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Feature 101512 USDOS

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Rule of Law vs. Drugs, Crime and the Threat of Terrorism

Brian A. Nichols

  • Remarks to the UN General Assembly's Third Committee on Crime Prevention, Criminal Justice and International Drug Control, by Brian A. Nichols, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, U.S. Department of State


Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

At last month's General Assembly Rule of Law meeting, our Attorney General stressed the importance of the rule of law in protecting citizen security and civil liberties. Respect for the rule of law is fundamental to reducing violent crime, public corruption, and the threat of terrorism.

The rule of law plays a critical role in combating drugs and crime. The three UN drug control conventions and the UN conventions against transnational organized crime and corruption are the legal framework and centerpiece of our international efforts.

Effective use of these conventions has powered our fight against organized crime. The experience of Colombia has taught us that, even after a concerted campaign of violence by terrorist groups and drug cartels, effective rule of law and a revitalized economy can flourish.

However, individual government efforts alone are not enough. Collective action is the most effective protection we have. In this hemisphere, the Merida initiative provides a framework to share law enforcement information, intelligence, and joint investigations to target major drug traffickers. The initiative has reduced the demand for drugs and provided increased treatment for those with addictions. Most important, Merida has promoted a growing culture of lawfulness.

We see similar successes elsewhere. Through the Central America Regional Security Initiative, where we have partnered with Central American governments to foster regional citizen security, crime rates are dropping. We know that stepped up law enforcement in one area often leads to increased crime in other areas - the balloon effect. Therefore, the United States has also entered into partnerships with Caribbean countries to enhance citizen security there through the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative. Indeed, these three initiatives work together to enhance our ability to live and work in peace and safety.

The United States also works with governments in other regions to enhance citizen security. This includes the West Africa Cooperative Security Agreement, where the United States provided nearly ninety-nine million dollars to promote regional and transatlantic counterdrug and anti-crime cooperation.

Further East, the United States is working with Central Asian governments to enhance criminal justice sectors to disrupt criminal networks based on the opium trade out of Afghanistan. In Southeast Asia, after a long hiatus, Burma has expressed fresh interest in international counterdrug cooperation. The United States hopes to renew its collaborative efforts with Burma to address problems of opium cultivation and methamphetamine production. In one of our most important partnerships, we have intensified our cooperation with China on improving controls of precursor chemicals.

Although significant law enforcement challenges remain, Afghanistan has come a long way. The Afghan government's opium poppy eradication efforts in 2012 resulted in 180 percent more hectares destroyed compared to 2011. Reform of that country's justice and corrections institutions are required to enhance citizen security.

A strong push is needed to sustain these efforts, including finding better ways to reduce opium poppy cultivation further and to create better alternatives to illicit cultivation.

Consumer states must reduce their own demand for drugs. In the United States, we have made significant progress over the long term, with overall drug use declining by nearly one-third over the past thirty years. Cocaine use has dropped even more, forty percent over the past five years. Abuse of prescription drugs remains a serious problem. However, the U.S. Government has stepped up both public education and tightened regulations in this area.

Still, despite success stories, enormous challenges remain. Globalization and the accompanying communications revolution have brought enormous benefits and progress.

But they have also produced new and serious challenges for law enforcement officials dealing with large multibillion dollar criminal organizations capable of operating over long distances. As the North American market for cocaine becomes less attractive, traffickers easily find markets in Europe. Unfortunately, when controls of precursors used to produce synthetic drugs are tightened, new and equally effective, uncontrolled chemicals have been substituted to create harmful synthetic drugs. By some estimates, as many as one hundred fifty new uncontrolled substances hit the market this year. And, unlike crop-based drugs, synthetic drugs can be produced anywhere.

Transnational organized crime groups have become more sophisticated, producing a wide range of goods and services, often for clients half-way around the globe.

They partner with other crime organizations and seek out countries where enforcement may be weak or corruptible. They engage in human smuggling and trafficking in persons, including children. They use the Internet for identity, credit card and cultural property theft, mortgage and medical insurance fraud and arms trafficking. More recently, environmental crimes such as dumping of toxic waste, illegal logging, and wildlife smuggling have been added to the list. These new activities produce hundreds of billions of dollars in laundered proceeds that distort legitimate economies, undercut development, and undermine democratic institutions. Only through common cause are countries able to successfully confront the threats posed by such groups.

The international community has made great strides in collective action. Most states are now party to the relatively new UN Conventions against Transnational Organized Crime and against Corruption. These conventions include robust provisions for international cooperation. The United States has used the crime convention and its protocols one hundred times for extradition and mutual legal assistance requests. At the upcoming Vienna Conference of Parties for the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, the international community will consider adopting a review mechanism designed to help further bolster international cooperation.

Similarly, the corruption convention strikes at the widespread problem of public corruption, which enables other forms of crime. A review mechanism for this convention is already in place.

My own country has already been reviewed and has participated in the review of two other countries. We welcome opportunities to share our experience.

My comments would not be complete without mentioning the excellent work of the UN Office of Drugs and Crime. This office is helping to build international anti-crime and counterdrug standards and support implementation of both the drug and crime conventions through technical assistance, research, and other activities. We urge all member states to augment their political and financial support for the Office. My government is determined to do its part and, to show its commitment. The United States contributed over thirty million dollars to UNODC thus far in calendar year 2012.

Never has a criminal enterprise been able to succeed against the consensus of society and determined communities. As we look forward to the coming years, let us join together to ensure that our efforts, our determination and our collective action are effective.

Thank you.


"Statement to the UN General Assembly's Third Committee on Crime Prevention, Criminal Justice and International Drug Control," by Brian A. Nichols, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, U.S. Department of State; October 10, 2012, New York City

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