U.S. Opening Statement to the Ninth session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime

PDAS James Walsh from the State Department Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs delivers the U.S. opening statement to the 9th Session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Transnational Organized Crime.

Opening Statement as delivered by James A. Walsh, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, U.S. Department of State

Vienna, October 16, 2018


Thank you, Madame President.

We came together to commit ourselves to countering the threats that stem from transnational organized crime in 2003, when this Convention came into force. Now it’s fifteen years ago.

Today, the UNTOC is still an indispensable tool in our efforts to fight these threats. For the United States, the UNTOC has repeatedly proven its usefulness. Since 2005, the United States has relied on the UNTOC more than 650 times as a legal basis to provide or request mutual legal assistance, extradition, and any other forms of international cooperation with nearly 97 countries. We have invested heavily in helping others use this treaty effectively as well.

The best chance this treaty has for remaining a premier global law enforcement tool in the future is to reach agreement this week on a review mechanism that enhances international cooperation. We cannot afford to repeat our difficult experiences in 2012, 2014, and 2016 when the COP suffered from a serious lack of consensus. Already we have seen participation and enthusiasm of our investigators and prosecutors wane, compared to the early years of the COP.

The world is rapidly evolving. Confronting high tech crime in the twenty-first century means understanding and addressing the impact of emerging technologies such as block chain, as well as developments in artificial intelligence and machine learning. Just beyond this horizon is the potential of quantum computing, a leap ahead that can disrupt common assumptions on cyber security. Law enforcement must be at the table with other stakeholders as we chart our future course. We cannot afford to alienate law enforcement through protracted debate over this review mechanism – without their voice we have little hope of responding effectively. We need to find a way for this week on the question of an UNTOC review mechanism so we can devote our energies to addressing the very real threats that brought us together in the first place.

We are committed to taking targeted, cost-efficient steps to increase accountability, improve information gathering, and help each other implement the Convention more effectively. The United States supports a review mechanism that maximizes utility for practitioners, provides opportunity for appropriate input from civil society, is transparent, and includes no increase in Regular Budget resources. Through the leadership of our esteemed colleagues from Costa Rica and Italy, we are moving closer to this goal and we are grateful for the role they have played over the last two years. We are looking forward to working under Spain’s leadership to continue to shape a review mechanism that is substantive, inclusive, transparent, and sustainable.

With regard to budgetary matters, we have been very clear. The United States cannot support calls for additional resources from the Regular Budget. We are willing to allocate a portion of existing resources for the COP toward this new mechanism, which also balances against other mandates that are supported by this funding.

My delegation stands ready to contribute substantively and constructively to this week’s discussions. Despite the difficult work ahead of us to find consensus on a new review mechanism, we believe the Conference of Parties is very close to a solution that could work for all States Parties. Madame President, we encourage states to be flexible and think creatively to help us reach consensus and make a positive difference in the application of this treaty.

Apart from the review mechanism, the United States is also committed to helping diversify and re-energize the COP as a forum for discussion of substantive law enforcement. Therefore, That is why the U.S. sponsored two side events this week. The first took place yesterday, where panelists from the United States, Nigeria and Canada, discussed a groundbreaking cyber-enabled financial fraud case entitled Operation Wire Wire. They described how multiple countries worked together to thwart hundreds of criminals who were scamming people out of money and employing mules to launder these funds by funneling them into hard-to-trace bank accounts.

We will also host a second side event today at 2:10 – 3:00 p.m. in room M6. At this event, prosecutors from the United States and Mexico will provide a detailed briefing on the Rendon-Reyes human trafficking organization, a criminal group involved in sex trafficking and money laundering in North America. Their criminal acts spanned more than a decade; however, as a result of our strong coordination with Mexico, eight defendants pled guilty to multiple charges including racketeering and sex trafficking, and agreed to pay restitution to the victims.

International cooperation is the core objective of this treaty; it has made a difference in helping us address the common threat of transnational organized crime. I can assure you that the United States is committed to working together with the other States Parties this week to uphold that core objective and to promote the effective implementation of this treaty.

Thank you, Madame President.