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Diplomacy in Action

Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime

William J. Burns
Under Secretary for Political Affairs 
The White House
Washington, DC
July 25, 2011


Date: 07/25/2011 Description: Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William J. Burns delivers remarks on a Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime, in the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, July 25, 20011.  © Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy

Good Morning. The Department of State is very proud to be a part of this outstanding interagency effort. We are strongly committed to continued close coordination in implementing the President’s strategy to combat transnational organized crime.

Organized crime, in its many forms, is a threat to decent, hardworking people across the world. It empowers warlords, criminals, and corrupt officials. It erodes stability, security and good governance. It undermines legitimate economic activity and the rule of law.

It undermines the integrity of vital governmental institutions meant to protect peace and security. It costs economies tax revenue and promotes a culture of impunity. It undercuts our fight against poverty and slows sustainable development.

Societies have faced criminal threats throughout human history. Today, however, we face them in a globalized, networked world. Terrorists and insurgent groups are turning to partnerships of convenience with criminal networks. Global markets for drugs fund the weapons of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the FARC in Colombia. Supplies of illegal Latin American drugs are making their way across West Africa. In the tri-border area of Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina, individuals with connections to violent extremist groups have been active in drug trafficking, human trafficking, arms trafficking, and money laundering.

The President’s strategy will build and integrate the tools of American power to combat transnational organized crime—while also recognizing that we cannot do it alone. The United States must continue to play a strong leadership role, together with committed partners, in mobilizing international resources to address emerging threats.

Today, the State Department supports a wide range of bilateral, regional, and global initiatives to enhance the law enforcement capacity of foreign governments. We are developing innovative partnerships with governments, like the Central Asia Counter-narcotics Initiative, the West Africa Citizen Security Initiative, and the Central America Regional Security Initiative to coordinate investigations, support prosecutions, and build our collective capacity to identify, disrupt, and dismantle transnational organized crime groups.

We are working with the G8, G20, UN, NATO, EU, APEC, the ASEAN Regional Forum, the African Union, and the OAS to strengthen law enforcement, judicial, legal, and correctional institutions. We are intensifying our efforts to build international consensus and improve multilateral cooperation to combat transnational crime, and are promoting more effective public-private partnerships, such as our partnership with the pharmaceutical industry to fight corruption and illicit trade of dangerous counterfeit medicines that harm our communities.

History teaches us that cooperation against organized crime can bring transformative change. Ten years ago, large parts of Colombia were controlled by terrorist and criminal organizations. But through collective action by the United States and Colombia, the Colombian people reclaimed their territory, their security and their future. Today, Colombia’s police train other forces across the region and around the world. And through the Merida Initiative, the U.S. is partnering with Mexico to strengthen its law enforcement, judiciary and correctional institutions and bring security to communities south of our own border.

The Strategy unveiled today includes two important new tools for the Department of State to combat transnational organized crime – a Presidential Proclamation and a new proposed program on Transnational Organized Crime Rewards.

First, the Proclamation will bar admission to the United States of persons designated under a new Executive Order that establishes a sanctions program to block the property of significant transnational criminal organizations that threaten U.S. security, foreign policy, or our economy. The Proclamation also provides additional legal authority for barring admission to the U.S. of persons subject to United Nations Security Council travel bans.

Second, the new program on Transnational Organized Crime Rewards will build on the success of our Narcotics Rewards Program to encourage cooperation in bringing the most dangerous transnational criminal leaders to justice through cash rewards leading to their arrest or conviction.

We will use these measures to continue to put criminals and corrupt officials on notice that their crimes will have a serious consequence. We will deny them safe haven and dismantle their criminal infrastructure.

Secretary Clinton has often spoken of the need to build what she calls a “global architecture of cooperation” to solve the problems that no one country can solve alone. Certainly, this is true of the challenge before us. Transnational organized crime is a threat that endangers communities across the world, including our own. The State Department remains determined, working closely with all our interagency partners, to translate common interest into common action that makes us all safer.

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