Ambassador Holgate Addresses Conference on Transnational Organized Crime

Ambassador Holgate delivers a statement to UNTOC

Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the Protocols Thereto,
Eighth session, Vienna, 17-21 October 2016,


U.S. Statement,
Agenda Item 3,
Laura S.H. Holgate,
Permanent U.S. Representative to the International Organizations in Vienna,


Vienna, Austria,
October 19, 2016


Thank you, Madam President.

Sixteen years ago, the drafters of the UNTOC couldn’t predict which types of crime would plague the world in 2016. They couldn’t foresee that a single hacker sitting in a basement somewhere could steal millions of dollars from victims thousands of miles away, or that nearly 3,000 migrants would die in the Mediterranean in the first half of 2016, according to the International Organization for Migration.

But the drafters knew what they didn’t know. They drafted the UNTOC, particularly the “serious crime” provision of Article 2, so that it could apply to both existing and emerging crimes. The question we should be asking in this forum is not whether UNTOC can help our investigators and prosecutors work together to combat transnational organized crime, but how. No matter what type of serious crime we are talking about, UNTOC implementation comes down to three basic elements: first, creating strong central authorities; second, technical assistance, especially to aid countries in criminalizing certain core offenses in the treaty; and third, the initial decision to invoke the UNTOC in a particular case.

Effective, connected central authorities are the fabric of international cooperation. Attorneys from our own central authorities, the United States Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs and the Department of State’s Office of the Legal Adviser, are here in Vienna this week, and they are pleased to see many of their practitioner colleagues from other States Parties participating. Strong central authorities are so important, in our view, that the United States has introduced a resolution here that aims to enhance their effectiveness.

United States support for central authorities goes beyond words into the realm of technical assistance, which, in the area of criminalization in particular, helps central authorities use the UNTOC as effectively as possible. As an example, the U.S. Department of State has provided more than $2 million to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime for the West African Network of Central Authorities and Prosecutors and nearly $1.5 million to support a similar network in Central Asia and the South Caucasus.

As we mentioned earlier, although the United States has bilateral mutual legal assistance and extradition treaties with many countries, we have used the UNTOC nearly 500 times as a basis for international cooperation. This number includes cases involving crime from cybercrime to trafficking in cultural property.

Cybercrime serves as a compelling example of just how flexible the UNTOC is as a legal basis for international cooperation. As we have said, the United States has relied on the UNTOC to request or provide mutual legal assistance for cybercrime, and we will continue to do so as cybercrime becomes more and more common. The United States supports the consensus of Member States to increase law enforcement capacity-building to combat cybercrime. We are pleased to have been the first donor to the UNODC Global Program on Cybercrime, and we urge other donors to contribute as well. We believe increasing such assistance is a higher priority than discussing a new treaty or a model law. Continuing to push for a new treaty negotiations expends limited time and energy that could otherwise be devoted to strengthening enforcement capacity in developing countries and promoting international cooperation through tools like the 24/7 Points of Contact. Furthermore, the Council of Europe’s Budapest Convention continues to gain international acceptance. Other regional bodies, such as the Organization of American States; the G-7; INTERPOL; the Commonwealth; the Arab League and Gulf Cooperation Council; and APEC have all endorsed the Budapest Convention as a model for states to follow in developing legislation to combat cybercrime.

Let’s not forget the importance of data for investigators and policymakers alike. Data can help everyone involved in crime prevention and criminal justice, from cops on the beat to UN officials, make smarter decisions about where to deploy resources to combat new and emerging forms of crime, such as trafficking in cultural property and wildlife, as well as cybercrime. In this regard, the United States is proud to have provided more than $275,000 to UNODC for the first stages of implementation of the new International Classification of Crime for Statistical Purposes, which we hope will eventually allow for the comparability of crime statistics across legal systems. Crime statistics will also be essential to monitor progress towards achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, especially Goal 16 for peace, justice, and strong institutions.

In closing, it has become almost a cliché to observe that the growth in technological innovation and globalization over the past two decades has enabled modern transnational criminal organizations to expand their portfolios into new crime areas and geographic regions. Fortunately, the drafters of the UNTOC had the foresight to give us a global treaty that we can use to work together to combat any form of transnational organized crime, now and for many years to come.

Thank you, Madam President.