Tag Archives: UNODC

Standing in Solidarity with Victims and Survivors of Terrorism in the Era of COVID-19

Photo Credit: Agustín Santos Maraver (at podium), Permanent Representative of Spain to the United Nations, makes remarks at the launch of the photographic exhibition “Surviving Terrorism: The Power of Resilience” on the occasion of the International Day of Remembrance and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism. 21 August 2019. United Nations, New York. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

About the Author

Vladimir Voronkov is Under-Secretary-General, United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism and Executive Director of the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Centre.

In December 2017, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming 21 August as the International Day of Remembrance of and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism (A/RES/72/165).  It was a momentous occasion for advocates of victims of terrorism and part of a series of developments at the international, regional and national level, which demonstrated that support to victims had finally moved beyond symbolic solidarity towards more action-focused initiatives to uphold their human rights and address their needs.

The International Day ensures that we pause every year to reflect, remember and reaffirm our commitment to supporting victims of terrorism, a group that all too often feels marginalized and overlooked. In the immediate aftermath of attacks, there is often an outpouring of grief, compassion and solidarity for victims, which may give the impression that their needs are being addressed. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. In today’s fast-paced news cycle, media attention on the victims quickly diminishes, with a greater focus on the perpetrator of the attack. This imbalance means many victims are left nameless, faceless and without a platform to seek justice, recognition and support.

Despite the good progress we have made in recent years in advocating for victims of terrorism, much work remains to be done by Member States to ensure victims’ needs and rights are adequately prioritized. Many victims receive emergency treatment, counselling and compensation in the immediate aftermath of an attack, but becoming a victim of terrorism has life-long consequences that can reverberate across generations. General Assembly resolution 73/305 of June 2019 calls on Member States to establish national assistance plans for victims that address their long-term relief and rehabilitation needs and take into account a gender perspective. My Office is looking at how we can operationalize this call by supporting Member States’ efforts to deliver real and sustainable improvements in addressing the long-term needs of victims and their families. For example, we are working with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the Inter-Parliamentary Union to develop model legal provisions to ensure that victims’ rights and needs are enshrined in national legal frameworks. This is an important step forward in our efforts to enable victims to participate in judicial processes, gain better access to basic medical (including psychosocial) services, and receive adequate compensation and reparations.

The new scourge of COVID-19 may dominate today’s headlines but global challenges such as terrorism continue to destroy lives and communities.

The COVID-19 crisis has added a new layer of complexity and concern for victims of terrorism. Many victims may find that the threats engendered by the pandemic can trigger traumatic reactions similar to those associated with a terrorist attack, including a shattering of their sense of safety and protection. At the same time, there are concerns that in understandably focusing on fighting the pandemic, Member States have diverted their attention and resources away from protecting, supporting, and remembering victims. This has had a detrimental impact on victims’ access to justice and the legal, financial, and psychosocial support available to them.

Secretary-General António Guterres attends the launch of the multimedia exhibition “Surviving Terrorism: Victims’ Voices” on the occasion of the International Day of Remembrance of and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism (21 August). Mr. Guterres (second from left) greets Imrana Alhaji Buba, victim of terrorism from Nigeria, whose experience is highlighted in the exhibit. At left is Vladimir Voronkov, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism. 17 August 2018. United Nations, New York. UN Photo/Mark Garten.

My Office continues to stand with victims of terrorism, particularly during this trying time, and we have called for tangible actions by Member States to ensure that victims’ rights and needs remain a priority. Nevertheless, we have heard from our partners, especially victims’ associations, that victims fear they are being forgotten and their voices cast aside. For this reason, the third commemoration of the International Day on 21 August 2020 will focus on honouring those who have lost their lives and remembering those who have survived. At a time when so many remembrance ceremonies and memorials have been cancelled or moved online, depriving victims of much-needed in-person support and comfort, the International Day will be an opportunity for the world to come together and stand in solidarity with all victims and survivors.

We have a moral duty and a responsibility to build on the progress made in recent years and increase our support to victims of terrorism, especially in times of crisis. At the international level, this progress can be seen in resolution 73/305, adopted last year, which calls for strengthened international cooperation to support victims of terrorism. It also recognizes the vital role that civil society organizations play in supporting the recovery of victims, which has unfortunately been disrupted by the pandemic as funding dries up and services are suspended or forced online. To ensure that victims are well-supported during and beyond the COVID-19 crisis, there needs to be decisive action at international and national levels, combining the resources and expertise of Member States, the private sector and civil society, including victims’ associations, human rights organizations and academia. The Group of Friends of Victims of Terrorism, an initiative of more than 40 Member State permanent missions to the United Nations in New York, and the establishment of a Civil Society Unit in my Office—the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism—are good examples of this strengthened collaboration.

The new scourge of COVID-19 may dominate today’s headlines but global challenges such as terrorism continue to destroy lives and communities. We owe it to every victim and survivor of terrorism to protect and promote their human rights, amplify their voices and uphold their dignity so they can heal, recover and rebuild their lives. Despite the many challenges we face during these uncertain times, supporting and remembering victims will always remain a top priority for my Office and for the whole United Nations. Only by acknowledging the tragic and devastating human impact of terrorism can we work towards the promotion of peace and a world without the scourge of terrorism.

19 August 2020

The UN Chronicle  is not an official record. It is privileged to host senior United Nations officials as well as distinguished contributors from outside the United Nations system whose views are not necessarily those of the United Nations. Similarly, the boundaries and names shown, and the designations used, in maps or articles do not necessarily imply endorsement or acceptance by the United Nations.

Solidarity needed to stop COVID increasing illicit drug threats to poor and vulnerable

By Ghada Waly

More people are using drugs, and more illicit drugs are available than ever. The COVID-19 crisis has exposed our fragility, with health systems strained and social safety nets stretched to the

Ghada Waly, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime

Ghada Waly, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime

limit. The economic downturn caused by the global pandemic may drive more people to substance abuse or leave them vulnerable to involvement in drug trafficking and related crime.

We have been here before. In the global recession that followed the 2008 financial crisis, drug users sought out cheaper synthetic substances and patterns of use shifted towards injecting drugs, while governments reduced budgets to deal with drug-related problems.

Vulnerable and marginalized groups, youth, women and the poor have been harmed the most. Now facing the gravest socio-economic crisis in generations, governments cannot afford to ignore the dangers illicit drugs pose to public health and safety.

All over the world, the risks and consequences of drug use are worsened by poverty, limited opportunities for education and jobs, stigma and social exclusion, which in turn helps to deepen inequalities, moving us further away from achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

While more people use drugs in developed countries than in developing countries, and wealthier segments of society have a higher prevalence of drug use, people who are socially and economically disadvantaged are more likely to develop drug use disorders.

Only one out of eight people who need drug-related treatment receive it, according to the World Drug Report 2020 from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Some 35.6 million people suffer from drug use disorders globally.

One out of three drug users is a woman but women represent only one out of five people in treatment. People in prison settings, minorities, immigrants and displaced people also face barriers to treatment due to discrimination and stigma.

Around 269 million people used drugs in 2018, up 30 per cent from 2009, with adolescents and young adults accounting for the largest share of users. While the increase reflects population growth and other factors, the data nevertheless indicate that illicit drugs are more diverse, more potent and more available.

At the same time, more than 80% of the world’s population, mostly living in low- and middle-income countries, are deprived of access to controlled drugs for pain relief and other essential medical uses.

Governments have repeatedly pledged to work together to address the challenges posed by the world drug problem, in the SDGs, and most recently in the 2019 Ministerial Declaration adopted by the Commission on Narcotic Drugs. But data indicate that support has actually fallen over time, imperilling government commitment as well as regional and global coordination.

Development assistance dedicated to drug control fell by some 90% between 2000-2017. Funding to address drugs may be provided under other budget lines, but there is little evidence of international donor attention to this priority. Assistance for alternative development – creating viable, licit forms of income to enable poor farmers to stop growing illicit opium poppy or coca – also remains very low.

Balanced, comprehensive and effective responses to drugs depend on shared responsibility. I urge governments to live up to their commitments and provide support.

Leaving no one behind requires greater investment in evidence-based prevention, as well as treatment and other services for drug use disorders, HIV, hepatitis C and other infections.

We need international cooperation to increase access to controlled drugs for medical purposes, while preventing diversion and abuse, and to strengthen law enforcement action to dismantle the transnational organized crime networks.

Expanding knowledge about the impacts of drugs on women and men, young and old, and different social groups can improve care. Use of alternatives to conviction and punishment for appropriate cases, in line with the international drug control conventions, can improve the chances for successful rehabilitation and reintegration.

Health-centred, rights-based and gender-responsive approaches to drug use and related diseases deliver better public health outcomes. We need to do more to share this learning and support implementation, most of all in developing countries, including by strengthening cooperation with civil society and youth organizations. We need to know more and care more.

As we seek to overcome and recover from the COVID-19 crisis, our societies cannot risk compounding illicit drug threats through inattention and neglect. We need drug strategies addressing the country level, as well as regional and interregional challenges. Governments need to mobilize financial resources, and more importantly, societal and institutional support – not one sector or one ministry but all efforts concerted and consolidated to achieve impact.

We need all countries to show greater solidarity, to address and build resilience to drug problems so the world can build back better from the pandemic.

Ghada Waly is the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime

UN Zambia presents COVID-19 supplies and Maternity Medical Equipment to the Zambia Correctional Service

Press Release

Kabwe, 22 May 2020: In its continued support to the COVID-19 response in Zambia, the United Nations system has through the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) presented Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials to the Zambia Correctional Service for use by inmates who constitute one of the vulnerable groups in society.

Dr. Mujinga Ngonga, National HIV Prevention Officer UNODC Zambia making her remarks during the presentation of maternity medical equipment at Mukobeko Maximum Prison in Kabwe. Photo Credit/UNIC/Lusaka/Charles Nonde

UNODC Zambia HIV Prevention Officer Dr Mujinga Ngonga handed over the materials to Commissioner General for Zambia Correctional Service, Dr Chisela Chileshe, at Mukobeko Maximum Correctional Facility in Kabwe. UNAIDS provided funding for the COVID-19 PPE and IEC materials valued at USD23,000.

“UNODC is keen to support national efforts so as ensure that international standards of prison management and public health are upheld. People in prison should be able to enjoy the same standards of health care as the general population. In Zambia this population is about 23’000 inmates and about 4,000 prison staff, these should not be left behind. We believe that they have a fundamental right to enjoy as good quality health care as other members of society free of charge and without discrimination and this includes COVID-19 prevention and control,” said Dr Ngonga.

It is a global trend that inmates and in correctional facilities and other places of detention are often the last to receive needed services and in times of COVID-19 it becomes even more desperate to have some conditions in place to avert the importation and spread of COVID-19

Some of the donated items received by the Prisons Services from UNODC Zambia. Photo Credit/UNIC/Lusaka/Charles Nonde

inside the correctional facilities. Physical distancing is obviously a challenge in overcrowded prison settings and as such masks or mouth and nose coverings, including cloths are one effective way of preventing the spread of COVID-19 within prison walls.

At the same event, UNODC presented Maternity Clinic Medical Equipment for use at the Mukobeko Maternity Clinic to help address Sexual and Reproductive Health challenges faced by incarcerated pregnant women. The equipment, valued at over USD37,000, was procured with funding from the Swedish Embassy.

“UNODC’s recommended action on incarcerated pregnant women is that they receive non-custodial sentences where possible and when appropriate. With this support, we are complementing the efforts of the Zambia Correctional Service to provide ante-natal and post-natal services not only to women in incarceration but also those from surrounding communities,” said Dr. Ngonga.

Dr Ngonga was joined at the event by Dr Tharcisse Baruhita, UNAIDS Country Director for Zambia whom she thanked for the support in providing funding for the PPE and IEC materials.

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# LeaveNoOneBehind #SDG3, #SDG5, #SDG10, #SDG16 #COVID19 #BangkokRules #NelsonMandelaRules #criminaljustice

For more information, please contact: 

United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) Lusaka, Mark Maseko, National Information Officer, P: +260-211-225-494 | M: + 260-955767062 | E: masekom@un.org

“Your prisoner could be your President”

By Moses Magadza

KABWE, ZAMBIA – The year is 2003.  Mr Lloyd Chilundika, now the Deputy Commissioner General in charge of Operations within the Zambia Correctional Service, is a young Senior Superintendent of Prisons and Officer in Charge for Kamwala Remand Prison in Lusaka. He is having a busy day in the office.

An angry tough-talking man has just been arrested and is led into his office. The unwilling and belligerent guest of the state is holding a cigarette. Despite being in the Officer in Charge’s office, the ‘suspect’ proceeds to take several puffs, filling the office with smoke. Chilundika is not amused but maintains his cool.

“Sir,” he says politely to his guest, “you can’t smoke in here, not even in your cell.”

The accused man turns out to be the now late Michael Chilufya Sata, then a Zambian opposition politician. On that September day, it did not seem probable that the sharp-tongued Sata would became the fifth President of Zambia. Yet that is what happened from 23 September 2011 until  his death on 28 October 2014.

Regardless, Chilundika treated him humanely and even allowed Sata’s wife to bring him nicotine sticks so that he would not smoke in his cell, which was not allowed. Six years later, Sata became President.

On Thursday, 18 July 2019 the world marked the Nelson Mandela Day and reflected on how correctional services are implementing the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the

Inmates at Mukobeko follow a sensitisation activity on the Mandela Rules. Photo: Nonde/UNIC Lusaka/2019

Treatment of Prisoners, now known as the Nelson Mandela Rules. Among other things, the Nelson Mandela Rules encourage Member States to offer prisoners health care services comparable to what obtains in mainstream society free of charge and without discrimination.

On the sidelines of colourful commemorations at Mukobeko Maximum Correctional Facility in Zambia’s Central Province at which inmates received food and non-food items courtesy of UNODC, UN Information Centre, UN Zambia staff and the private sector (Unilever, Unified Chemicals and Freshpikt), Chilundika reminisced about his 2003 encounter with the late President Sata.

In a brief interview he said he treated Sata with respect even though he did not have the foggiest idea that the now late politician – fondly remembered widely as King Cobra on account of his sharp tongue – would become Head of State and Government because he acknowledged “his innate dignity as a human being.”

While calling for practical steps from punitive to rehabilitative custody, Chilundika said Nelson Mandela Day provides an opportunity for correctional services all over the world to reflect and hold candid discussions on what can be done differently to improve care of people in incarceration.

“How do you treat an offender today who can be your President tomorrow? If we can see an offender in the same circumstances in which President Nelson Mandela was as he fought tuberculosis and reflect on the way he was treated, that would be a good standard. Let us recognise the inherent dignity of all people,” he said.

Mr Mwape Kasanda, Assistant Secretary in the Office of the President in Zambia, holds the same view. Speaking when the UNODC Regional Coordinator for Southern Africa Ms Signe Rotberga and other UNODC staff paid him a courtesy call in his office in Kabwe on Nelson Mandela Day, he said access to equitable health care was a human rights issue.

“Health and welfare of people in incarceration are very important. If one is incarcerated, one does not cease to be a human being. Basic rights must be upheld so that rehabilitation efforts are fully supported. Penitentiaries are meant to rehabilitate people. Mandela’s voice and fight for those in prison and the underprivileged must not be forgotten,” Kasanda said.

Dr Charles Msiska, the Provincial Health Director in charge of Central Province led 30 health practitioners including medical doctors from the Ministry of Health to Mukobeko Maximum Correctional Facility and began screening inmates for various health conditions free of charge.

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the UN Clinic in Lusaka initiated the screening, which the Ministry of Health enthusiastically embraced. The screening targeted at least 3000 male and female inmates and staff for non-communicable diseases that include hypertension, diabetes and cardiovascular conditions; eye diseases; and other diseases that include epilepsy, herpes zoster, asthma and dental carries.

UN staff and partners pose for a photo with correctional service authorities after the presentation. Photo: Nonde/UNIC Lusaka/2019

Msiska told inmates and scores of people that the Minster of Health had personally called him and instructed him to see to it that all inmates at the correctional facility were screened. He explained that in so doing, the Minister had taken leadership in the quest for universal access to equitable heath care and was toeing the line drawn by Zambia’s President Edgar Chagwa Lungu, who has declared that no one would be left behind as the world strives to end AIDS by 2030.

“We have decided that we will also screen all correctional officers. While here, we will not stop until we have seen the last client. No one should be left behind,” he said to applause.

By midday on Thursday, 1000 inmates had been screened. Depending on their conditions, some inmates were treated on site while others were referred to health facilities for further treatment. Rotberga hailed Zambia for lending much-needed political will to efforts to reform, rehabilitate and reintegrate offenders.

“As we reflect on the Nelson Mandela Rules and rules that are specific to health, seeing the work that is being done in Zambia is heart-warming. There is good collaboration between the Zambia Correctional Service and the Ministry of health in line with the Nelson Mandela Rules that say health care services should be organized in close relationship to the public health administration to ensure continuity of treatment and care.”

Chilundika thanked UNODC and other partners for supporting correctional services reforms in Zambia.

“Let us help future generations of correctional officers to adopt practices that would enable them to stand as being part of truly correctional and not largely punitive or retributive facilities,” he said.

Among the highlights of commemorations was a play written and performed by inmates on the rights of inmates. The play shows correctional officers from the old school brutalizing inmates while progressive ones caution them and teach them about the rights of inmates as outlined in the Nelson Mandela Rules.

In providing screening services for inmates, the Zambia Correctional Services and the Ministry of Health have joined Malawi Prison Service, which recently collaborated with the Ministry of Health to screen all female inmates for cervical cancer, in taking health care services to people in prison.

  • Moses Magadza is the Communication Officer at UNODC Regional Office for Southern Africa.

UNODC Hands Over Two Prisoner Rehabilitation Facilities in Zambia

By Joshua Sichinsambwe & Glenda Mweni, Interns, UNIC Lusaka

On Tuesday 9 April 2019 the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) handed over

Officials stand for the National Anthem during the launch

Officials stand for the National Anthem during the launch

to Mwembeshi Maximum Correctional Facility what would be the first-ever state of the art vocational training facility. This structure and its machinery came at a cost of US$150,000. Gracing this spectacular event were Minister of Home Affairs Honourable Steven Kampyongo, MP, UNODC Regional Representative for Southern Africa Ms Zhuldyz Akisheva, UN Zambia Resident Coordinator, a.i. Dr George Okech, and Zambia Correctional Service Commissioner General Dr Chisela Chileshe.

While handing over this correctional facility Mrs Akishev said: “It is my hope that this facility will be used to impart much-needed knowledge and vocational skills and to the prisoners at Mwembeshi Maximum Correctional Facility. I am therefore delighted to learn that with new facility now qualifies to be an exam centre under Technical Educational Vocational and Entrepreneurship Training Authority (TEVETA),” she said.

Speaking at the same event, Dr Chileshe said that poverty is one of the leading causes of crime that make people go to prison. He said that crime should be looked like a disease and this new vocational training centre will be used to remedy the disease of crime even as inmates prepare to reintegrate into their various communities. He added that this is why all prisons in Zambia had been changed to correctional facilities in line with the new mandate which is to rehabilitate and correct inmates into responsible law abiding citizens.

Alarming statistics were given by Hon Kampyongo who remarked that 30% of all inmates were reoffenders and prisons which were supposed to only house 12000 offenders were now housing over 22000. The living conditions of inmates have been compounded by the lack of sympathy from society who must remember that all inmates come from communities and will sooner or later have to go back to their communities. With this said he called upon stakeholders and partners to partner with the government the way UNODC has to help inmates.

The day after this opening, UNODC also handed over a national reintegration centre whose main objective is empowering ex-prisoners to easily be re-integrated into society. The centre was handed over to and will be run by the Zambian Prisoner Reintegration and Empowerment

Inmates sing and dance during Prisoner Reintegration and Empowerment Organization launch

Inmates sing and dance during Prisoner Reintegration and Empowerment Organization launch

Organization (PREO). PREO Board member Princess Kasune, Member of Parliament for Kembe Constituency stated that the issue of reintegration for former inmates is very crucial and cardinal for every parliamentarian or politician as they have more chances to be in prison than any other career. She said the integration of ex inmates and the issue of circumstantial children must be looked into. The UNODC Regional Representative Ms Zhuldyz Akisheva said the principle objective of the United Nations in the area of prison reform is to contribute to successful reintegration of prisoners into society following their release. “When released from prison, ex-prisoners face many challenges and have various reintegration needs such as shelter, food, clothing, capital to initiate projects, educational sponsorship, access to health care, legal issues and others,” she said.

Ms Zhuldyz Akisheva applauded the Planned Parenthood Association of Zambia for providing the space to host the registration centre which will provide the much-needed platform to identify the needs of released prisoners and provide the required linkage services or opportunities in the community. She also recognized the commitment of other stakeholders as well as the Executive Director and founder of PREO Derrick Malumo, a former prisoner, who was wrongly convicted and spent six years in prison for supporting the reintegration of ex offenders.

The two projects were made possible with the support of the Global Programme for the Implementation of the Doha Declaration that was established after the 13th United Nations Crime Congress in Qatar.

UN and UK Partner to Help Zambia fight Trafficking in Persons

By Dawn Heaps, Intern, UNIC Lusaka

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has launched a cooperation programme to support Zambia in the fight against trafficking in persons, with funding from the

High level representatives from the Government and the United Nations who attended the launch of the Trafficking in Persons programme launch. Photo Credit/UNIC/Lusaka/Dawn Heaps

British Government and UKAid.

Launching the intervention in Lusaka recently, Zambia’s Minister of Home Affairs Stephen Kampyongo underscored the severity of trafficking in persons. “This heinous crime of trafficking in persons leaves scars that are felt both by the trafficked individuals and the society from which they originate. If left unchecked, it has the potential to threaten public safety and national security,” he said.

Mr Kampyongo said that Zambia was committed to fighting Trafficking in persons, evidenced by several activities that include the country being among the first Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states to enact a stand-alone legislation on trafficking in persons which covers prosecution, protection and prevention. He added that Zambia had drafted two national plans of action to combat trafficking in persons.

Speaking at the same event UN Zambia Resident Coordinator Janet Rogan called for cooperation among all stakeholders in curbing human trafficking in Zambia, that had become not only a transit point but destination of victims of human trafficking.

And UNODC Regional Representative for Southern Africa, Zhuldyz Akisheva said that the new initiative offered an opportunity for increased focus protecting victims of human trafficking.

“Focus on victim protection is key in the global partnership against human trafficking and the smuggling of migrants. With the new programme, we have an opportunity to scale up and strengthen our work in Zambia to support a victim-centred approach in addressing human trafficking,” Akisheva said.

Echoing the urgency to act against human trafficking, British High Commissioner to Zambia, Fergus Cochrane-Dyet OBE, noted that the term “modern slavery” had been coined to describe the continuation of the disgraceful trade into modern times.

“This matters a lot because there is a significant Modern Slavery problem in Zambia….Trafficking occurs mostly within Zambia’s borders, with those from rural areas exploited in urban centres, in domestic servitude or sex trafficking, and in conditions of forced labour in sectors such as agriculture, textiles, and mining.

Part of the delegates who attended the launch. Photo Credit/UNIC/Lusaka/Dawn Heaps

According to the Global Modern Slavery Index, produced by the International Labour Organisation, International Organisation for Migration and Walk Free Foundation, in 2018 there were 9.24 million victims of modern slavery in Africa with Zambia accounting for 92,000.

The launch of the cooperation programme marked a milestone in the cooperation between UNODC and the Government of the Republic of Zambia. UNODC has been present in Zambia for the last 10 years, supporting the Zambia Correctional Service in HIV prevention and Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights in prison settings and prison reform to ensure that the use the Minimum Standards of treatment of offenders, commonly known as the Nelson Mandela Rules.

 

Taking action where we can to stop Cybercrime

By Yury Fedotov

The author is the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. The op-ed is on the need for cooperation to tackle cybercrime.

Cyber. It is the inescapable prefix defining our world today. From the privacy of individuals to relations between states, cyber dominates discussions and headlines – so much so that we risk being paralyzed by the magnitude of the problems we face.

Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

But we would do well to keep in mind that despite the many outstanding questions on the future of cybersecurity and governance, international cooperation is essential to tackle the ever-growing threats of cybercrime.

Online exploitation and abuse of children. Darknet markets for illicit drugs and firearms. Ransomware attacks. Human traffickers using social media to lure victims. Cybercrime’s unprecedented reach – across all borders, into our homes and schools, businesses, hospitals and other vital service providers – only amplifies the threats.

A recent estimate put the global cost of cybercrime at 600 billion US dollars. The damage done to sustainable development and safety, to gender equality and protection –women and girls are disproportionately harmed by online sexual abuse – is immense.

Keeping people safer online is an enormous task and no one entity or government has the perfect solution. But there is much we can do, and need to do more of, to strengthen prevention and improve responses to cybercrime, namely:

  • Build up capabilities, most of all law enforcement, to shore up gaps, particularly in developing countries; and
  • Strengthen international cooperation and dialogue – between governments, the United Nations, other international as well as regional organizations, INTERPOL and the many other partners, including business and civil society, with a stake in stopping cybercrime.

Cyber-dependent crime, including malware proliferation, ransomware and hacking; cyber-enabled crime, for example email phishing to steal financial data; and online child sexual exploitation and abuse all have something in common besides the “cyber” aspect: they are crimes.

Police, prosecutors and judges need to understand these crimes, they need the tools to investigate and go after the criminals and protect the victims, and they need to be able to prosecute and adjudicate cases.

At the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), we are working in more than 50 countries to provide the necessary training, to sharpen investigative skills, trace cryptocurrencies as part of financial investigations, and use software to detect online abuse materials and go after predators.

As a direct result of our capacity-building efforts in one country, a high-risk paedophile with over 80 victims –– was arrested, tried and convicted. We delivered the training in partnership with the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children and Facebook. This is just one example of how capacity building and partnerships with NGOs and the private sector can ensure that criminals are behind bars and vulnerable children protected.

Working with the Internet Watch Foundation, we have launched child sexual abuse reporting portals – most recently in Belize – so that citizens can take the initiative to report abuse images and protect girls and boys from online exploitation.

With partners including Thorn and Pantallas Amigas we are strengthening online protection and educating parents, caregivers and children about cyber risks through outreach in schools and local communities. Prevention is the key.

UNODC training – focused primarily on Central America, the Middle East and North Africa, Eastern Africa and South East Asia – is also helping to identify digital evidence in online drug trafficking, confront the use of the darknet for criminal and terrorist purposes, and improve data collection to better address threats.

A critical foundation for all our efforts is international cooperation. Our work – which is entirely funded by donor governments – has shown that despite political differences, countries can and do come together to counter the threats of cybercrime.

We are also strengthening international cooperation through the Intergovernmental Expert Group, which meets at UNODC headquarters in Vienna.

Established by General Assembly resolution, the Expert Group brings together diplomats, policy makers and experts from around the globe to discuss the most pressing challenges in cybercrime today. These meetings demonstrate the desire and willingness of governments to pursue pragmatic cooperation, which can only help to improve prevention and foster trust.

As a next step, we need to reinforce these efforts, including by providing more resources to support developing countries, which often have the most new Internet users and the weakest defences against cybercrime.

Tech companies are an indispensable ally in the fight against cybercrime. We need to increase public-private sector engagement to address common concerns like improving education and clamping down on online abuse material.

Countering cybercrime can save lives, grow prosperity and build peace. By strengthening law enforcement capacities and partnering with businesses so they can be part of the solution, we can go a long way in ensuring that the Internet can be a force for good.