UN Security Council Open Debate on Peace and Security in Africa: The impact of transnational organized crime on peace, security and stability in West Africa and the Sahel region: Statement by Permanent Secretary Ritva Viljanen, Ministry of the Interior of Finland, New York, 21 February 2012
Your Excellency, Mr. President,
Distinguished Members of the Security Council,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Finland wishes to thank the Republic of Togo for the concept note and for convening this open debate. The European Union has already spoken and I associate myself fully with its statement.
We also wish to thank the Secretary-General for his report on the activities of the United Nations Office for West Africa (S/2011/811), which encourages the countries of the region to continue to combat transnational organized crime, including illicit drug trafficking, and calls on international partners to provide support for these countries.
We warmly welcome the consideration of this topic at this venue as we share the deep concern over the impact that transnational organized crime has on the peace, security, stability and on the wider development of this region. The linkages between organized crime, the trafficking of arms, drugs and human beings, and terrorism are indisputable.
Countering these challenges requires strong determination and concerted action by the countries of the region as well as the efforts and cooperation of the international community as a whole. Regional and local ownership is absolutely essential if our common efforts are to succeed.
We recognize that the challenges the countries of West Africa and the Sahel are struggling with are multifaceted. Consequently, it is of utmost importance that a comprehensive approach is adopted to counter these challenges. This approach includes the strengthening of the overall social and economic structures of these countries. To successfully and efficiently combat different forms of transnational organized crime requires, inter alia, determined efforts to enhance and strengthen law enforcement and judicial institutions.
Finland is involved in the international efforts in combating the trafficking of drugs and human beings, organized crime and illegal immigration. The Government of Finland has made a decision to recruit an immigration liaison officer to our Embassy in Nigeria. He will begin his work in some weeks and will cover the whole region of West Africa, including ECOWAS countries, in the fight against above mentioned challenges. His work will include among others the cooperation with local and national authorities
Also in Finland, my government organized together with the French Embassy and the Finnish Institute for International Relations a seminar on Sahel in Helsinki last November. We discussed about the situation and how to address all challenges in a holistic, inclusive and coordinated manner. We are delighted that the difficult situation in the Sahel area has been put higher on the international agenda. Today’s open debate here in the Security Council clearly shows this.
The United Nations is at the heart of the international cooperation on the prevention of transnational crime as it is at the heart of the maintenance of international peace and security. Due to the global nature of the threat posed by organized crime and terrorism, effective counter measures requires continuous and consistent cooperation between different actors, including the civil society. Cooperation between law enforcement and judicial authorities is an essential element of the prevention and the combating of drug trafficking and terrorism. However, it is also important that the actions of authorities are consistent and appropriately transparent.
In Finland, target prevention is our own national concept, with the help of which we, in a determined and systematic manner focus the scare resources of the law enforcement authorities on the right place at the right time. One of our country’s operative strengths is close cooperation between Police, Customs and Border Guard. Criminal intelligence gathered by all law-enforcement and other relevant authorities is kept and analysed in one place in order to make a common picture of the criminal intelligence.
I also wish to mention the experience that Finland has on the joint crime investigations with other countries and in special on the implementation of the concept of Joint Investigation Teams (JIT). JITs make cooperation with other countries and investigation itself more efficient and the criminal liability will be established in the right and appropriate place.
There is a clear link between development and security. Therefore, the consolidation of the comprehensive security situation should be emphasized. This also requires addressing development issues, such as the negative effects of climate change, which can lead to social instability in the region as stated in the Secretary General’s Report. Also strong commitment to the rule of law and to the promotion and protection of the human rights is a precondition for stability and peace.
High levels of youth unemployment and poverty increases the appeal of terrorism and joining organized crime groups. This makes it crucial to combat the social exclusion of minorities and other groups and individuals in a vulnerable situation by ensuring that they have equal opportunities to participate in the society.
Major concern among other things is also the worsening humanitarian situation in Sahel region. The looming severe food crisis has put over 10 million people and especially over 1 million children at risk. The international aid community should take anticipatory measures without delay to respond to the crisis. While providing humanitarian assistance the root causes for the crisis must also be addressed. This should be followed through long-term development efforts and strengthening the resilience of the population to tackle possible future droughts and food crisis. Finland is currently planning the funding of humanitarian assistance to the region for the beginning of the year 2012. In 2011, Finland granted 5, 1 million euros worth of humanitarian aid to Niger, Mali and Chad.
The European Union Strategy for Security and Development in the Sahel was adopted in March last year. As an EU member state, Finland supports the integrated approach as well as the strategic objectives adopted in the strategy.
The security and stability of West Africa and the Sahel have a direct impact on the internal security of Europe. One of EU´s priorities is the reduction of the capacity of organised crime groups to traffic drugs to and within our continent.
Finland strongly supports the countries of West Africa and the Sahel in their efforts to overcome these difficult challenges. In this regard we would also like to pay tribute to the important role of the African Union and ECOWAS. We wish to encourage the countries in the region to further intensify the cooperation not only among themselves but also with international partners. As I stated in the beginning, countering these challenges requires efforts and cooperation of the international community as a whole.
Thank you, Mr. President.