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National statements

Threats to international peace and security: securing borders against illicit cross-border trafficking and movement

Thematic issues

  • Counter-terrorism
  • Peace and Security
  • Peacebuilding
  • Regional Organisations
  • Rule of Law
  • Sahel
  • Small arms
  • Terrorism


Open debate on threats to international peace and security: securing borders against illicit cross-border trafficking and movement

Statement by HE Ms Philippa King, Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations

Mr President, thank you for convening this debate. It is clear from discussion today that many are concerned about the profound and pervasive impact illicit trafficking can have on security. It is ironic that the very factors that should underpin peace, security and development – the free movement of goods, services, people and finances – are being exploited by transnational criminal networks, proliferators and terrorists to undermine peace, security and development.

Illicit trafficking takes many forms, which are often viewed as separate phenomena. In truth, these criminal activities can often feed off and reinforce each other.

Illicit trafficking thrives on, and perpetuates, organised crime, corruption, weak governance, poverty, unemployment and regional instability. According to the World Bank's 2011 World Development Report, political and military conflict appears to be increasingly exploited by criminal groups with a range of military, political and private actors directly or indirectly drawing on financial and other support from transnational networks.

Mr President

I'll focus my comments today on four important areas we believe must be part of the solution. First is the role of regions and regional organisations.

Economic prosperity and border security begins with regional partnerships. In Australia's own region, the Asia-Pacific, it is regional initiatives and institutions that have forged regional consensus on the application of global standards and norms on the issue.

Australia has played a leading role in establishing some of these institutions: such as the Asia-Pacific Group on Money Laundering, and the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and other Transnational Crime, which we co-chair with Indonesia.

But what has characterised the Asia-Pacific response is the dynamism of its established regional organisations, which have progressively adapted their mandates to tackle the threat to regional – and economic – security posed by illicit trafficking. The ASEAN Regional Forum, for example, has established work plans for both transnational crime and terrorism, as well as non-proliferation and disarmament.

In the Asia-Pacific region, an effective UNODC will continue to play a vital role in addressing transnational threats. Australia together with NZ is funding the first regional Transnational Organised Crime Assessment for East Asia and the Pacific, to complement and build on the global Assessment by UNODC in 2010. We look forward to sharing this in July and hope it will support the efforts of other regions.

Australia wants to contribute to regional solutions in other parts of the world too. Australia has had the privilege of working with our partners in the African Union on a series of AU transnational crime guides: on people smuggling, anti-money laundering, proceeds of crime, CT and CT financing. To respond to the particularly acute challenges in the Sahel and Maghreb, we are working with the CT Committee Executive Directorate (CTED) to enhance border control capabilities. This week Australia is also conducting a workshop with the East African Community, seeking to enhance efforts on anti-money laundering and terrorist financing.

We support a growing role for the UN in responding to regional needs, bolstering the capacities of regional and sub-regional organisations to develop regional solutions, and mobilising international support for these solutions.

A concrete example is the Secretary General's multi-agency mission to the Sahel. We look forward to supporting the subsequent plan of action being developed in partnership with the AU to address the region's security and development needs, including strengthened border controls.

Mr President

The second important area is capacity building. In setting global standards, the UN has a crucial role in identifying capacity gaps and coordinating the delivery of technical assistance to build capacity for border protection and law enforcement agencies.

Australia strongly supports the Security Council's model set by the adoption of resolutions 1373 and 1540, which separately established norms prohibiting illicit trafficking, and importantly created frameworks for technical assistance to implement country-specific counter-proliferation and counter-terrorism norms.

Similarly, while the UN Program of Action on small arms and light weapons is essentially a political agreement to standards and norms, Australia views it foremost as a platform for technical assistance. Australia provides significant bilateral and regional assistance to countries in the Pacific, Africa and Caribbean to strengthen national systems and border controls against cross-border movements of illicit small arms. Australia's Defence Cooperation Program and the Pacific Patrol Boat Program provide Pacific island countries with a significant level of maritime surveillance and enforcement capability.

Likewise, a strong and robust Arms Trade Treaty, which includes small arms and ammunition, must provide the opportunity for all States to establish transfer control systems through capacity building. Australia will strongly support such provisions at the Conference in July.

The UN should continue to facilitate the efficient exchange of assistance through mechanisms that are simple and coordinated. Improving access to capacity building should be a key aim of the Secretary General's assessment on the UN's work to counter illicit trafficking.

Mr President

Thirdly, for us to be effective in tackling illicit trafficking, we need to focus on prevention, based on sound analysis. Resolution 1540 was groundbreaking – controversial at the time, but in fact very effective in preventing proliferation and building capacity. We need to think strategically about other preventative measures.

We also need to increasingly mainstream the analysis of and measures to address illicit trafficking into UN political missions and peacebuilding activities. UNODC and CTED expertise should be drawn on to support mission planning and analytical work for the Security Council, where relevant.

Finally, the UN and member states need to consider illicit trafficking and border protection in an integrated way with broader rule of law and development objectives. Efforts to secure our borders will not on their own stem illicit trafficking and must be pursued hand in hand with 1) strategies to tackle demand 2) programs to build institutions, establish legislative frameworks and strengthen governance, and 3) programmes to address the underlying socio-economic factors such as poverty, unemployment and lack of access to education.

Mr President

It is vital that the UN ensures its disparate programmes are integrated, efficient, consistent in norm setting and avoid duplication, and that they are coordinated with other international organisations. The Security Council Committees and Panels could lead the way in coordinating the Council's own areas of responsibility. Strengthening coordination across the UN is more challenging but must be pursued. The establishment of the UN Transnational Organised Crime Task Force is a step in the right direction.

We welcome the presidential statement and we look forward to Secretary-General's
assessment. Thank you.

Last Updated: 17 June 2015
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