Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice

18th Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice

Opening Statement of the United States of America
Delivered by Elizabeth Verville, Deputy Assistant Secretary,
Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs,
U.S. Department of State

Thank you, Mr. Chairman for the opportunity to provide remarks, and let me begin by congratulating you, and the other member of the Bureau on their election.

Mr. Chairman, the United States comes to this Commission with a renewed commitment to pursue anti-crime efforts through multilateral engagement. President Obama’s foreign policy agenda calls for a new era of international cooperation that strengthens old partnerships and builds new ones to confront the common challenges of the 21st Century. Building such cooperation is critical to our international anti-crime efforts. Just yesterday, our Secretary of State called for an expanded multilateral response to counter the scourge of piracy off the Somali coast.

As part of this dialogue among nations, the Commission affords an important opportunity for Member States to undertake a periodic review or stocktaking of our achievements and shortcomings in our efforts to address challenges of combating transnational crime, particularly as we prepare for next year’s Crime Congress.

Looking back over the past several years, the highest priority for our anti-crime work has been to begin the process of implementation of the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocols as well as the UN Convention against Corruption. This includes the promotion of widest possible accession and increased utilization of the framework that the Conventions provide for mutual legal assistance and extradition, as well as steps to establish effective review mechanisms and use of their provisions, including asset recovery. The United States and other countries have provided technical assistance and expertise through UNODC, in other fora, and bilaterally to promote effective implementation. The statements this morning from the Executive Director and Regional Groups and members have reinforced this highest priority to effectively implement the Conventions, and the Commission must continue to foster the political will to achieve these goals.

The Commission, working with UNODC, has also worked to further refine standards and norms in several important crime prevention and criminal justice areas. And we have improved our utilization of the Crime Commission for expert and focused discussion on thematic topics that are of particular concern to Member States and which we believe will benefit from in-depth examination. We have also begun to use the Commission to openly discuss how we can work better together and strengthen UNODC’s operations.

All of these activities mentioned above revolve around three common elements: (1) establishing clear commitments to take common action; (2) establishing the broadest possible international consensus around our commitments; and (3) dedicating technical assistance to help countries take such action.

Mr. Chairman, Member States, as well as our friends and colleagues at the UNODC: the United States believes our future anti-crime priorities should capture these three elements. They should build on our past achievements.

We should also begin a discussion of how we can better pursue these priorities together. We have a couple of suggestions in this regard.

First, our achievements remind us that the work of the Crime Commission and the work of its related treaty bodies need to complement and reinforce each other to have maximum impact and effectiveness. The Crime Commission serves the useful purpose of regularly bringing Member States together to discuss pressing issues of the day and to generate ideas for future cooperation. The Commission can support more humble and behind-the-scenes technical and expert work that goes into helping countries take action to address various types of transnational crime.

Moreover, we can do more at the Commission to develop useful synergies by recognizing the relevance between the work of the Crime Commission and the work of the treaty bodies that play an important role in promoting implementation of our core anti-crime commitments. There are instances in which the Conferences of Parties could beneficially consider particular topics that have been discussed at the Commission. For example, one of this year’s thematic debate topics is identity-related crime and economic fraud. A number of UNTOC provisions and tools could prove valuable in combating this serious crime – among them, provisions dealing with extradition, mutual legal assistance, confiscation of criminal proceeds, liability of legal persons, conspiracy, accomplice liability, and special investigation techniques. We should share our thinking and insights in the Commission on these issues with the Conference of the Parties, and work together to find synergies between the issues and policies discussed at the Commission, and the desire to take action on those issues at the Conference of Parties.

I believe we can encourage and promote such synergies between the Commission and the treaty bodies in a way that respects their respective authorities and mandates of the Conferences of Parties for implementation and careful review of the anti-crime treaties. We can support this role but not intrude on it.

Second, we should continue to build on the success the Commission achieved in engaging its membership in more regular dialogue through the Working Group on Finance and Governance. The draft resolution before this Commission seeks to endorse the Working Group as a standing vehicle to promote more frequent consultations between UNODC and all Member States. To this end, it will be important for the Working Group to engage in continuing interactive dialogue, rather than fall back into negotiating recommendations or some type of outcome document. The United States remains supportive, and believes this process could be a beneficial one to making our work — and, consequently, the work of UNODC, both in the anti-crime and anti-drug areas – more effective for the coming decade.

Looking forward, we must also recognize the serious financial crisis facing all of us today. UNODC is not immune. The organization is already looking at ways to streamline internal operations, while at the same time maintain its effectiveness as an assistance provider. We – as the Commission – have the responsibility to set goals. However, during this time of fiscal austerity, the Commission must avoid overtaxing UNODC. Donors should examine what they can do to alleviate the financial strain. For its part, the United States is committed to maintaining its level of general purpose funds in 2009 and identifying creative ways to support our priority work, while at the same time providing necessary flexibility to UNODC.

Turning to the present Commission, we are pleased to see several important issues and perspectives being showcased this year. We look forward to tomorrow’s expert discussions relating to identity theft and economic fraud, and invite Member States and others to attend a U.S.-sponsored side event tomorrow at 2:00 PM on the perspective of victims to these types of crime. We look forward to the expert discussions on prison reform, and are pleased to see that the Commission – through side events and a potential Thailand-sponsored resolution that addresses women in prisons – will maintain a focus on the unique perspective of women and crime. The results of our discussions will be looked at with high interest in Washington. We also invite Member States and others to attend a side event that we are planning for next Wednesday at 2:00 PM on recent exciting developments in U.S. efforts to counter trafficking in forest products.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and we look forward to a productive Commission.