Security Turbulences to World Order: Bringing our Humanity and Planet Back Into Balance

David M. Luna
Senior Director for Anticrime Programs, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
Florida International Summit
Orlando, FL
February 26, 2015

Good morning.

It is an honor to be here to speak and participate at this year’s Florida International Summit (FIS).

Let me thank Florida State University and the University of Central Florida (UCF) for their kind invitation and for their leadership in organizing this excellent conference. I would also like to applaud UCF’s Global Perspectives Office for its pioneering research and projects including its Diplomacy Program, which has grown out of a strong partnership with the State Department over the years.

It is these types of partnerships which help the United States to sharpen its foreign policy by drawing on scholarly research, exchanges, and other diplomacy “labs.”

On behalf of the U.S. Department of State, I would also like to thank all of the speakers and participants for making the commitment to be here and for being a part of this year’s 2015 FIS.

Amplifying on this year’s theme, I will focus on some of today’s global threats including the unholy trinity of transnational terrorism, crime, and corruption.

I hope that I can also perhaps inspire further thinking among esteemed policy, academic and research communities on the impact of these transnational threats to human security and development.

Violent Extremism and Agents of Mass Destruction

Ladies and gentlemen, we continue to live in a dangerous time of insecurity and instability.

The United States faces serious threats to our national security, from the brutality and violent extremism that we are seeing in Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, Libya, and other hot spots of conflict, to deadly pandemics such as the Ebola virus, to the destructive consequences of climate change, and of course, cybercrime and the harms caused by transnational crime and corruption.

Across the Middle East, Africa, the Americas, and Asia and Europe alike, these grave threats will continue to imperil our collective security, national interests, enduring values, and hamper a sustainable agenda of economic growth and shared prosperity.

What happens in remote places like Iraq and Syria has direct consequences not only to our interests in certain parts of the world, but equally, to our homeland, and those of our allies.

The “reign of terror” and criminal acts of ISIL, and the complicit foreign fighters that have joined arms with them, are inhumane and reprehensible.

From their horrific crimes against innocent women and children, obliterating communities and holy sites, to committing mass atrocities such as beheadings, crucifixions, rapes, burning people alive, and other heinous acts, ISIL endangers the peoples of the Middle East and North Africa, as well as our allies in other regions.

A merciless, ideologically-driven terrorist organization bent on creating an Islamic caliphate, ISIL is a psychopathic threat network that exports hatred and terror, and exploits profitable opportunities to further its ideological goals, twisting the Koran to justify its mayhem.

Recently, it has been reported that ISIL is expanding beyond its base in Syria and Iraq to establish militant affiliates in Afghanistan, Algeria, Egypt, and Libya, raising the prospect of a broader regional caliphate of radicalism.

ISIL is nothing more than a criminal organization. Using fear, threats, and attacks, ISIL extorts money from local businesses and traders, and loots banks and households alike. Working through long-established regional smuggling networks, ISIL transports stolen oil across regional borders, continues to net several millions of dollars a month through black-market oil sales.

ISIL procures funding from illegal taxation and trafficking in persons, counterfeits, antiquities, and cigarettes. These illicit sources of financing allow extremist groups to diversify their revenue streams in order to carry out their horrific attacks.

In the African continent, Boko Haram, al-Shabaab, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and other terrorist groups in other regions such as the Taliban and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, are similarly using mass fear and destructive violence to inflict horrors on local populations.

Central African Republic, Somalia, South Sudan, Yemen, and Libya also remain locked in conflict, upheaval and chaos.

Hatred and violent extremism are also being exported from these battlegrounds to main streets in other parts of the world.

As witnessed in recent months, ISIL-inspired so-called “lone-wolves” or foreign fighters returning back to their home countries have carried on further jihadist campaigns in the streets of Paris, Ottawa, Copenhagen, Sydney, London, and others.

The 2015 National Security Strategy that was released earlier this month by the White House clearly states that the United States will continue working with committed partners on countering the flow of foreign terrorist fighters into Iraq and Syria, and other regions of conflict.

And as President Barack Obama underscored last week at his White House Summit to Combat Violent Extremism, we must also counter their extreme and dangerous ideologies that radicalize and recruit to violence young people around the world.

President Obama also called upon governments to come to the United Nations this Fall with concrete steps that the international community can take together and to “confront squarely and honestly the twisted ideologies” that terrorist groups, and others, use to incite people to violence.

The United States will also work to press for greater cooperation on information sharing, border security, law enforcement, capacity-building, counter-messaging, countering violent extremism, and terrorist financing.

It is fair to anticipate that all regions of the world will continue to have to deal with terrorism, radicalism, and violence and related security threats for years to come.

Moreover, in a world of threat convergence, societies and communities will also have to grapple with cross-border threats such as transnational organized crime.

What happens in Africa or the Middle East has ripple effects in Europe, Asia, and the Americas.

Before I get to other dirty entanglements – crime and corruption – I want to highlight the growing concerns and realities associated with the kidnapping, physical abuse, and manipulation and socialization of children to violence by terrorists.

We must continue to curb these criminal practices and stop terrorists from enslaving children or forcing them to become child soldiers and suicide bombers.

Crime-Terror Convergence: Mass Atrocities

Unfortunately, some organized criminals and illicit networks have long used terrorist tactics and have demonstrated an equal thirst for violent extremism.

In recent years, across Mexico and Central America, for example, valleys, drug corridors, and barrios have become the trenches in which Latin American cartels and gangs fight each other for control of lucrative routes, territories, and markets.

In fact, the excesses of these cartels and gangs including Los Zetas, Sinaloa cartel, Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13), and others, in many cases exceeds those of ISIL and other terrorist groups in terms of beheadings, tortures, mutilations, acid body burnings, and disemboweled corpses that are displayed openly in public places to terrorize communities, and which are glorified on the internet.

In the past decade alone, hundreds of thousands of civilians have lost their lives through mass atrocities by terrorists, criminals and corrupt ruling elite to retain control of power or markets, or to advance a political agenda.

These criminals need to be dealt with decisively and prosecuted for their crimes.

“Dirty Entanglements” Across the Global Threat Environment

In today’s threat environment, terrorists and transnational criminal organizations are increasingly learning from one another’s sophisticated tactics to raise funds; to move people, illicit arms, and other contraband; and to spread the fear that is a critical source of their power and to use it to further expand their reach.

Looking at the effect of organized crime in a globalized world, the reality is such that criminal and illicit networks have in fact expanded their tentacles to all parts of the world, corrupting public and market-based institutions alike.

They know no borders. They do not respect the rule of law, and mete out their own brand of justice.

Their activities threaten not only the interdependent commercial, transportation, and transactional systems that facilitate free trade and the movement of people throughout the global economy, but are jeopardizing economic development, security, and supply chain integrity.

In this global illicit marketplace, organized criminals are truly multinational enterprises establishing a presence in new markets across every region of the world, linking and consummating business deals with one another.

For example, Latin American cartels are doing business with Asian triads; Eurasian mafias are colluding with Middle East syndicates; and so on.

Their individual and cross-group, cross-border criminal activities are putting legitimate businesses, government institutions, consumers, and citizens at risk.

Their penetration of state institutions and financial and security sectors is particularly alarming, especially in some parts of the world where the illicit economy is the only economy. In some instances, the state itself has been captured by criminals.

Moreover, the illicit-licit commingling of blood money is of equal concern as criminals reinvest their profits derived from illicit activities across banking, real estate, tourism, fashion, and the arts, sports, and entertainment industries.

This darker side of globalization is thus thriving with hundreds of billions of dollars in illicit commerce that includes narcotics trafficking, wildlife trafficking, human trafficking, illegal logging, counterfeit consumer goods and medications, stolen antiquities and art, and other illicit enterprises.

It is a network of shadowy markets in which illegal arms brokers and narcotics kingpins act as the new CEOs and venture capitalists.

Just to give you a snapshot of the breadth and scale of these illicit markets, according to some estimates by various international organizations, the illegal economy accounts for eight to 15 percent of world GDP, and in many parts of the developing world, it may account for higher percentages in their economies.

Even if imprecise, the estimated annual costs and revenues generated by transnational illicit networks and organized crime groups are staggering:

  • Bribery and Money Laundering: At least $1 trillion for each crime
  • Narcotics Trafficking: $750 billion to $1 trillion
  • Counterfeited and Pirated Products: $500 billion
  • Environmental Crime (illegal wildlife trade, logging, trade in CFCs, and toxic waste dumping): $20 to $40 billion
  • Human Trafficking: 20.9 million victims globally, $32 billion annually
  • Credit Card Fraud: $10 to $12 billion

Simply put, illicit trade is a barrier to economic growth, and a global threat to sustainable development.

As societies grapple with insecurity and instability, crime and corruption further decay any remaining sustainable pillars for development when governments cannot afford to provide vital public security and law enforcement because revenue streams from legitimate commerce are being siphoned away by corrupt officials, smugglers, and criminals.

Countries are also losing their human capital and economic potential when young men, women, and children are kidnapped, trafficked, exploited, or even murdered by a web of criminality and corruption.

North Korea, for example, as reported last week in the New York Times is now exporting its human capital, tens of thousands of its citizens, to places in Russia, China, and across Africa and the Middle East to toil in factories, logging camps, military tunnels, construction sites, and fishing boats, sending earnings in hard currency back to its coffers in Pyongyang.

Cartels and Gangs Fuel Greater Insecurity and Instability in the Americas

Let’s us examine our own hemisphere to comprehend more vividly how drug trafficking and violent criminal networks are decimating communities – from the United States, Canada and Mexico to Central America, South America, to the Caribbean.

It is true that sustained pressure by Mexican security forces in recent years has forced the cartels to push their operations into Central America and the Caribbean.

Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador are now suffering a staggering increase in drug trafficking and crime, as are island countries of the Caribbean such as Haiti, Jamaica and Dominican Republic. In fact, according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), some of the world’s highest homicide rates are found in countries in the Western Hemisphere.

But let me be clear. Drug trafficking remains a major threat to the United States and cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamines remain lucrative markets that are sustaining the bloody warfare among various trafficking organizations and contributing to the instability in the region, as well as in West Africa, and conflict zones like Afghanistan.

Illicit trade also brings negative externalities to the economies it affects, including corruption, illicit financial flows, depleted government revenues from taxes and customs, decreased foreign investment, decreased tourism, and slow economic growth.

The United States needs to do its part, and we will.

We must continue reducing the demand for drugs on this side of the border, and we accept our responsibility for that.

Too many Americans are the consumers of drugs that transit Mexico and Central America, and that trade will exist as long as there is demand.

We need to do more to cut that demand.

To support our partners in the region, the United States is providing technical assistance and expertise through the Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI), Mérida Initiative, INL’s bilateral Colombian program, and Caribbean Basin Security Initiatives (CBSI), including training programs and initiatives that are aimed at protecting citizens and strengthening the institutions responsible for ensuring citizen safety.

Specific U.S. foreign assistance funding is also being provided in the areas of maritime security, law enforcement, information sharing, border and migration control, transnational crime, and criminal justice.

Other programs seek to increase regional cooperation of our Central American and Caribbean partners to share law enforcement data, including ballistics imaging, airport passenger manifests, and fingerprinting, through software and training.

Technical assistance will also increase the ability of our partners to combat financial crimes and money laundering, while equipment and training for law enforcement personnel target narcotics trafficking on land and sea.

These efforts seek to strengthen national and regional security systems throughout the hemisphere before the threats of illicit trafficking and transnational crime worsen.

More globally, new threats and new forms of crime like cybercrime will become even more challenging in the years to come.

Cyber criminals today via both the open and dark webs, are conducting an array of profitable illicit enterprises involving narcotics, on-line child pornography, prostitution, money laundering and illicit uses of virtual currencies, financial fraud, identity and data theft, extortion and blackmail, and for a price, contract killings and assassinations.

Computer hacking, network exploitation, and disruption activities such as denial-of-service attacks make the news on an almost daily basis.

Through public-private partnerships with industry and businesses, we are leveraging our capabilities and technologies to identify, analyze, and counter these threats.

We are addressing vulnerabilities associated with cybercrime and security and mitigating and responding to these threats including through the new Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center the President announced earlier this month.

Our Current Ecological Footprint: Excessive Consumption and Pillaging of Natural Resources, Insecurity and Competition

Given these excesses and the costs of terrorism, crime and corruption, it is no wonder that as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, and other luminaries have aptly observed over the past year, the “world is a mess”.

Moreover, if we factor in issues like pandemics, climate change, and the fact that we are poaching endangered wildlife, destroying vital ecosystems, and extracting critical resources at a rate of consumption that is not sustainable, our global security remains uncertain.

We are on the brink of not only the extinction of endangered flora and fauna, but on a trajectory that will fuel greater insecurity and instability as societies fight with one another for even scarcer resources including food and water.

According to a 2014 Living Planet report by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), over the past 40 years, populations of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish around the globe dropped by 52 percent.

The poaching of iconic animals such as rhinoceros, elephants, tigers, gorillas, orangutans, and pangolins, have left these species very close to extinction.

For example, an insatiable demand for the rhino's horn, prized in Asia for traditional medicinal purposes – due to an un-founded belief that it cures cancer, increases libido, or serves as an all-purpose health tonic for other ailments and hangovers – have decimated the population across Africa and Asia. On the streets in Southeast Asia, a rhino horn can sell for $65,000 (U.S.) a kilogram, making it more valuable than gold.

The scourge of wildlife trafficking also encompasses trafficking of fisheries products and related threats to food supplies and food security.

It is well-established that wildlife trafficking is facilitated and exacerbated by illegal harvest and trade of plants and trees, which destroys needed habitat and vital ecosystems.

The illicit trade in timber and marine resources constitutes a multi-billion dollar industry annually, endangers the environment, and contributes to expanding the global illegal economy, thus weakening the rule of law around the world through corruption.

This why on some of the global initiatives that I help lead in the G-7 Roma-Lyon Experts’ Group on Combating Wildlife Trafficking, OECD Task Force on Charting Illicit Trade and APEC Pathfinder’s Partnerships for Sustainable Security related to the filthy lucre associated with endangered wildlife, rainforests and illegal logging, and illicit fisheries, the United States has put the issue of corruption front and center in our international efforts to combat environmental crimes and illicit trade.

In implementing the President’s National Strategy on Combating Wildlife Trafficking, the U.S. Department of State is helping to support our law enforcement and international partners in combating corruption and the criminal networks slaughtering our endangered species.

Many of these illicit actors are networks are using weapons of war – assault rifles, silencers, night vision equipment, and helicopters – to profit from the black market sale of wildlife products. There too has been an increase in reports of terrorist groups financing their activities by the poaching and trafficking of wildlife.

On national security and climate change, as outlined in his 2014 testimony to the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on the 2014 Global Threat Assessment, James Clapper, Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), indicated that competition and scarcity involving natural resources—food, water, minerals, and energy—are growing security threats:

More and more countries are becoming vulnerable to natural resource shocks that degrade economic development, frustrate attempts to democratize, raise the risk of regime-threatening instability, and aggravate regional tensions. Extreme weather events (floods, droughts, heat waves) will increasingly disrupt food and energy markets, exacerbating state weakness, forcing human migrations, and triggering riots, civil disobedience, and vandalism. Criminal or terrorist elements can exploit any of these weaknesses to conduct illicit activity and/or recruitment and training.

Make no mistake, climate change is very real.

It is here now and is a threat to our national security, and will continue to contribute to global insecurity and instability due to increased natural disasters, refugee flows, and conflicts over basic food and water.

As many communities across the United States have experienced already, increased sea levels and storm surges are threatening coastal regions, infrastructure, and real property.

The World Is a Mess: Let’s Fix it Together

In this ever-changing world, terrorism, crime, corruption, climate change, catastrophic natural disasters and other threats will continue to imperil our humanity and planet alike.

We need to adopt smarter, more proactive approaches to global security, market forces, natural disasters, and yes, we need a strong moral courage to take the fight directly to today’s threat networks.

If we do not act, transnational threats will continue to imperil our communities, economies, and ways of life.

We must build a network of networks and a community of responsible governments, businesses, and civil society organizations, working together to build market resiliency, safeguard government integrity, and to protect our citizens and our common security.

In addition to the 2015 National Security Strategy, there are many other strategic US security frameworks and strategies on the array of global threats that concern issues from WMD illicit trafficking to terrorism and cybersecurity.

On countering the convergence of illicit threats a national security priority, in 2011, the White House released the Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime: Addressing Converging Threats to National Security, which aims to protect Americans and citizens of partner nations from violence and exploitation at the hands of transnational criminal networks.

The United States is committed to strengthen and sustain our resolve and capabilities to protect the homeland and break the corruptive power of transnational criminal networks, and sever state-crime alliances.

The United States and its partners recognize the importance of net-centric partnerships to confront converging threats and the lethal nexus of organized crime, corruption, and terrorism along global illicit pathways and financial hubs.

In support of the TOC Strategy, the U.S. Congress established the Transnational Organized Crime Rewards Program in order to assist efforts to dismantle transnational criminal organizations and bring their leaders and members to justice.

The new program complements the Narcotics Rewards Program by offering rewards up to $5 million for information on significant transnational criminal organizations involved in activities beyond drug trafficking, such as cybercrime, human trafficking, money laundering, maritime piracy, and trafficking in arms, counterfeits, endangered wildlife, and other illicit goods.

Moving forward, the United States will continue to build collaborative partnerships and knowledge-based platforms with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the World Bank, the G7/G20, INTERPOL, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), World Customs Organization (WCO), the European Union (EU), the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum (APEC), Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Organization of American States (OAS), Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), African Union (AU), and other inter-governmental, multilateral and regional bodies.

To thwart the types of threats that I have discussing this morning, we need to leverage a whole-of-government approach and better coordinate all instruments of our national power – diplomacy, military, economic, intelligence, law enforcement, and other tools – if we are to disrupt and dismantle today’s threat networks.

Finally, let me also take a moment to honor all of our proud men and women, civilian and military, who are serving, or have served, their country and those patriots who give their lives for our country to courageously advance our democratic values and ideals including to end tyranny, combat terrorism and violent crime, promote freedom and the rule of law, and safeguard our security.

To all of our troops including our colleagues down the I-4 corridor in Tampa at the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), where I will visit tomorrow, thank you for faithfully defending our country.

Moving Forward: Sustainable American Leadership and World Order

In closing, at a time when global risks are growing and converging, the international community must come together to better understand the current and future threats and turbulences of our world.

We must be clear-eyed about these and other challenges. We must recognize that the United States has a unique capability to mobilize and lead the international community to meet them.

And while so much is asked of the United States in these dangerous times, other partners must also step up and become more responsible partners towards safeguarding our shared security and defend our common humanity including our Arab nation partners, the EU, China, Mexico, India, international organizations, the private sector, and many, many others.

Because threat networks such as ISIL or drug cartels will not simply stand still until others decide whether or not to defend their own interests and join a coalition of the willing.

As our adversaries continue to engage in violent extremism and criminality, we must march forward together to confront the threats wrought on our communities and anticipate tomorrow’s challenges recognizing that the real threat centers in their convergence, and are in fact, inter-connected.

We must deter and defeat any adversary that imperils our shared security and confront them with our strength, just cause, and joint resolve.

When nations work together across borders and sectors as partners, humanitarians, and agents of positive change, catalyzing and collective action can defeat today’s agents of mass destruction and secure an enduring global peace.

I firmly believe that we must leave this world a little better than what we inherited – a cleaner environment, safer communities, and more prosperous societies, and help to rebalance our humanity and planet for our posterity and sustainable futures.

Thank you.