Mr. Chairman, thank you for the floor. The United States joins our distinguished colleagues in congratulating you on your election, and my delegation looks forward to a productive week under your leadership.
The United States delegation would like to associate ourselves with the remarks of Ambassador Galuškova and others, regarding our deep sympathy over the tragic deaths of Clément Gorrissen and Simon Davis, in Puntland, Somalia, and of Luis Maria Duarte, in Afghanistan. These men were dedicated public servants who worked tirelessly to help the governments of Somalia and Afghanistan to build peace, security, and the rule of law. They were respected and admired by their American colleagues who worked with them and we will miss them. The Government of the United States extends its sincere condolences to their families and loved ones.
Normally at the opening of these Commissions, delegations call attention to urgent priorities in need of remedy, with heavy emphasis on gaps in the international community’s collective response. This time, I’d like to begin on a different note, and recognize progress that has been achieved over the past year in addressing the theme of last year’s Commission—confronting the challenge of illegal trafficking in wildlife.
The United States is encouraged by how many governments have taken action on this issue since we last met, and by the spirit of cooperation among countries to reduce demand for these illegal products and prosecute the organized criminal networks involved. Since our last meeting, in February, President Barack Obama released our government’s “National Strategy to Combat Wildlife Trafficking” with three key pillars: reducing demand for illegally traded wildlife, strengthening domestic and global enforcement, and strengthening international cooperation. The National Strategy also closed loopholes in U.S. law to achieve a near complete ban on the commercial trade of elephant ivory in the United States. In November 2013, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced the first reward offer under my government’s new Transnational Organized Crime Reward Program. The reward offers up to $1 million for information leading to the dismantling of the Xaysavang Network - a major transnational crime syndicate facilitating wildlife trafficking across Africa and Asia. Much work still needs to be done, and the trafficking in threatened and endangered species remains a crisis that needs urgent attention from all governments. But we should recognize that this Commission has played an important role in generating positive change, and we need to build on this momentum.
This year, to further advance the Commission’s work, the United States has introduced a resolution in partnership with Norway to encourage additional cooperation against illicit trafficking in timber and forest products. Our resolution highlights the nexus between trafficking in timber and corruption, and encourages additional international cooperation, including cross-border information sharing and investigative efforts to counter trafficking in timber. On behalf of our Norwegian partners, we invite all delegations to take part in an informal meeting to discuss the resolution at 2:30 today in Room M4. We also invite all Commission participants to attend a U.S.-sponsored side-event on international cooperation to combat criminal elements in illicit trafficking in timber and forest products, scheduled to take place today from 1:00 to 2:00 pm.
Mr. Chairman, I would now like to turn my remarks to this Commission’s focus on International Cooperation in Criminal Matters. This broad topic covers much of the mandate of this Commission, and the United States looks forward to hearing examples of good practices and successful strategies for extending and improving criminal justice cooperation across borders from our partners. For our part, the U.S. delegation will describe our experiences with cooperation on mutual legal assistance, with particular emphasis on the critical role of effective national central authorities. The United States will also describe our work to provide technical assistance to those seeking to enhance legal frameworks and mechanisms to facilitate mutual legal assistance. We look forward to UNODC’s event at 1pm tomorrow to describe its efforts to promote regional networks of central authorities, including the West Africa Central Authorities and Prosecutors Network, a program my government is pleased to support.
Thank you very much for this opportunity.