Senior United Nations officials Wednesday drew the world’s attention to threats posed by transnational organized crime and drug trafficking in Central America and called for concerted global efforts to combat the scourge, which they said is spreading to other continents.
“Countries in Central America face a tide of violence, born of transnational organized crime and drug trafficking,” the president of the General Assembly, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, said at the opening of the Assembly’s thematic debate on “Security in Central America as a Regional and Global Challenge – How to Improve and Implement the Central American Security Strategy.”
“Human trafficking, migrant smuggling, and kidnapping have also attached themselves to the underbellies of Central American societies. Highly sophisticated criminal threats in the region are eroding economic development, corrupting legal and political processes, and undermining public confidence,” said Al-Nasser.
“In a word, these threats risk unravelling gains made in development in the region, and leading to social and political upheaval,” he added.
The overall objective behind the debate is to highlight the Central American governments’ individual and collective fight against transitional organized crime, its focus in the framework of U.N. policies and actions, as well as the importance of cooperation with and support of the donor community. In June last year, the region’s heads of state adopted a so-called Central American Regional Security Strategy.
In his opening remarks, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pointed out that countries in the region – especially in the northern triangle of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras – face rising levels of violence fueled by transnational organized crime and drug trafficking.
“Caught between drug producing countries in the south and some of the major consumer countries in the north, proximity has encouraged criminality,” said Ban.
He highlighted the fact that Central America has become the region with the highest homicide rates in the world – 39 murders per 100,000 citizens in Guatemala, 72 per 100,000 in El Salvador, and 86 per 100,000 in Honduras.
“In countries of the region, as many as one out of every 50 20-year-old males will be murdered before they reach the age of 32. That is 400 times higher than in countries with low homicide rates,” said Ban. “This is more than a spate of killings, it is a crisis – bringing with it great fear and instability to societies. Beyond these appalling numbers, other crimes have emerged – kidnappings, migrant smuggling and human trafficking.”
He also noted that the narcotics problem was not confined to Central America, pointing out that the region is a bridge to North America, and that the Americas are, in general, a staging post to Europe, through trafficking routes in West and Central Africa.
“All of this underscores the need to go beyond a regional approach. Our world is interconnected. Our challenges are linked. Our solutions must be, too,” said Ban. “That is why, last year, I established the Task Force on Transnational Organized Crime and Drug Trafficking. Our approach is rooted in the rule of law and respect for human rights.”
The Task Force was set up in March 2011 to integrate responses to transnational organized crime into the United Nations’ peacekeeping, peace building, security and development activities, with the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime and the U.N. Department of Political Affairs as co-chairs.
In his remarks, Al Nasser urged member states and the U.N. to continue to work towards greater unity and political commitment to tackle the security challenges in Central America.
“Our duty is to help tear down the complex web of crime in Central America, and to achieve security – one of the keystones of democracy – for the region, and for the world,” he said.
Al-Nasser announced that he will convene a debate on “Drugs and Crime as a Threat to Development” on the occasion of the U.N. International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. That will be in June. President Laura Chinchilla has been urging the United Nations to consider the problem.