Crime Congress

12th United Nations Crime Congress Salvador, Brazil

High Level Segment Remarks United States of America

As Delivered by Elizabeth Verville, Special Representative for the Secretary of State Head of Delegation

Mr. President, Distinguished Delegates, and other Distinguished Colleagues:

Let me thank the Government of Brazil for being such a generous and gracious host, and for giving us the opportunity to spend time here in beautiful Salvador da Bahia.

It is a pleasure being here with so many notable experts, practitioners, and academics who devote their lives to the field of criminal justice.  As the Congress does not hold official policymaking authority, we have the freedom here to generate ideas and initiate discussions on a wide range of criminal justice topics.  But we should also seize the opportunity, as in past Congresses, to take stock of our work during the past five years and discuss the challenges we will face in the future as we implement our past commitments.

Through our hard work over the past decade, we have brought into force five legally binding UN anti-crime instruments.   Notably, this year marks the 10th anniversary of the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC).   With 154 states parties, the Convention represents the first global instrument designed to curb the advantage criminals seek by crossing borders.  We will also soon celebrate the 5th year anniversary of the entry into force of the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), an event which we recently reinforced by creating a new peer review mechanism to promote and strengthen implementation.

The task before us today is to strengthen and deepen the will to translate the words of these UN Conventions into concrete action.  To help us, we need to develop an effective mechanism to review implementation and promote practical application of the UNTOC and its Protocols.   Our work in the months before the UNTOC Fifth Conference of the Parties will help lay the foundation for progress towards a review mechanism, including by our full participation in the UN General Assembly high-level event set to take place on June 16 in New York.   We hope the contemporaneous treaty event will bring accession of all signatories and others.

At the same time, it is also important that we participate actively in the review mechanism being launched for the UNCAC.  As we approach the eve of the first meeting of its Implementation Review Group in June, each and every participant should use its individual review to the fullest extent possible, to serve as a model of transparency and diligence.  Participants should welcome site visits, engage in consultation with nongovernmental stakeholders and agree to publication of the full outcomes.  The United States is committed to holding up these principles both in its own review and in the review of other participants.

Looking to the future, we must ready ourselves for the new shape and forms of transnational crime.  Many international criminal syndicates are demonstrating greater sophistication and a global reach that corresponds not only with increasing levels of violence but also increasingly sophisticated methods of stealing from our citizens through theft and corruption of public officials that distort our economies.  Transnational crime increasingly extends its tentacles through the intertwining of numerous informal networks – networks which do not have a clear hierarchy and which sometimes form briefly to capitalize on opportunities of convenience.  Many of these criminal activities and illicit networks are converging and reinforcing each other, making them even more dangerous.

This new face of organized crime has the power to weaken legitimate governments and market institutions, erode the rule of law, and destabilize entire communities and economies.  Collectively, these enterprising illicit networks manipulate financial markets, launder ill-gotten profits and smuggle billions of dollars of illegal goods around the globe.  They foster insecurity, costing our economies jobs and tax revenue, and overwhelm law enforcement countermeasures.

Without strong cooperative law enforcement partnerships, transnational criminal syndicates and networks will continue to undermine the stability and security of all nations through their illicit enterprises.   This criminal landscape underscores the need to better fight illicit networks with our own networks of interstate cooperation.  Countering these transnational threats is an important priority for President Obama.  Success will require shared responsibility and partnerships to solve problems that no nation can solve alone.

Through this Crime Congress, and in other multilateral fora, we can seize the opportunity to exchange ideas on how to move forward.  In Salvador da Bahia, we have acknowledged this growing convergence of criminal threats and networks, and discussed new opportunities for UNODC and Member States to address these threats, which include environmental crimes, digital piracy and cybercrime.  In this context, it is imperative that we take advantage of the global framework we have created through the UN anti-crime treaties.  These instruments have the potential to keep pace with growing threats.   We must take stock of implementation challenges and gaps, and focus cooperatively and collaboratively on providing technical assistance to meet these needs.  This portion of our work will require continuing and thoughtful deliberation, most of which will necessarily move to the halls of the UN in Vienna.

To conclude, Mr. Chairman, we are grateful to the Government of Brazil for providing this wonderful venue, and thank our fellow delegates and experts for generating a wealth of useful discussions and ideas.  It is fitting that we honor this meeting by listening to our high level speakers at the end of our session.  For the work of the Crime Congress is just a beginning – and not an end in itself.  We look forward to continuing our dialogue in other fora, particularly in Vienna.  We believe our work here this week will strengthen partnerships against crime – both among governments and between governments and the private sector – and move us constructively forward in our critical efforts to prevent and address transnational crime.