UN crime conference to focus on responses to threats old and new

In a message to the Eleventh UN Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, meeting through 25 April, Mr. Annan described organized crime as one of the major threats to international peace and security in the new century, and renewed his plea for States to ratify and implement the UN convention against that scourge, as well as the treaty against corruption. He also called for support for the 13 universal counter-terrorism instruments, and mutual cooperation in strengthening domestic systems of criminal justice and rule of law.Promoting the rule of law must also include robust capacity-building mechanisms to help post-conflict societies, where organized crime and links to large-scale corruption hampered reconstruction, he said in his message, which was read out by the Congress’ Secretary-General, Antonio Mario Costa, head of the UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC). For that reason, Mr. Annan added, he intended to create a dedicated Rule of Law Assistance Unit, which would boost national efforts to re-establish the rule of law emerging from instability and war.The eight-day gathering is expected to draw Heads of State and ministers from more than 100 countries, as well as 2,000 delegates from Member States and representatives of various non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and criminal justice professionals. The Congress will focus on transnational organized crime, economic and financial graft, corruption and terrorism. Its high-level segment will feature a special treaty signing event to allow political leaders to ratify relevant UN conventions.Ahead of the Congress, Mr. Costa said that organized crime and the corruption it breeds posed a threat of staggering proportions. The steady deterioration of civil society, as well as ongoing conflict in many parts of the world, offered criminals, terrorists and other predators with opportunities to expand “what is fast becoming a criminal super-state.”In his opening address today, Mr. Costa urged greater political and financial support for the instruments aimed at countering that phenomenon and invited the Congress to second Mr. Annan’s call for implementation of the core anti-terrorism conventions. He also urged delegations to press ahead with the Congress’ outcome document – “The Bangkok Declaration” – and to overcome differences about emerging threats such as cyber-crime and money laundering.The Congress’ recommendations should leave no doubt about how to proceed, Mr. Costa said, stressing that in any case, “The threats are certainly there: if you fudge the answer I invite you to give, you will have to live with the consequences. Give yourselves the opportunity to invest in the two conventions you have worked so hard to hammer out.”Agreeing that the meeting had come at a “crucial moment” when new threats were emerging, the Congress’ President, Suwat Lipatpanlop, Thailand’s Minister of Justice, stressed the utmost importance of coming together to build a new security consensus, based on a better global regulatory framework, adequate compliance with that framework, improved cooperation among States and international agencies, and, above all, political willingness, commitment and determination to take appropriate measures at national and local levels.