Permanent Mission of Australia
to the United Nations
New York

26 June 2012 - Statement to the United Nations General Assembly

26 June 2012

Thematic Debate on Crime as a Threat to Development

Statement by Mr Will Nankervis, Counsellor, Australian Mission to the United Nations


Thank you Mr Chair and each of the panelists for drawing out the linkages between crime and sustainable development and the challenges this presents. This goes to the strong nexus between security and development.

Countries with the greatest development needs are often the target of unscrupulous transnational criminal networks, though we took note of Stewart Patrick's comments that this can vary according to crimes. And discussion today has illustrated the threat that drugs and crime pose to realisation of the MDGs.

Our discussion has illustrated the importance of integrated responses - working at national, regional and multilateral levels, addressing transnational organised crime and drugs holistically with development, and - as the panel has emphasised - supporting rule of law and security sector institutions.

Traditionally, Australia’s experience and assistance in combating drugs and crime has been concentrated principally in the Asia Pacific. In recent years – and this is certainly a reflection of the increasingly transnational nature of crime and also Australia’s expanding aid program – we have been active in building partnerships and capacity in this area in Africa, and we have recently extended this assistance and cooperation to Central American countries.

Australia promotes international legal standards and best practice through our engagement with partner countries bilaterally and through multilateral fora such as the Bali Process to: (1) criminalise activity in accordance with relevant UN conventions; (2) “Follow the money” to confiscate and disrupt the proceeds of crime (Mr Forbes highlighted the importance of this issue); and (3) improve international cooperation through improved extradition and mutual assistance between nations. Through this three pronged approach, we seek to mainstream crime prevention in the law enforcement and public policy responses with our partners.

A cornerstone of Australia's international collaboration on transnational crime is our network of over 90 police officers in 30 countries. We have also developed in the Asia Pacific an extensive network of Transnational Crime Coordination Centres (TCCC). These Centres assist law enforcement agencies to develop their own transnational crime coordination capacities by approaching transnational crime as an integrated phenomenon. We are extending this capability to Africa and we would be happy to look at extending this also to other interested regions.

Effective coordination must have timely data and trend analysis to act on. This is an issue that both Bruce Jones and Stewart Patrick mentioned this afternoon. In the Asia Pacific, we are supporting a Threat Assessment by the UNODC Regional Centre in Bangkok which will assist in generating a strategic response to transnational organised crime in East Asia and the Pacific, both in terms of policy and operations. This is due for completion in August and if there is interest we would be happy to share our region’s experiences in taking forward its recommendations. At a global level, we also commend the UNODC’s Global SMART (Synthetic Monitoring: Analysis, Reporting and Trends) program which aims to establish information management and sharing systems for combating production, trafficking and use of amphetamine type substances.

Mr Chair

Transnational al criminal networks do not recognize borders. I would like to pick up on a point made by Ambassador Abdelaziz this morning that we must support regional approaches to tackling the nexus between drugs, crime and development. My colleague from Honduras mentioned the efforts of the Central American Integration System (SICA). Australia has been very pleased to support a SICA program spanning violence reduction, civilian security, poverty alleviation, scholarships, disaster risk reduction and food security. This is a very good example of an integrated solution for an integrated problem, and a process - and this is a point Guatemalan Foreign Minister Caballeros highlighted - a process driven by Central American countries themselves. We would encourage others to contribute to the program. As we speak, the Australian Federal Police is preparing to provide training workshops for police forces in the Central American region in narcotics control and we are working on extending that to anti-money laundering.

The discussion today has indicated that lasting solutions require a determined focus on prevention. We are actively working with partners in this area. Also in Central America, we are working with Germany on preventing youth violence through the PREVENIR project.

On the question of drugs, and picking up from discussion this morning, perhaps the best prevention begins with destination or 'user' countries. Speakers this morning emphasised the principle of shared responsibility. On drugs, all countries have a responsibility to do a lot more to tackle consumer demand among our own populations.

As a destination country, Australia is increasing the capability of border controls in our broader region, for example to enhance the detection of narcotics at key air and sea ports.

And we have developed some innovative ways of tackling drug suppliers including the Proceeds of Crime legislation which traces and confiscates the proceeds of narcotics and related crime. These funds as well as unexplained wealth and assets of suppliers are confiscated and then reinvested into the Australian community, but they are also shared with other countries - in recognition of the problems they face and the effort involved in joint investigations or prosecutions.

Mr Chair

I have one question. Mr Forbes mentioned problems caused by small arms and ammunition in the Caribbean. The Arms Trade Treaty Conference begins here next week. Australia has been a strong supporter of the inclusion of small arms and light weapons and ammunition in the Treaty. From the perspective of your region, would such an inclusion really make a difference to the problems you have outlined this afternoon?

Thank you.