From 6-8 June 2023, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), INTERPOL and the European Union launched the third phase of CRIMJUST at the global programme’s sixth Annual Meeting in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil). This third phase of programming, implemented by UNODC and INTERPOL, and funded by the European Union under the framework of the Global Illicit Flows Programme (GIFP), will aim to strengthen transnational investigations and criminal justice cooperation with a view of disrupting illicit trafficking flows and related organized crime. This phase is notably marked by a departure from a commodity-based approach and an expansion to the Caribbean, as well as an increased emphasis on financial disruption strategies and on mainstreaming human rights and gender-based approaches to tackle organized crime.
This Annual Meeting brought together 25 national stakeholders from Latin America, the Caribbean, and Africa, along with 11 representatives from the programme’s key partners, such as MAOC-N, EMPACT, CARICOM, the specialized networks of prosecutors, including REDCOOP, CPLPL, RFAI and WACAP, as well as other GIFP projects, such as AIRCOP, SEACOP, COLIBRI and MASIF.
During the opening ceremony, Ms Elena Abbati, UNODC Representative in Brazil, expressed her appreciation to the European Union for its continued trust and support to CRIMJUST and highlighted the strong partnership between UNODC, INTERPOL and the EU. In addition to outlining key strategic shifts characterizing CRIMJUST III, she announced the CRIMJUST Global Coordinator would be based in Brasilia moving forward. This decision, she stated, would enable the programme to further strengthen its commitment in building strategic transregional links between the Americas, Africa, and the European Union. Her remarks were echoed by Mr. Roberto Valent Regional Director, UN Development Coordination Office LAC, who recalled the key role played by UNODC in supporting the member-states translate their international commitments into action. He underlined the meaningful technical assistance provided by CRIMJUST in not only facilitating transnational investigations, but in building resilience to organized crime and promoting human rights standards across all criminal justice interventions and initiatives.
Meanwhile, Mr. Victor Barbabella Negraes, Federal Police of Brazil, and Fernando Rocha de Andrade of the Brazilian Prosecution Office expressed their thanks to UNODC for their efforts in promoting cooperation as well as underscored the importance of prioritizing both interdiction activities and asset investigations to disrupt organized crime networks. They pointed to the efforts and capabilities of Brazil in investigating organized crime, as well as reiterated their commitment in sharing their experience with countries present to identify opportunities to jointly target illicit networks.
Finally, His Excellency, Mr Ignacio Ybáñez, EU Ambassador to Brazil, recalled “organized crime groups to be market-driven actors as well as the inherent transnational nature of illicit markets”, noting that “40 percent of organized crime groups in the EU were engaged in more than one main criminal activity, while 65 percent had members of multiple nationalities”. Against this background, he argued that the GIFP was “a concerted effort to answer to the challenges posed by increasingly globalized, fragmented and diversified illicit trafficking routes and networks” and underscored “the necessity for multi-stakeholder inter-regional initiatives, such as CRIMJUST, to bridge capacity gaps and to build transregional links between countries.”
While this Annual Meeting provided a platform to present CRIMJUST’s new objectives and priorities under its third phase of programming, 2023 marks the eighth year of implementation since the programme was launched; initially to strengthen cooperation and capabilities along transatlantic routes to investigate and prosecute cocaine trafficking. As such, the meeting also served to present key achievements, lessons learned, and best practices identified under its two first phases. With some 341 activities implemented to date, the programme has facilitated criminal justice cooperation actions in Latin America and Africa in the wake of 334 key drug seizures or arrests as a result of 47 Investigative Case Forums.
As the programme shifts towards facilitating criminal justice cooperation to disrupt all types of illicit flows, national stakeholders presented changes and developments observed in their countries’ criminal landscapes and shared challenges encountered in carrying out transnational investigations. Findings by these presentations were complemented by discussions during working groups on transnational drug trafficking and crimes against the environment as well as practices in mainstreaming human-rights based approaches in criminal justice responses. These highlighted the convergence of illicit markets as organized crime groups readily respond to changes in demand and supply and diversify their modus operandi to avoid law enforcement, while optimizing revenue. Finally, practitioners remarked the challenges in upholding full compliance to human rights standards as investigations increasingly require the use of special investigative techniques to target and disrupt encrypted communications.
Annual Meetings continue to be a flagship in the CRIMJUST calendar; providing insights to ensure the programme remains aligned with stakeholders’ priorities as well as strengthens its overall programmatic strategy moving forward.
The third phase of CRIMJUST is funded by the European under the framework of the Global Illicit Flows Programme. It seeks to strengthen transnational investigations and criminal justice cooperation to disrupt organized crime and target high-value targets.
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