U.S. Opening Statement as Delivered by Deputy Assistant Secretary (DAS) of the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Heide B. Fulton
Vienna, Austria, October 18, 2022
Thank you, Mr. President.
As this is the first time my delegation takes the floor today, I wish to congratulate you on your Chairmanship, and I would also like to thank the UN Office on Drugs and Crime for their support to this Conference of the Parties.
As we are gathered here to advance efforts against transnational organized crime, I would be remiss if I did not highlight that this hard work is being undone by Russia’s unlawful, unprovoked, and premeditated war against Ukraine. Russia’s actions will result in rampant opportunities for transnational organized crime to flourish. We are already seeing an increase in indicators of human trafficking affecting refugees from Ukraine and internally displaced persons in Ukraine.
We cannot enable those who are undertaking efforts to undermine the UNTOC and its protocols. The UNTOC provides an invaluable tool to stem transnational organized crime.
International cooperation facilitated by the UNTOC drives countless achievements in the fight against transnational organized crime. During this COP, the United States is hosting two thematic side events, showcasing successful cooperation to combat transnational organized crime.
In partnership with Canada, the first will discuss integrating survivor expertise into efforts to implement the UNTOC’s Trafficking in Persons Protocol. Here, we will highlight experiences engaging survivor leaders at the federal and state levels and their impact on our anti-trafficking policies.
The second took place yesterday and highlighted the U.S. Lacey Act as a best practice in enhancing international cooperation on combating wildlife and timber trafficking.
Our efforts to implement the UNTOC are strengthened by robust and consistent engagement from non-governmental stakeholders (NGO). It is critical that the UNTOC COP offer opportunities for dynamic engagement with outside stakeholders, especially in the UNTOC Review Mechanism’s constructive dialogues, which were created for the purpose of hearing NGO perspectives and contributions to UNTOC implementation. Without these perspectives, States Parties are deprived of their ability to learn and benefit from NGO expertise.
We are disheartened by the continued effort on the part of a small number of States Parties to use consensus as a weapon to exclude civil society from participation in Vienna-based anti-crime fora.
We stand in opposition to baseless objections to NGO participation in the COP. When the objection is raised against an NGO with no apparent links to the objecting state – where the complaint appears based on statements made or an association with someone who has made statements – the objection takes on a retaliatory character inconsistent with the purpose of the UNTOC.
The COP should avoid supporting objections that appear to judge an NGO for exercising a fundamental freedom, such as freedom of expression or association, without evidence of specific misconduct. These objections, from a very small number of State Parties, cannot take priority over the right of other State Parties to benefit from NGO perspectives in pursuit of their implementation of UNTOC obligations.
In keeping with the Vienna spirit, the United States strongly supports maximizing NGO participation in Vienna’s international organizations and related fora. It is only through strong collaboration across States Parties, together with outside stakeholders, that we will continue to make significant progress against transnational organized crime through implementation of the UNTOC.
We are proud of yesterday’s admission of NGOs into this body and thank those member states who supported the motion.
Thank you, Mr. President.