attention to the Culture of Lawfulness education initiative that addresses this issue. The Culture of Lawfulness education program targets those most vulnerable to accepting a culture of corruption--our young citizens. Increasing young peoples' knowledge of and sensitivity to criminal activity has been proven to alter cultural attitudes over the long term. Several governments in Central and South America, the Caucasus, and the Middle East have begun to develop and implement a "Culture of Lawfulness" program. The United States strongly believes in this effort and supports it, and we encourage others to incorporate such initiatives into their respective anti-corruption strategies.

Finally, the United States will continue to do its part to support our international partners in efforts to promote greater international cooperation in developing more effective criminal justice institutions, and we look forward to working with the member states here in attendance in pursuit of our common objectives.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak here today.

Released on May 2, 2005


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