|For information only - not an official document.|
|Press Release No: UNIS/DSG/34|
|Release Date: 7 April 2000|
|People Face Unprecedented Challenges Posed by Increasingly Global Criminal World Says Deputy Secretary-General in Vienna Address|
VIENNA, 7 April (UN Information Service) -- Following is the opening address of Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette to the 10th United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders in Vienna on 10 April:
It is a great pleasure to be with you here in Vienna for this 10th United Nations Crime Congress. It is also a great satisfaction to see how many of you are responding, and with such determination, to the United Nations efforts to bring the international community together in the fight against crime.
The United Nations' involvement in the fight against crime is nothing new. Every five years since 1955, the UN has brought together representatives of Governments, professional crime fighters and other stakeholders to share expertise and experience, formulate international guidelines and strengthen technical assistance and other forms of international cooperation. Past congresses have helped to develop many United Nations standards and norms in crime prevention and criminal justice. They have been the driving force behind numerous model treaties. And they have been the conduit through which civil society has joined in the fight against crime.
Today, bringing all partners together is more important than ever, and the reason for this can be summarized in one word: globalization. As borders open up, trade barriers fall and data circulates around the world at the touch of a button, new opportunities abound for increased prosperity, better information and education, and increased involvement of citizens in many areas. We have come to realize that we have a lot to gain by learning to think and act globally.
Unfortunately, some of those who have come to this conclusion are far from being promoters of development, universal learning and civil society activism. They represent, rather, what the Secretary-General has called "uncivil society". They have jumped on the bandwagon of globalization to create transnational criminal networks, and so to boost profits from a wide range of illegal activities.
To them, opening borders mean it is easier to traffic in women and children for forced labour and prostitution, to smuggle drugs and arms, and to escape justice. Open economies mean more businesses to extract bribes from and new shares of illegal markets to be won. Technological progress means new opportunities for child pornography, falsification of documents, and money laundering.
These various forms of crime are on the increase and have acquired new international dimensions. They are often inter-related, because violence, corruption and money laundering are the inevitable accessories to large scale, organized criminal activities. They threaten the fundamental rights of individuals, the interests of legitimate market operators, and the development and stability of entire countries.
Trafficking in human beings, in particular women and children, is among the most odious, but also among the most flourishing forms of transnational crime. Each year, against a backdrop of poverty, thousands of women and girls are lured or coerced from their homelands and forced into prostitution; many more children are kidnapped and sold abroad into virtual slavery. Needless to say, their most basic human rights are trampled underfoot. Many victims have their passports taken from them, are locked up and tortured, or become infected with HIV. Worst of all, they are often stigmatized and prosecuted, while traffickers go free.
Other, newer forms of crime, from fraud and computer sabotage to dealing in child pornography, use the Internet to bypass state frontiers. Electronic commerce will soon - if it does not already - provide new ways of transferring goods or money to launder the proceeds of crime. Misuses of new technology bring with them unprecedented challenges for law enforcement officials and legislators, who struggle to keep abreast of highly specialized criminals and grapple with incredibly complex jurisdictional and legal issues.
Corruption is yet another major concern for the international community and the United Nations. Undermining confidence in political institutions, it is a cancer that weakens democracy. Robbing people of what is rightfully theirs and scaring away investors, it is the enemy of a healthy economy. In developing countries, it discourages donors, who can't trust that their aid will reach those it is supposed to benefit. All these factors, especially when combined, have disastrous effects on the stability and prosperity of societies.
Finally, there is the vicious circle of conflict and crime. Parallel economies, arms trafficking and other types of smuggling flourish in times of war, often providing the warring parties with the very means they need to keep the fighting going. Most of this criminal activity is transnational, and it tends to stay behind after the war is over, undermining efforts to restore stability and rebuild strong societies based on solid institutions and legitimate economic activity.
Ladies and gentlemen, the unprecedented challenges posed by the modern, increasingly global criminal world have led to a clear recognition that no country alone can cope successfully with the growth of transnational crime. Issues that were traditionally considered the exclusive preserve of national governments must be addressed in multilateral settings where joint strategies can be agreed upon. If criminals are going global, those fighting them must also launch a global effort and create effective networks of technical, legal and judicial cooperation, or they will always be one step behind. Meetings like this one, and work on instruments such as the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, which you will focus on this week, are definitely steps in the right direction.
Fighting crime in all its forms is of course an end in itself, because the victims are individual human beings - men, women and children who suffer when criminals rob them of their dignity, their basic rights, their possessions, sometimes their health or even their life.
But it is also part of a whole, of what must be a global effort to create a more peaceful and more prosperous world based on shared values of justice, democracy and human rights for all. This is something we can only achieve together. If we cooperate on building effective state institutions, promoting transparency and accountability in the management of public affairs, protecting human rights and ensuring that all citizens have a say in the decisions affecting their lives, we will in the process be doing a great deal to fight crime.
I trust this week will give you ample opportunities to exchange ideas on concrete ways for all of us to step up our work for these objectives. Let me assure you that the United Nations -- in particular the Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention here in Vienna, under the dynamic leadership of Mr. Pino Arlacchi - will continue to be part of your efforts in every possible way. I wish you a very fruitful congress.
|* * * * *|