Meeting of the Asian OSCE Partners: presentation by the British Chairman of the OSCE Security Committee
Thank you, Ambassador Hasani, Ambassador Sadleir, and Professor Medcalf for his presentation.
I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this meeting and to describe the work we are doing in the Security Committee regarding the issue of transnational organized crime.
Prior to my appointment as Chairman of the Security Committee, first in support of the Albanian Chairmanship and now the Swedish Chairmanship-in-Office, the OSCE’s attention to the transnational threat of organized crime had diminished somewhat. Albania and Sweden now have the issue among their priorities for the organization.
Let’s remember why this is a priority: Globally, it is estimated that organized crime controls between 2% and a quarter of global GDP. This represents a huge share of trade, investment and economic activity in the world. Across the OSCE region, organized crime continues to undermine the rule of law, weaken the fabric of our societies and erode public confidence in governance and institutions.
It transcends borders, working through networks of organized criminal groups that span countries in the OSCE region and beyond. In the UK alone, over 4,500 organized crime groups have been identified, and these are just the ones we know of.
We are now well past the point where the COVID-19 pandemic initially disrupted the operations of transnational organized crime groups. They have adapted and are profiting from the crisis and its aftershocks by exploiting old and new vulnerabilities. The need to counter these groups has grown more pressing.
It is important to identify and address national security vulnerabilities so that they are less easily exploited by hostile actors. Each state will have its own mix of political, institutional, economic and social vulnerabilities that organized criminal groups take advantage of to undermine national security. In some cases, this can lead to the effective replacement of the state in terms of the provision of local, regional or social services as a means of control and exploitation.
Our collective success at the Tirana Ministerial Council with the approval of the Declaration on Strengthening Cooperation in the Fight against Transnational Organized Crime has given impetus to the fight against the threat. Through our work in the Security Committee, I am helping to re-use the OSCE platform to implement our commitments to counter and prevent transnational organized crime and the threat it poses to our people, our societies, our institutions and our prosperity.
Our Security Committee meetings this year examine the establishment of effective and transparent institutions to combat and prevent transnational organized crime; the impact of organized crime within societies; prevent recruitment into organized criminal groups; and new technologies in the fight against transnational organized crime.
The building and maintenance of effective and transparent institutions is the cornerstone here: without them, states remain vulnerable to the full range of external threats, loss of trust by their citizens and potentially state grip. . While essential for preventing, investigating and dismantling organized crime, it does not only involve law enforcement or public bodies alone.
For example, in the Committee we heard from a representative of civil society on the importance of a free and independent media capable of holding governments to account as well as exposing corruption and political links with organized criminal groups. . A resilient financial and private sector is also important, as are research institutions and NGOs at large.
The challenges of building resilient institutions and societies are daunting, especially in the aftermath of the pandemic. But taking an inclusive, holistic and gender-sensitive approach, working together, sharing lessons learned and recognizing the different gender, generational and socio-economic needs and drivers that affect and influence organized crime is an important step. The OSCE platform remains important in carrying out this work, here in Vienna and in operations on the ground, helping to build the confidence needed to deal with the threat effectively and collaboratively.
Thanks again to Albania and Australia for organizing this meeting and inviting me to speak.