Permanent Mission of Australia
to the United Nations
New York

28 September 2012 - Intervention to the High Level Interactive Presentation on Transnational Organised Crime in Central America and the Caribbean

“Transnational Organised Crime in Central America and the Caribbean: A Threat Assessment”
28 September 2012

Intervention by Ambassador Peter Woolcott, Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva


Can I thank the Ministers of Italy and America for keeping the serious challenges that Central America faces high on our radar. We have participated in related forums this year on drugs and crime in Central America. This problem has acute ramifications for region – but it is a global problem. It is about our global security as well as the realisation of the MDGs. And so it needs global solidarity now.

Traditionally, Australia’s experience and assistance in combating transnational organised crime and drug trafficking has been concentrated mainly 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 more recently we have extended this assistance and cooperation to Central American countries.

We heard the distinguished Minister of Guatemala calling for more resources. Australia has committed around $25 million to Central America for activities in law enforcement, violence reduction, poverty alleviation, scholarships and food security. We said last December at the SICA regional security meeting that we were committed to working with SICA on its 22 areas of priority. In our view this is a comprehensive strategic approach. It is a very good example of an integrated solution for an interrelated problem, and we remain very committed to support Central America through this framework.

Specifically, the Australian Federal Police will provide training workshops for police forces in the region on narcotics control commencing next month and we are working on extending that to anti-money laundering. We are also looking at bringing senior police officers from Central American countries to Australia for senior leadership training – this is an important avenue to support institution-building, which as Mr Fedetov said is crucial for making progress against crime in the region.
Lasting solutions require a determined focus on prevention. We are also active on the prevention side. Australia is working with Germany and SICA countries on preventing youth violence through the PREVENIR project in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.

On the central topic of today, we believe that effective policy and coordination must have timely data and trend analysis to act on. It has been extremely helpful to hear about the Transnational Organised Crime Threat Assessment for Central America.

As Mr Fedetov has mentioned, 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. The threat assessment will be published later this year. It will have four main themes: People, Drugs, Environment and Goods, and it will examine a number of specific illicit flows, including migrant smuggling, human trafficking, drugs, wildlife, timber, fraudulent medicines and counterfeit consumer goods.

If there is interest on the part of Central American countreis, Australia would certainly be interested in sharing experiences in taking forward its recommendations and if so we would welcome advice from UNODC on what opportunities there are to set up cross regional sharing of best practices, lessons learned to enhance capacity building.

Crime, drugs and the illicit trafficking in arms are often viewed as separate phenomena. In truth, these activities can often feed off and exacerbate each other. States have an opportunity within reach to break this cycle with the adoption on an Arms Trade Treaty. Unfortunately UN States did not reach final agreement at the ATT conference in July. As one of the seven countries that established the process to adopt the Treaty, Australia was very disappointed. But we did make progress in July and we are not far away on agreeing on a Treaty. Of course, that Treaty must include small arms and ammunition, and must provide the opportunity for all States to establish transfer control systems through capacity building if it is to play a part in breaking the cycle of illegal guns, violence and crime. Australia is certainly determined to achieve that goal and we have already committed $1 million to support countries implement the Treaty.

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.

This is the way we, in Australia, approach these problems – these are shared problems that require shared responsibility and partnership.

Thank you.