Remarks by Ambassador Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, at a Security Council Thematic Debate on Drug Trafficking and International Security, in the Security Council Chamber

Susan E. Rice
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations 
U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
New York, NY
February 24, 2010


Thank you, Mr. President. On behalf of the United States, let me thank France for its leadership in drawing attention to these important issues. I also want to thank the Secretary-General for his commitment and his presence here, and Executive Director Costa for his candid and thoughtful briefing, as always, and your continued work with this Council.

Mr. President, not so long ago, the topic that we turn to today might not have made it on the agenda of the Security Council. But organized crime and drug trafficking—and the terrible consequences that follow in the wake of such large-scale crime and corruption—are precisely the type of threat to global security and stability that this Council must confront in today’s interconnected world. We face an extraordinary array of global challenges—including drug trafficking—that no more stop at national borders than a gale-force wind stops from house to house. Drug trafficking, like global terrorism, pandemic disease, climate change, is a transnational security threat that, by definition, cannot be tackled by any one country alone.

The work we do together in the Security Council to shore up fragile states and build up their capacity to provide for their people is essential to fighting these 21st century threats. States wracked by poverty and rattled by conflict often struggle to control their own territory, provide for their citizens’ basic needs and extend the rule of law.  That leaves them more vulnerable to exploitation by terrorist and criminal networks, which strengthens these transnational predators and, in turn, undermines global security for all of us. The nexus here is inescapable: where development falters, security suffers. This dynamic is particularly clear when it comes to the scourge of illegal narcotics.   The menace of international organized crime and drug traffickers is magnified by conflict, chaos, poverty and instability—and it magnifies all those ills in return.

 As Executive Director Costa rightly notes, we face a vicious cycle in all too many states: “Vulnerability attracts crime, [and] crime in turn deepens vulnerability.” All too often states that lack the capacity to provide basic services for their citizens also lack the strength to fend off the vultures of global crime. Drugs and drug trafficking do more than just threaten political stability.  They also undermine the rule of law, they overload prisons, strain public health systems, waste lives, and devastate communities. They also stall and stifle the development efforts that can bring lasting prosperity, peace, and security. They pave the road back again toward poverty, chaos, and conflict. And by bringing misery and despair to the daily lives of citizens of other nations, they threaten the security of all nations.  

The direct economic costs are bad enough. International observers, including the UNODC, have calculated that transnational organized crime and corruption may siphon off as much as 15 percent of the world’s gross domestic product. But today, the security costs of this dangerous form of organized crime may be even more grave.

Because even beyond the corrosion and corruption that drug cartels inflict upon all too many states, drug traffickers have increasingly well-documented links with terrorist and insurgent groups that further endanger political security and economic development. Criminal syndicates now help terrorist groups slip across borders, smuggle weapons, and forge documents.

Meanwhile, terrorist groups are also often turning to organized criminal activity to extend their reach: they now often use extortion, drug dealing, and even credit-card fraud and insurance scams to finance their activities. The growing interdependence among terrorist groups and organized crime makes it much more difficult to staunch the flow of terrorist financing.

As terrorist groups increasingly mimic the tactics of organized crime, our international response must include tools used by traditional law enforcement.  And so the United States is working with our international partners to identify and attempt to dismantle these terrorist-criminal linkages wherever they exist—and better yet, we are working to strengthen criminal justice and law enforcement institutions so they can thwart such linkages before they are forged.

Mr. President, this brings us to a new global template for international law enforcement cooperation—one created by the UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, by the Palermo Convention, and the UN Convention against Corruption.  These accords—along with the three UN conventions against illegal drugs—form the spine of a common multilateral framework to better protect our nations from the linked threats of crime, drugs, and corruption.

It will not in any way be easy to meet these challenges. In the years since the Conventions were adopted, criminal networks have taken advantage of the Internet, electronic financial transactions, rising trade, and other technologies associated with globalization to expand their grasp and cover their tracks.  Such criminal activity is particularly hard to trace and prevent in regions still struggling with deep poverty or recovering from conflict. So we must work together to better use the tools the Conventions provide us—and work to short-circuit the destabilizing syndrome of transnational crime.

Mr. President, having discussed the overall nature of the challenge we face, if I might just say a few words about the role that the U.S. is working to play to tackle these challenges—as underscored by our efforts to help governments take responsibility, as equal partners, in this shared challenge.  From 2008 through 2009, the United States provided approximately $36 million to support UNODC’s activities. We are committed to continuing that support, and we recognize that the efforts of UNODC and other international and regional organizations act as an important force multiplier.

For 2010, the State Department has allocated approximately $2 billion for high-priority programs to support three interrelated objectives: first, to institutionalize the rule of law by developing partner countries’ criminal justice systems to strengthen law enforcement, increase judicial effectiveness, foster cooperation in legal affairs, and advance respect for human rights; second, to disrupt the overseas production and trafficking of illicit drugs through targeted counternarcotics efforts, institution-building assistance, and stronger coordination with other governments and international organizations; and third, to minimize the harm that transnational crime and criminal networks inflict on the United States and others through enhanced international cooperation and foreign assistance.

Let me also say a word about the related and appalling problem of human trafficking. As you know, one of the key components of the Palermo Convention is its Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children.  The trafficking of persons strikes at our common humanity and tears the social fabric of communities around the world. During these times of economic turmoil, people desperate for work can be especially vulnerable to trafficking organizations and crime cartels, particularly in impoverished, fragile, or post-conflict states. It is not enough simply to pass an anti-trafficking law or announce a national plan of action. We must act globally and firmly to implement trafficking laws and to ensure that these statutes help victims even while they prosecute those who prey on them. Simply put, this is a modern form of slavery. The suffering is vast. And the victims should not have to wait.

In conclusion, Mr. President, let me turn back to the realities of our interconnected age and the nexus between development and global security. Drug trafficking and other transnational threats gravely undermine post-conflict states—states whose criminal justice sectors may have been destroyed or even hijacked by criminal organizations.  When states suffer, so do their neighbors: regions wracked by conflict, want, and instability are often breeding grounds for drug traffickers, terrorists, and other nefarious actors, who in turn undermine reconstruction activities and threaten the security of states in the region and around the world.

Unfortunately, we will all have to grapple with the threat of international drug trafficking for years to come. Given the threat that drug cartels and organized criminals often pose to development and reconstruction efforts, this Council should consider how best to develop judicial and law enforcement capacities when creating or reviewing mandates for peacekeeping operations in areas where such criminals threaten international peace and stability.

Mr. President, in the 21st century, a threat to development anywhere can soon be a threat to security everywhere.

And it is for that reason that we are pleased to support the presidential statement that we will adopt today.

Thank you, Mr. President.


PRN: 2010/030