Transnational Organized Crime

 Opening Statement

United States of America

Sixth Conference of the Parties

UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime

Vienna, Austria

October 15, 2012

Delivered by

Brian A. Nichols

U.S. Department of State

Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL)

Head of Delegation|

Mr.  Chair, the United States congratulates you on assuming the Chair.
The United States looks forward to working closely with you during this week and the coming intersessional period.

Mr. Chair, as we begin our deliberations, I take pride in announcing a new milestone.

The United States has now used the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocols on more than 100 occasions for the purpose of international cooperation and with 37 countries spanning the globe.  We have used the treaties for extradition and mutual legal assistance requests targeting a broad array of crimes, including arms trafficking, major fraud cases and migrant smuggling.  We have used the Convention both to seek assistance and to provide it to our partners.

Our use of the Convention has increased by almost 50 percent in the past two years alone.  This milestone demonstrates the practical functionality of the Convention and its Protocols, and their value as an important tool for our police, prosecutors and the judiciary.  It also highlights the potential for enhancing cooperation in a relatively short period of time.

This week, we are also on the cusp of another potential milestone for State Parties to the Convention – the adoption of a new peer review mechanism.  Since we last met two years ago, we have all been engaged in thoughtful negotiations towards the development of a new review mechanism; and specifically one that is cost effective, efficient and not unduly burdensome on participating experts.   Ultimately, the review mechanism should bolster practical cooperation under the Convention, including by identifying technical assistance needs to assist states in doing so.   Moving forward, we will need to remain vigilant so as not to lose sight of this core objective.  We must ensure that the Conference is able to monitor the effectiveness and efficiency of the new review mechanism at each of its future sessions.  The process should not undermine the true benefit of the review mechanism – promoting practical cooperation.

At the same time, we must recognize the valuable contributions of civil society in promoting implementation of the Convention and its Protocols.   Non-governmental organizations and other civil society institutions are in many instances the first-line responders to victims of organized crime.  Partnerships with civil society are critical to prevention efforts.  For example, through partnerships with private business, we can help ensure that goods produced and bought are free from slave labor.  Partnerships with the hospitality and travel industries can also promote responsible tourism and prevent commercial sexual exploitation, especially of children.  Media can also help raise awareness of the harms of transnational organized crime.

It is imperative that the Conference recognize the multiplicity of civil society contributions, particularly as we finalize the details for the new review mechanism and seek effective results from it.

Mr.  Chair, I would now like to turn my remarks to several U.S.-sponsored initiatives in support of the Convention and its Protocols.  First, the United States in partnership with Indonesia and Canada submitted a draft resolution on migrant smuggling.  Cooperation is the key towards implementation of this Protocol, particularly by strengthening border controls, conducting joint investigations, exchanging operational information and intelligence, and ensuring the safety and humane treatment of smuggled migrants.   We often speak in this setting of sharing information across national authorities, but internal coordination is just as important.

In this regard, the United States will be showcasing interagency fusion centers as a best practice to combat migrant smuggling, during a side-event scheduled to take place at 2:00 pm on Thursday, October 18.   Our own Human Smuggling and Trafficking Center brings together representatives from the law enforcement, intelligence and diplomatic fields in order to achieve more integrated and effective information sharing.   Fusion centers can serve as one potential model for governments seeking to enhance internal coordination and external cooperation.

The United States is also pleased to report progress in implementing the Firearms Protocol, especially the provisions on marking, recordkeeping, and cooperation in tracing.

For example, we have supported with over one million dollars an Organization of the American States project that allows 25 States to efficiently mark and keep records on thousands of firearms in their inventories.  The United States has also expanded its partnerships in tracing illicit firearms.  Over 30 States, now participate in eTrace, the web-based tool to trace firearms recovered in crime.  Through this program, the United States now traces nearly 50,000 firearms each year for our law enforcement partners.  The United States has also provided assistance through bilateral and regional mechanisms resulting in the destruction of approximately 1.6 million small arms and light weapons in 38 countries since 2001.

In addition, the United States will also host a side-event on trafficking in cultural property, scheduled to take place at 9:00 am on Thursday, October 18.

The United States is committed to working with partners to combat trafficking in cultural property around the world.  Rather than divert our focus through the discussion of new legal instruments, we believe that implementation of this Convention already has great potential to combat this crime, given organized crime’s involvement in many cases.   Please join us at the side-event as we examine archeological looting in the United States, discuss the active ongoing cooperation between the United States and other countries, and determine how we can better capitalize on existing law enforcement tools.

Mr.  Chair, I would be remiss if I did not conclude by recognizing the important work of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.  UNODC plays an essential role as champion of the Convention and its Protocols and also as an important provider of technical assistance.

For its part, the United States is pleased to have contributed approximately $57 million to UNODC from 2011-2012.  We encourage more partners to provide resources to UNODC, particularly in support of these treaties.

To conclude, the United States has played a consistently active role in the history of this Convention and has worked in close partnership with many of the delegations here to move this process forward.  Through this Conference, all of us in this room have blazed a trail towards more robust international cooperation to combat organized crime.  As we begin our work this week, let us keep in mind that our ultimate goal is to enhance implementation of this important framework, and we look forward to working with colleagues towards this noble end.