Opening Statement by David T. Johnson, Assistant Secretary, Bureau International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, U.S. Department of State at the Third Committee of the 65th Session of the UN General Assembly

David T. Johnson
Assistant Secretary 
Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs 
New York, NY
October 6, 2010


Thank you Mr. Chairman.

During his address to the United Nations last month President Obama said, “We know this is no ordinary time for our people. Each of us comes here with our own problems and priorities. But there are also challenges that we share in common as leaders and as nations.”  Today, we are here in Third Committee to address the shared global challenges of transnational crime and drugs. 

Illicit drugs and other forms of transnational crime threaten the security and prosperity of all states and societies.  The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime recently noted that transnational criminal networks have become both more complex and more diversified.  They now engage in new, emerging forms of crime and infiltrate and undermine important commercial sectors.

These criminal networks subvert legitimate economic activities, they undermine sustainable development and political stability, fuel violence and corruption, and they weaken the rule of law.  Regionally and globally, more partners in both public and private sectors recognize the increasing harm caused by these organizations.

We also recognize that to get ahead of determined and well-resourced adversaries, it is becoming increasingly important to step up our efforts to coordinate and cooperate better with other countries and build effective international and regional law enforcement networks.

In doing this, we are working with other nations to deny safe havens to transnational crime and provide an environment where laws can be enforced, rights can be protected, and sustainable development and business can proceed.   Such international law enforcement cooperation, which aims to dismantle criminal networks, must be complemented by assistance to enhance governance capacities; by support for committed reformist governments seeking to bolster their institutions and practices; and by steps to empower citizens so they can monitor public functions and hold leaders accountable for providing safe, effective public services, and efficient use of public resources.

In the Western Hemisphere, we continue to work with partner governments to confront transnational threats.  The Merida Initiative, launched in 2007, is a partnership between the governments of the United States and Mexico to confront the violent national and transnational gangs and organized criminal and narcotics trafficking organizations that plague our region.  To prevent displacement of these threats to Mexico’s neighbors, the United States is partnering with Central American countries through the Central America Regional Security Initiative, and the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative to bolster their criminal justice systems.

While we rightly focus on continuing challenges, we should recall that the past decade has also shown important gains in developing criminal justice capacities in key regions.  Colombia, in particular, has made tremendous strides and has achieved dramatic success in developing its law enforcement and judicial institutions, restoring public safety, and revitalizing its economy.  It is important that the global community promote the expansion and sustainability of such achievements on a worldwide basis.  To do this, we must pool resources and share best practices continuously.  In Africa, cooperation on assistance and support is critical.  We are working with international partners to promote key police and legal reforms, and establish a security training program that connects Africa to the rest of the world community to defeat these transnational criminal threats.   Such cooperation will become ever more necessary as Andean cocaine flows to Europe through Africa, undermining stability and economic growth.

We, along with our allies, are also taking measures to provide continued assistance to the Afghan government to disrupt the opium trade and to support Afghanistan’s National Drug Control Strategy. Encouraging farmers to plant alternative crops, bolstering the Afghan government’s interdiction capability, and reducing the demand for drugs inside and outside Afghanistan are key to Afghanistan’ long-term economic development and the health of its citizens.

Here, and elsewhere, a multilateral role is critical, and the UN offers an essential venue to develop coordinated responses to these threats.  In this regard, the UNODC Paris Pact Initiative has proven invaluable in coordinating joint, international action to stem the flow of Afghan heroin.  The United States has contributed to UNODC to support Afghanistan counternarcotics-related projects since 2005, and we support regional cooperation programs in neighboring Central Asia that focus on improving border facilities and training officers in interdiction techniques.

More broadly,  the UN—particularly the UN Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC), must continue to play a critical role in promoting and sustaining both anti-crime and anti-drug efforts.  But, the UN can only play this role with generous financial support from international donors, with all donors sharing equally in the overhead expenses to support this vital organization.

The last several years have been a watershed for the UN’s role in developing treaties that serve as a foundation for global cooperation to target both crime and drugs.  Having built these foundations, we must now build a working edifice upon them through application and implementation of the treaties. The UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC), now approaching its tenth anniversary, is the first international convention to target serious crime on a global scale.  Parties to this Convention are demonstrating a commitment to stay ahead of the organized crime threat, to strengthen and facilitate international cooperation, including extradition and mutual legal assistance, and to conduct joint law enforcement investigations.  As the UNTOC Conference of Parties meeting begins October 18th, we need to take concrete decisions to advance full implementation and practical application of the UNTOC.  First and foremost, we must establish urgently an effective mechanism to review implementation.  Already, a dozen countries, including the United States, have participated in a pilot project to test methods of review.  The interim results of this endeavor will help inform the Conference of the Parties on the contours of a review mechanism.

Any effective anti-crime effort must also attack corruption. The Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) with 147 states’ parties, has globalized the fight against corruption.  It provides both a framework and tools for States, individually and collectively, to attack--both corrupt officials and those who corrupt them – to deny them the fruits of their unlawful activities, and to take steps to deter corruption in the first place.  Our challenge now is to promote and support effective implementation of these measures.  Getting the UNCAC review mechanism off to an effective, transparent, and inclusive start is critical.  We are very pleased that the review process is underway and that we are among the countries being reviewed in this first year.

In addition to acting on our treaty commitments and increasing multilateral cooperation, there are other steps states can take in the short-term to prevent their territories from being used as safe havens for criminal organizations, for corrupt officials and for ill-gotten assets.  The United States continues to broaden its efforts to deny entry into our own country of public officials who receive bribes as well as those who supply them.  Corrupt officials are not welcome in the United States.  Nor, do we believe, should they or their money be welcomed anywhere.

As drug traffickers aggressively expand their global networks, we must continue our efforts to safeguard the drug control framework found in the three UN Conventions—reaffirmed at the 2009 high-level Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) review and again at last year’s UNGA.

We also must work together more effectively to target these drug-fueled criminal networks. We need continuously to share best practices on how to curb the availability of chemicals used in illicit production, to fight money laundering efforts, to intercept drugs as they cross borders to eliminate drug crops, and, of course, prosecute drug criminals.  The data derived from these efforts will be critical to our efforts to develop new tools and new strategies.  Within the framework of the UN, the CND effort to update data collection is crucial, and we urge Member States to support the new questionnaire system at the reconvened CND.

We must keep in mind that these endeavors -- to strengthen criminal justice systems and to control drugs as we ensure their availability for medical and scientific purposes--while preventing diversion -- are a long-term process.   But, they are necessary for long-term, sustainable reductions in transnational crime, which remains a critical threat to global security and stability.  Mr. Chairman, the United States looks forward to working jointly with other committed UN Member States in pursuit of these objectives.   

Thank you Mr. Chairman.



PRN: 2010/201