Opening Statement of the United States of America to the 24th UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice

Luis E. Arreaga
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
Vienna, Austria
May 18, 2015

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and congratulations on your election and the election of other members of the bureau.

One month has passed since Qatar welcomed us to Doha for the 13th UN Crime Congress. Many of you have noted that Qatar produced an impressive number of “firsts” in UN history:

  • The first time that the Secretary-General and the Presidents of the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council participated in the event.
  • The first time that more than 4,000 delegates attended, including representatives of civil society and the media.
  • And, the first time that the political declaration of the Crime Congress was negotiated in advance and adopted on the first day.

All of these “firsts” remind us that the Crime Congress in Doha was not a point of arrival, but a point of departure.

It is the first milepost on the road to Japan 2020, where we will reconvene to assess our progress and recalibrate our common goals.

This week, and for years to come, the Doha Declaration will serve as a roadmap for integrating our common objectives into our crime prevention and development agendas. Poverty, security and crime are well connected.

The recent loss of life on the Mediterranean and similar incidents in the Caribbean and south of my own country offer tragic proof of these links. Migrant smugglers throughout the world exploit the poor and vulnerable with misleading and dangerous offers of easy passage to countries where prosperity and security seem to be guaranteed.

The United States adheres to the principle that governments have a responsibility to ensure the security of their borders, as well as to promote effective and humane international migration policies that protect the human rights of migrants, especially women, children, and other vulnerable members of society.

Interdiction is not enough. Protection begins at home. We believe in addressing the root causes of irregular immigration movements, such as the recent surge of more than 50,000 unaccompanied minors from Central America to the United States. In this regard, we are working with our partners in the region by targeting the underlying causes driving migration through the Alliance for Prosperity plan developed by Central American leaders.

Our objective is to promote prosperity, enhance security, and strengthen governance to address the underlying social, economic, political, and security causes that drive migration.

This strategy rests on the four pillars of our broader campaign against transnational organized crime and corruption worldwide:

  • First, building effective, fair, humane, and accountable criminal justice institutions. On this topic, I would like to take a moment to applaud efforts by the Government of Guatemala to renew the mandate of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) for another two years. CICIG helps Guatemala promote the rule of law, accountability, and integrity of the institutions of justice and public order.
  • Second, developing a culture of lawfulness that protects women, children, and vulnerable members of society, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex persons.
  • Third, maximizing the use of the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC), the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), the three UN drug conventions, and the many counterterrorism conventions as the foundation for law enforcement and international cooperation to address crimes such as cybercrime, trafficking in wildlife and cultural property as well as other emerging crimes. Ladies and Gentlemen, we do not have a shortage of conventions, we have a shortage of their implementation.
  • Fourth, ensuring the inclusion of civil society in crime prevention and criminal justice efforts. NGOs, academic experts, and the media have important contributions to make to our collective efforts.

It is a testament to the strength of this consensus-based body, and to the leadership of the State of Qatar, that the Doha Declaration includes all four of these pillars in one form or another. We may have different views on language from time to time, but we can all agree on certain core objectives: security, prosperity, justice, human rights, and dignity for all people.

These principles are enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, and we have now carried them into the 21st century with the Doha Declaration.

Let me close by suggesting that we look at our prisons as a measure of our progress. Fyodor Dostoyevsky once wrote, “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” The United States is pleased to have worked alongside South Africa, Canada, Paraguay and Thailand to host a side event this afternoon on the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, featuring practitioners who have spent their careers implementing these rules. In memory of one of the greatest defenders of human rights and dignity in recent history, we call upon the Commission to endorse and adopt the revised Standard Minimum Rules as the “Mandela Rules” this week.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for the opportunity to speak. The United States looks forward to a productive session this week under your leadership.