Remarks of the Executive Director, UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Yury Fedotov:
OSCE Mediterranean Conference side event on “Links between drug trafficking, organized crime and terrorism in the Mediterranean region”
PALERMO/VIENNA, 24 October 2017 (UN Information Service) — The links between drug trafficking, organized crime and terrorism are a growing problem for the Mediterranean and beyond.
The Security Council has repeatedly expressed concern about terrorists benefiting from transnational organized crime in a number of regions.
The cross-border nature of organized crime provides potential avenues for these groups to cooperate where they share interests, and crime presents a number of potential revenue streams for terrorist groups.
The Mediterranean region is affected by cocaine trafficking from South America and heroin trafficking from Afghanistan for onward trafficking to Europe, as well as by cannabis resin trafficking via North Africa.
Thousands of migrants have been smuggled from West and North Africa to Europe, including across the Mediterranean.
Antiquities are illegally transported from the eastern Mediterranean to Europe.
Toxic waste from Europe is trafficked through the Mediterranean by organized crime groups.
The region is also affected by illegal fishing and illegal poaching of endangered migratory birds.
Some terrorist groups operating in the Near and Middle East and in West and North Africa appear to be gaining financial profits from drug trafficking.
Terrorists may not only be generating funds through criminal activities; they can also exploit criminal infrastructures to acquire weapons and fraudulent documents, or to move goods and people.
Alongside these urgent concerns, the international community must also deal with the negative impact that the crime-terrorism nexus can have on the peaceful development of societies and the rule of law.
In response, UNODC provides comprehensive support and integrated assistance to countries in the region to confront these challenges and address organized crime, drugs, terrorism and corruption.
In terms of work on the ground, our Office is coordinating closely with our partners, including the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe), to advance regional cooperation and address the nexus from several angles.
This includes activities under our integrated country, regional and global programmes, bringing together countries in the Middle East and North Africa, West Africa and Eastern Africa.
We are helping to develop and strengthen legislative frameworks in line with the conventions against transnational organized crime and corruption, as well as the three international drug conventions and the universal legal instruments against terrorism.
In the Middle East and North Africa, UNODC is supporting intelligence-led criminal investigations that aim to go beyond seizures to identify and dismantle criminal networks.
Our Global Container Control Programme is helping to secure Mediterranean sea ports that represent important transit hubs for drug, weapons and oil trafficking, and the programme is expanding globally to include cargo flows at airports.
We are supporting countries in the Middle East and North Africa as well as the Western Balkans to strengthen criminal justice responses to foreign terrorist fighters; protect human rights in counter-terrorism cases; tackle the use of the Internet for terrorist purposes; counter terrorism financing; and protect soft targets, such as airports and oil infrastructure.
Preventing terrorism is a major priority of the UN. Prison populations represent a key risk factor, and to address this, UNODC has launched a handbook on the management of violent extremist prisoners and the prevention of radicalization in prisons.
Along with partners including UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) INTERPOL and WCO (World Customs Organization), we are helping to strengthen efforts to protect cultural heritage and stop illicit trafficking in cultural goods and its use for terrorist financing.
The Office is also active in the Sahel, Maghreb and Western Balkans to stop firearms trafficking across the Mediterranean, and we working with EUNAVFOR MED Sophia to identify and analyse crime groups with a view to disrupting their business model.
Looking forward, an urgent priority must be to further improve understanding and analysis of the links between drugs, crime and terrorism, in the Mediterranean and beyond.
The 2017 World Drug Report included, for the first time, a section focusing on linkages between drugs, organized crime, illicit financial flows, corruption and terrorism.
We must continue building on this work, and UNODC is helping to strengthen national and regional capacities to collect, analyse and report information.
We are also supporting global data collection and analysis on firearms trafficking, as well as fostering cooperation along major trafficking routes, as part of a project supported by the EU and Germany.
I encourage all governments to help strengthen our efforts to address the challenges of drugs, crime and terrorism, by sharing information to improve the evidence base, by providing the necessary resources and by strengthening cooperation within and between regions.
UNODC, as ever, is here to support you.