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Diplomatic Strategies to Fight Transnational Organized Crime

Diplomatic Strategies to Fight Transnational Organized Crime

U.S. Officials says diplomacy needed to wage battle against crime. Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Wendy Chamberlin said January 23 that "the newest gladiators in the international crime arena are the diplomats." Source: Washington File (EUR306), U.S. Department of State, Washington D.C., January 24, 2001.

Chamberlin spoke at a European Union-United States Conference on Strategies to Combat Transnational Organized Crime, held in Ghent, Belgium, January 23-26. Ministers of Justice and Interior from a number of EU member states attended, along with representatives from international crime-fighting organizations.

Chamberlin outlined some of the key trends in organized crime that require greater efforts to strengthen international cooperation. She said criminal enterprises today are technologically sophisticated, multinational in their activities and alliances, and engaged in market research to target areas where criminal activity might better flourish.

Quoting statistics from the United Nations, Chamberlin estimated that organized crime takes in $1,500,000 million each year.

Diplomacy can help create the international norms and procedures for more effective apprehension and prosecution of criminals, Chamberlin said. She suggested international agreements that would allow easier extradition, and video links to allow transnational testimony against suspects.

This call for further international cooperation comes after the December acceptance of the U.N. Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, the product of negotiations between more than 150 nations. The agreement is designed to achieve greater compatibility among national legal systems in defining and combating criminal activity.

The following terms are used in the speech:

  • Trillion: 1,000,000 million
  • Billion: 1,000 million
  • OECD: Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development

Following is the text of the Chamberlin speech: (begin text)

Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Wendy Chamberlin. Speech delivered at the European Union-United States Conference on Strategies to Combat Transnational Organized Crime, Ghent, Belgium, January 23, 2001.

One of America's most colorful and shrewd politicians, Congressman Tip O'Neil from Boston, once said "all politics is local politics". It may also be an equally apt exaggeration to say that all organized crime today is global crime.

In this era of economic globalization, there are many darkly negative images from a crime perspective.

  • Criminal entreprenueurs are expert in the use of global technology, such as the Internet and advanced wireless communications.
  • They form multi-national alliances to broaden their scope and reach. Colombian coke traffickers negotiate poly-drug transactions with Nigerian and Russian partners from 5 star hotels in Albania.
  • They do business across many borders, often times with impunity.
  • Organized criminals conduct market research. Indeed, based on careful analysis, they chose to operate in those jurisdictions with the weakest criminal justice and law enforcement institutions.

It is quite clear, then that the challenge to those who are responsible for protecting our citizens is to become as global and coordinated in our response as the criminals are in their operations. We must respond internationally. And who then are among the players on this international field -- the diplomats.

What a frightening thought! The American press, not known for its gentle touch, refers to diplomats as cookie pushers, or more charitably as the stripe pants set. My mission today is to make a plausible case that the newest gladiators in the international crime arena are the diplomats.

We must not underestimate the scope and magnitude of the threat. The evidence that criminal activity today is borderless, lucrative, powerful and threatening is indeed alarming:

  • The UN estimates the global take from organized crime at some $1.5 trillion a year. Larger than the GNP of many small countries.
  • Worldwide money laundering of criminal proceeds is estimated to be between $600 billion and $1 trillion.
  • In 1997, some 700,000 women and children were trafficked across international borders.
  • International crime groups earn an estimated $2-$4 billion a year illegally dumping trash and hazardous waste.

Former Attorney General, Janet Reno noted at the 1999 G-8 Ministerial in Moscow that "transnational organized crime has changed the way we think about sovereign boundaries." Quite simply she was saying, to be effective, our response must also be global. Law enforcement agencies throughout the world must act cooperatively. We must recognize that our most effective tool to fight criminals -- our legal system -- has the potential to also be one of our greatest barriers. What is a crime in one country may not be elsewhere. Laws governing jurisdictional prosecution may, in fact, create loopholes allowing criminals to slip through.

In exploring solutions, we talk about the importance of information-sharing. But this doesn't just happen automatically and it doesn't encompass all the opportunities for cooperation.

The solution, in part, is to negotiate a wide framework of agreements such as Mutual Legal Assistance and Extradition Treaties to facilitate exchanges. We must look to video link agreements so that courts can hear witnesses. And develop standard forensic procedures so that evidence collected in one country can be admissible in court in another. We need to create ways to prosecute elusive, shadowy international criminals so that they no longer find safe-havens to evade law. A Russian national with Israeli citizenship residing in Greece who arranges illegal arms shipments to destabilize Sierra Leone and launders his money in Panama -- must face justice.

It is with this backdrop that crime becomes a diplomatic concern. Diplomacy can create that environment of international norms and procedures.

Diplomacy can be used to promote political will and develop cooperation. Diplomacy can establish guidelines and broader frameworks for cooperation.

Much is already being done in various regional and multilateral groupings. The Lyon Group within the G-8 works collectively on projects targeting specific crimes, as well as on cyber-crime and the kind of judicial cooperation I have just noted.

In 1996 the Organization of American States adopted the Inter-American convention against corruption. Over 20 countries in North and South America signed this treaty that calls for the enactment of legislation to criminalize corruption and cooperate on other crimes.

The 1997, the OECD anti-bribery convention required member states to make bribery of foreign officials in international business transactions a criminal offence.

In February of 1999 the United States sponsored the international conference to combat corruption. Frankly we had misgivings about a conference on such a sensitive subject as public corruption. We thought only a few countries would attend, but delegations from nearly 90 countries and international organizations journeyed to Washington. They were amazingly candid about recognizing the problem of corruption. And the participants were especially eager and forthcoming to share and discuss best practices and solutions. They pledged to continue to work together. The Dutch are sponsoring the next global conference this May.

This past December in Palermo, the world community gathered to sign the UN Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime and its supplementary protocols on trafficking, and migrant smuggling. They also expressed determination to work on finalizing a protocol on firearms trafficking. The UN Convention demonstrates a precedent-setting determination by more than 150 nations to combat international organized crime.

Of great importance to the success of the Convention is the call for technical assistance to developing countries. No one country can hope to tackle crime alone. Our prosecutors and police need reliable partners in all corners of the world. We have and interest and obligation to raise the standards of criminal justice and law enforcement institutions worldwide.

Finally, combating transnational crime is one of newest and most important diplomatic interests of the United States.

  • In 1998, the U.S. Government issued our nation's first-ever International Crime Control Strategy, which detailed a blueprint for interagency efforts.
  • Just last month, we published a comprehensive assessment of the international crime threat.
  • The assessment, which will be presented in greater detail tomorrow, highlights the very real potential for transnational crime to jeopardize the global trend toward peace and freedom, undermine fragile new democracies, sap the strength from developing countries, and threaten efforts to build a safer, more prosperous world.

The Department of State, which the gentle U.S. media refers to as "Foggy Bottom", has responded to this challenge with increasingly robust international crime control programs and policies. The Departments of State, Justice and Treasury have formed a close partnership to plan and coordinate activities aimed at improving our international law enforcement efforts and promoting rule of law on a global basis. Internationally, we have developed an increasingly sophisticated crime control foreign assistance program. It focuses on building and strengthening law enforcement institutions in those countries most at risk and where our interests are most threatened. We typically provide bilateral and multilateral aid to some 90 countries a year.

Our goal is to build a cadre of corruption-resistant officials -- legislators, judges, prosecutors, investigators, and regulators -- who can develop and enforce the type of complex laws necessary to prosecute large and sophisticated crime networks. Likewise, we strive to improve the skills and capacities of law enforcement partners throughout the globe.

These institution building efforts have focused on developing all elements of an effective criminal justice system, including police, prosecutors, and judges. Through training and technical assistance we have highlighted methods to combat criminal enterprises, including alien smuggling, drug trafficking, money laundering and financial crimes. We have conducted training, provided equipment, helped draft criminal codes, created enforceable codes of ethics, and developed professional legal and law enforcement institutions.

In this vein, we are particularly proud of the international law enforcement academies we are establishing around the world. The Departments of State, Justice and Treasury have already established academies in Budapest, Bangkok, and Gaborone. At these academies, a multi-national faculty teaches basic and advanced law enforcement training to mid-and senior-level officials from the region. The program builds networks and common approaches using the most advanced techniques to fight regional and global crime threats. Working through our embassies, U.S. law enforcement also provides bilateral aid to host government law enforcement and criminal justice officials.

In conclusion, this conference is an important step to expanding our understanding of the international organized crime threat and the challenges to international cooperation. In the next two days I look forward to learning from the participants from many nations as we exchange thoughts on how international organized crime groups have taken advantage of advanced technologies and the consequences of globalization. Our goal is to examine the new trends and methods of transnational organized crime. And to discuss a variety of collective measures that must be undertaken so that we can thwart criminals who now so easily exploit technology for financial gain, and manipulate information to avoid prosecution.

We won't find a single easy solution, or silver bullet. But I am confident that we will leave here with more resolve than ever to intensify our cooperation in the fight against transnational organized crime and put those syndicates, once and for all, on the defense. The social, economic, and political stakes are simply to high to do otherwise. Thank you.

(end text)


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).