Thank you, Chair, and thank you to Italy as well as UNODC for convening us to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime – or UNTOC – and its protocols. I must start by echoing recognition that we are in the very courtroom where Judges Falcone and Borsellino presided before their assassinations over 30 years ago. For me, this serves as a symbolic reminder of the very personal sacrifice made by them, the police officers protecting them, their loved ones, and many others who strive to protect the rule of law. Their ultimate sacrifice to pursue justice only underscores the importance of our collective work to combat crime, particularly trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants.
To demonstrate the United States’ unwavering commitment, I want to highlight some of the most successful tools we are deploying to fight transnational crimes. Of course, one of our greatest tools is the effective implementation of the UNTOC and its protocols, which provide the foundation we need to eliminate trafficking in persons and migrant smuggling. For UNTOC to have meaningful impact, we must address gaps between our own laws and the convention. In 2020, UNTOC States Parties adopted a Review Mechanism to help assess and resolve such gaps. The United States is using this to review our own implementation. While the review is still ongoing, we have already seen a revitalization of our engagement with civil society on UNTOC implementation because of outreach to over 50 non-governmental organizations working on related issues. Based on our initial success, I encourage others to take advantage of this tool. By holding ourselves accountable in this way, we can only enhance international judicial and police cooperation. The United States proudly provided more than $2.2 million to support implementation of the Review Mechanism, and we commend Italy for its donation of $1 million to the Review Mechanism as well.
Alongside UNTOC implementation, another tool we use to fight transnational crime is to develop and leverage strong, collaborative partnerships. As highlighted in our 2023 Trafficking in Persons Report, partnerships with civil society, the private sector, academia, and survivor leaders offer a diversity of perspectives that help us refine anti-TIP policies, using evidence-based data.
For instance, the Global Organized Crime Index is an innovative, civil society-developed tool that provides a standardized measure of criminality and a data-driven analysis of organized crime. It can assist in identifying trends in trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants and track how these trends evolve. The Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section at the U.S. Department of Justice has already begun using this index to inform training for partner country law enforcement. The United States provides $4.6 million to fund this tool, and we welcome others to provide financial support.
Finally, the last tool I will highlight is our combined efforts to hold smugglers and traffickers to account while supporting migrants in the investigation and prosecution process. In one emblematic case, the United States prosecuted three Colombian nationals for the rape and murder of migrants traveling from the Caribbean to the United States. A third surviving migrant involved was paroled into the United States, where he received victim support services and authorization to work while the investigation and court proceedings were underway. The surviving migrant’s cooperation led to a successful prosecution, with all three smugglers receiving significant jail sentences.
Prosecution and migrant support like this are most effective through strong, lockstep interagency collaboration. For instance, in 2021, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice formed Joint Task Force Alpha to dismantle human smuggling and trafficking networks, with a focus on networks that endanger, abuse, or exploit migrants. Since its inception, this task force’s efforts have resulted in over 250 domestic and international arrests.
In conclusion, I just want to reiterate the United States’ steadfast commitment to advancing international cooperation in the fight against transnational crime. We are grateful for your cooperation and partnership as fellow States Parties. Thank you.