Highlighting the growing nexus between global criminal acts, including drug trafficking and money laundering, and terrorism, a top United Nations official today called for boosting efforts to tackle these threats.
Yury Fedotov, the Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), told participants at a terrorism symposium in Vienna that profits from criminal activity are increasingly being used to fund terrorist acts.
“Today, the criminal market spans the planet, and in many instances criminal profits support terrorist groups. Globalization has turned out to be a double-edged sword. Open borders, open markets, and increased ease of travel and communication have benefited both terrorists and criminals,” he told the two-day meeting organized by UNODC.
“Thanks to advances in technology, communication, finance and transport, loose networks of terrorists and organized criminal groups that operate internationally can easily link with each other. By pooling their resources and expertise, they can significantly increase their capacity to do harm.”
According to UNODC, drug trafficking, transnational organized crime, the movement of illicit firearms and money laundering have become integral parts of terrorism.
For example, opium production in Afghanistan provides crucial funding for the Taliban’s efforts, while the activities of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are supported by the cultivation and trafficking of cocaine and kidnapping for ransom.
The symposium, which brings together more than 250 representatives from nearly 90 countries, comes a decade after the adoption of the Vienna Plan of Action against Terrorism in September 2001, which spearheaded UNODC’s assistance programme for countering terrorism.
The gathering is also looking at the plight of the victims of terrorism, and was addressed by Carie Lemack, director and co-founder of a survivor-focused non-governmental organization (NGO) known as the Global Survivors Network.
“The victims of terrorism are so often just seen as figures – numbers which get lost as data. We want to help give the nameless names and project their voices to and work against the deadly, misguided messaging being spread around the world.
“In the complexity of fighting terror, real people speaking out against this crime is an incredibly powerful tool in making people think twice about getting involved in terrorism,” she said.
Ms. Lemack and the Global Survivors Network’s story was recently told in the 2011 Oscar-nominated documentary Killing in the Name, which tells the story of the Network’s co-founder, Ashraf Al-Khaled, who lost 27 members of his family in a terrorist attack on his wedding.
During the symposium, UNODC will also present its new virtual counter-terrorism learning platform, which connects practitioners worldwide and fosters the sharing of information and best practices and enhances cooperation.