Transnational threats to international peace and security [fr]


Haitian National Police Destroy over Two Tons of Drugs
2 August 2012 - UN Photo/Victoria Hazou

Transnational Threats and the United Nations

The Security Council has several times noted with concern the consequences of transnational threats, such as organized crime and drug trafficking, on international peace and security.

It repeatedly noted the role played by drug trafficking and organized crime in the emergence of conflicts in places such as Afghanistan (Resolution 1817/2008 and Resolution 1890/2009), Haiti (Resolution 1892/2009) and Guinea Bissau (PRST of 15 October 2008 and 5 November 2009).

It also considered the issue on a more general point of view in Resolution 1373/2001on Threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts (the Council “[noted] with concern the close connection between international terrorism and transnational organized crime, illicit drugs, money-laundering, illegal arms-trafficking, and illegal movement of nuclear, chemical, biological and other potentially deadly material”) and in PRST/2009/32 on Peace and Security in Africa (“the Council notes with concern the serious threats posed in some cases by drug trafficking and related transnational organized crime to international security in different regions of the world, including in Africa”).

A threat to security

Transnational threats create roots for the development of regional and global tensions. Drug trafficking and related transnational organized crime encourage money laundering and makes possible the financing of non-governmental armed groups. Organized crime networks threaten effective state control on borders and territories. They undermine the authority of states, spread corruption and weaken economic development. Therefore, they pave the way for radicalisation processes that can lead to violent extremism and terrorism. Insurgents and criminals develop close ties to profit from this instability and in some cases create the conditions for such instability.

As a matter of fact, transnational threats are a destabilizing factor in every crisis where the United Nations operates. They take advantage of the weakness of states in conflict situations and make the return to peace and economic development a more protracted and more difficult process for those states.

A growing challenge

The international community adopted several conventions in order to counter transnational threats in a comprehensive approach:
— the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961,
— the Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971,
— the United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988,
— the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime of 2000,
— the United Nations Convention against Corruption of 2003.

However, in the last decades, advances in technology, open borders and open markets created greater cross-border opportunities for criminal groups. As a result, organized crime has diversified, gone global, and has reached macro-economic proportions. It developed even closer links with drug trafficking, corruption and terrorism. It poses a greater threat to national and global security than when the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime was adopted. No part of the world is immune. Particularly vulnerable are post-conflict regions, areas where the rule of law is weak and countries that suffer from under-development.

UN and the fight against drug trafficking

Threats posed by drug trafficking to international security

As reaffirmed by the Permanent Representative of France in his statement to the Security Council on 8 December 2009, the consequences of these threats can be seen on three levels:

- Drug trafficking weakens States since it is accompanied by increased crime (from cartel wars to the development of transnational organized crime), corruption (which weakens the capacity of Governments to take action) and because in some cases it is used to finance armed groups.

- Because of its transnational nature, drug trafficking also contributes to the destabilization of entire regions. The international community has reacted by implementing regional initiatives to combat drug trafficking, such as the Paris Pact of May 2003 devoted to the drug routes from Central Asia to Europe.

- Finally, drug trafficking, owing to its links with illicit international networks, has become a key factor with regard to threats against international security. In its recent report the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime revealed the role that drug trafficking plays in funding, not only the insurgency in Afghanistan, but also extremist groups in a number of countries in Central Asia. The terrorist networks finance their activities partially through drug trafficking, without the drug traffickers themselves necessarily being aware of it. The international community recognized the link between drugs and international security in the political statement adopted at the 52nd session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (March 2009).

Drug trafficking is a global problem; it is not enough just to look at its economic and social consequences, it must be addressed by the institutions responsible for international peace and security. As underlined by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in its 2008 annual report, the international community must make global measures to tackle the cross-cutting threats of drug-trafficking, organized crime, corruption and terrorism a key priority.


Liberia Police Anti-Drug Squad Burns Confiscated Drugs
Monrovia, Liberia - 1 March 2013 - UN Photo/Staton Winter

United Nations machinery

The fight against drug trafficking is the subject of one of the most long-standing examples of international cooperation

It is now based on three conventions:

- Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961 (amended by the 1972 protocol);
- Convention on Psychotropic Substances, 1971;
- United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, 1988.

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime

The UNODC was established in 1997 and is part of the UN Secretariat. It is based in Vienna and employs around 500 people. It is solely responsible for coordinating all United Nations activities relating to drug control and for providing effective leadership for these activities.

Its main role is to assist Member States in their fight against drug trafficking, crime and terrorism.

The three pillars of the UNODC’s work program are:

- Research and analytical work to increase understanding of the phenomena related to drugs and the issues of organized transnational crime,
- Normative work to assist States in the ratification and implementation of the international treaties,
- Technical cooperation projects to enhance the capacity of Member States to counteract illicit drugs, crime and terrorism and deal with some of the consequences.

Work of the Security Council

The Security Council has been called upon to focus on several areas where drug trafficking is a key issue:

- Afghanistan: the Security Council noted the threat posed by the production and trafficking of drugs on the security and stability of the country and the region (resolution 1890/ 2009); through a resolution adopted on France’s initiative it also called for improved oversight of the international trade in chemical precursors (resolution 1817/ 2008).

- Haiti – the Security Council invited the MINUSTAH States to strengthen their collaboration with the Haitian government in order to curb cross-border drug trafficking (resolution 1892/ 2009).

- Guinea Bissau: the Security Council fully understood the extent of the threats generated by the expansion of drug trafficking and organized crime, not just for the countries but also for the sub-region of West Africa. In this respect it welcomes the initiative for the West African coast with the participation of ECOWAS (presidential statements of October 15, 2008, and November 5, 2009).

For the first time in 2009, the Security Council addressed the issue at the global level (see above), with a particular focus on the situation in Africa. The issue of drugs was also widely discussed during the debate on transnational threats on 24 February 2010.

Work of the General Assembly

Every year, the General Assembly adopts a resolution on the issue of transnational organized crime. In its resolution 64/179 of 18 December 2009, the General Assembly noted with concern the negative impact of transnational organized crime and drug trafficking on peace and security and the increasing vulnerability of States.

Dernière modification : 11/03/2015

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