Stakeholder Engagement for the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime

USUNVIE Deputy Chief of Mission Louis Bono delivers remarks at a virtual side event on the margins of the 2020 UNTOC COP. (Colin Peters/USUNVIE)

Remarks at the Virtual Side Event on Stakeholder Engagement for the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime

As prepared for delivery by Deputy Chief of Mission Louis Bono
October 14, 2020

Good morning excellencies and colleagues. Thank you to everyone who made this side event happen, and to everyone joining. In particular, I’d like to thank the Civil Society Team, who invited me to speak today. I am pleased to join this esteemed group to discuss Stakeholder Engagement for the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, also known as the SE4U Project. I see today’s event as a strong step toward our shared goal of curtailing transnational organized crime, promoting rule of law, and achieving sustainable development for all.

I plan to do three things with the time allotted to me. First, I will provide a brief overview of the events that brought us here today. Next, I will discuss some of the initiatives that are supporting the SE4U project. Finally, I will talk about the impending launch of the review mechanism – something I actually think we can all be excited about.

In October of 2018, 189 government signatories of the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (or UNTOC) agreed to a peer review process to examine whether they have carried out their treaty obligations. This bold step was captured by resolution 9/1, adopted by the UNTOC Conference of Parties. Under this process, two governments selected at random will evaluate a third country. The evaluators will review responses to questionnaires, legislation, case summaries, and other information provided by the third country to complete its review. Following careful consideration, UNODC will publish public reports on each State Party to summarize their efforts towards treaty implementation and suggest areas for improvement. This is what we refer to as the “review mechanism.”

In May of 2019, UNTOC participants convened again to discuss the Review Mechanism. Here, State Parties began to focus on opportunities for governments to hear directly from, and share information with, civil society organizations on key issues regarding organized crime. This focus makes sense. As many of you already know from experience, the success of any policy initiative hinges on the successful interaction of public, private, and civil society organizations. The review mechanism takes this wisdom and enshrines it as the way UNTOC will do business into the future.

With US support, the UNODC Civil Society Team held a Needs Assessment Workshop in Vienna in October 2019 to start the work to figure out how civil society could meaningfully contribute to the review mechanism. UNODC invited representatives from 40 non-governmental organizations, academia, and the private sector. This panel of experts came to the conclusion that, in order to best contribute, civil society needed a consolidated training platform and a reliable means of online collaboration. In the end, this would help all stakeholders carry out a range of tasks from socializing strategies to sharing data. So, as you can see, the idea of the SE4U Project is to prepare civil society organizations (CSOs)so they are fully trained and ready to participate in the review mechanism.

Now, what is truly exciting is how so many initiatives are coming together to support the implementation of SE4U and the wider review mechanism. The integration of Civil Society Organizations is merely one facet of what has been a much broader diplomatic and inter-governmental effort.

For example, many members of our own government, including some from my mission in Vienna, have received training on SHERLOC, which stands for Sharing Electronic Resources and Laws on Crime. This online portal helps share information regarding the implementation of UNTOC through databases on case law, legislation, treaties, and a searchable bibliography of key articles on organized crime. Reviewers will have access to this system when evaluating other countries’ adherence to UNTOC and its protocols. Legal experts and other officials from across the world have been working diligently to fill SHERLOC with the most up-to-date data.

In addition, just recently, my team participated in Beta-testing of one of SHERLOC’s add-ons, the Review Module, or Rev-Mod. Rev-Mod is the online system which will structure the online collaboration of reviewers and keep them organized in carrying out the review mechanism. It will harmonize and normalize the analysis while adding transparency to the process. Of the 2.1 million dollars the United States provided in support of the UNTOC in the past year, 1 million went directly to the review mechanism and supported the development of this software.

Tireless effort on the diplomatic and intergovernmental side will also culminate this week when the UNTOC Conference of Parties formally approves the Review Mechanism. This critical milestone didn’t just happen overnight- it was the result of patient persistence and years of negotiation. Thus, today’s side event comes at a good time as we are poised to take this important step.

So, I realize this is a lot of information. Many of the projects I’ve described may be familiar to you, or you may be learning about them for the first time. However, I still wanted to mention them to highlight how the SE4U project is really the culmination of intense diplomatic, governmental, and civil society efforts. You are joining the team right when so many of these separate streams are coming together.

Now, before concluding, I want to emphasize two very interesting statistics the Civil Society team shared with me. I learned just last week, when the Civil Societ team opened enrollment in its online training to the Africa-Europe region, there were 250 applications for 40 total slots. I’ll repeat — 250 applications for 40 total slots.

This number demonstrates the groundswell of support from civil society organizations who are eager to participate in the review mechanism. They are energetic, and they enter the picture with insights and expertise that will greatly inform our international efforts. The online toolkit has been downloaded 1,580 times at the last count. Even in the United States, demand for the online training easily outpaced what we could make available. 15 CSOs applied for two training positions. This tells me that we are on the right track.

So here is our current challenge – tapping this resource and bringing these interested parties into the public discourse. My mission has strongly defended the participation of civil society in all of the UN treaty bodies and commissions based in Vienna, and we will continue to do so. The United States will also take efforts to support the review mechanism, ensure its timely launch, and incorporate the participation of academia, private sector, and other public figures to the greatest extent possible. In the end, this is how progress is made, and this is how we accomplish the mission our respective countries have charged us with here in Vienna.

I’ll end here. I want to thank everyone involved in this project, including everyone on the Civil Society Team for their hard work and steadfast leadership in bringing this bold initiative to fruition. That goes for Jean-Luc and his entire Division too.

To any CSOs who may be participating in online training or the review mechanism itself, welcome to the team, and best of luck to you all.