ECOSOC chief Munir Akram urges halt to illicit financial flows from poor countries at Crime Congress in Kyoto

UNITED NATIONS:The President of United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Pakistan’s Ambassador Munir Akram, Sunday joined top Japanese leaders and UN officials in calling for renewed global cooperation against crime to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to recover from the Coronavirus pandemic.

The calls were made at the opening session of the 14th UN Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice held in an innovative hybrid format amid pandemic curbs in Kyoto, Japan, featuring statements from Princess Takamado, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and Justice Minister Yoko Kamikawa, as well as from the UN General Assembly President, Volkan Bozkir, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the head of UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Ghada Waly.

“There can be no sustainable development without justice, the rule of law and prevention and control of crime,” Ambassador Akram said in his virtual address delivered from New York to the distinguished gathering.

Among the issues, he urged the Congress to prioritize was to recommend measures for halting the bleeding of the resources of developing countries through illicit financial flows, especially when they are struggling to overcome the challenges posed by shrinking fiscal space to fight the pandemic and achieve the SDGs.

Environmental crimes and ever-growing illegal trade in wildlife – which could lead to other zoonotic diseases – must be dealt on priority basis, the ECOSOC chief said.

He suggested opening up additional avenues for legal migration as a way to reduce the demand for smuggling services and to meet migration related SDGs.

Ambassador Akram called for effective action against falsified and fake medical products (such as Covid-19 vaccines) and to strengthen international cooperation in this regard.

“Coordinated approaches to preventing and combating transnational organized crime is critical to recover better from the crisis, help achieve peaceful and inclusive societies, and make progress towards all of the Sustainable Development Goals,” the ECOSOC chief added.

In the Kyoto Declaration adopted Sunday, governments agreed concrete actions to advance responses addressing crime prevention, criminal justice, rule of law and international cooperation. Member States will take commitments forward at the 30th session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in Vienna in May.

The UN chief, in his live address also delivered from New York, highlighted the importance of the Crime Congress to tackling challenges arising in the global pandemic.

“Crime prevention, criminal justice and the rule of law have a key role in renewing the social contract between states and their populations,” Guterres said. “The agenda of the 14th Crime Congress targets the responses we need to strengthen crime prevention and criminal justice in the current crisis.”

Bozkir, the UNGA president in a pre-recorded statement, said: “Make no mistake. We will not achieve the targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development if we do not take action on the rule of law, crime prevention and criminal justice.”

Organized with the support of UNODC, the Crime Congress represents the world’s largest gathering of governments, international and regional organizations, civil society, experts and scholars focusing on crime prevention and criminal justice.

The Congress was adapted to adhere to strict health and safety standards while enabling high-level and diverse participation, with a limited in-person component and the majority of participants joining virtually through a new, dedicated event platform. Of 5,600 participants, some 4,200 are registered for online participation. This includes representatives from 152 Member States, 37 intergovernmental organizations, 114 non-governmental organizations, 600 individual experts and a number of UN entities and institutes.

UNODC Executive Director Waly commended the efforts of Congress participants to “write the next chapter in global cooperation for the advancement of crime prevention and criminal justice, towards more peaceful and inclusive societies”.

“As our world suffers in this prolonged crisis, we are united in the urgency to protect people and leave no one behind. We are in a race against time, as organized crime has spared no efforts in taking advantage of the crisis, from selling falsified vaccines, to exploiting those who have lost their livelihoods, and diverting stimulus funds,” she said.

The 14th Congress was postponed by General Assembly decision from its original date in April 2020 due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. A ceremony during the opening saw Qatar, the host of the 13th UN Crime Congress in Doha, hand over the presidency of the Congress to Minister Kamikawa.

Two representatives of the Youth Forum held ahead of the Congress also presented their recommendations during the high-level segment.

Discussions will continue until Friday in the formal proceedings as well as at dozens of special events and ancillary meetings hosted on the hybrid event platform, which will address topics ranging from addressing corruption to tackle wildlife crime and gender dimensions of counter-terrorism, to the impact of COVID-19 in prison settings, addressing children associated with terrorist and violent extremist groups, and youth as agents for change to promote the rule of law.