As the twentieth century drew to a close, the widespread use and trafficking of, as well as violence associated with, illicit drugs was a well-publicized and rapidly growing problem. Considering the cartel wars in Colombia, the opium trade in Asia, and the ‘War on Drugs’ in the United States, the United Nations soon realized it lacked a strong, effective body to combat illicit drug activity. To fill this void, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) was established in 1997 by merging two committees, the United Nations Drug Control Programme and the Centre for International Crime Prevention, which separately dealt with drugs and crime. Headquartered in Vienna, UNODC operates field offices in every region of the world through the work of 500 staff members. The Office assists countries by striving to promote and strengthen each state’s laws against organized crime, illicit drug trafficking, terrorism, and other drug-related activities. UNODC operates on a three-pillar foundation: research and analytical work, normative work, and field-based technical cooperation projects. The vast majority of UNODC’s budget (90%) comes from voluntary government and private contributions.
Topic A: Maritime Crime and Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea
In 2018, the International Maritime Bureau released a report on global maritime piracy. Prior to 2018, the majority of piracy-related events took place in Somalia and on the East African coast. However, the report indicated that, in 2018, the geographical focus had shifted from the Somali coast to the West African Gulf of Guinea. This is possibly due to the resurrection of ‘petro-piracy’: the targeting and hijacking of oil tankers. Tactics have also changed. Whereas East African piracy largely focused on hijacking materials, West African piracy has also used kidnapping as a major source of revenue. Not only does this piracy threaten human safety, but any avoidance shipping lanes in West Africa may repress development in the region. In 2014, the UNODC expanded the Global Maritime Crime Programme (GMCP) to allow it to operate in the Atlantic Ocean, specifically off the Gulf of Guinea. This body has worked to reform legal systems in African countries along the Western Coast in order to better address piracy incidents. However, as the problem continues to grow, more work needs to be done to stem this rising threat. Addressing these new threats and creating a renewed, international approach to combating West African piracy is critical to the growth and prosperity of countries on the Gulf of Guinea.
Topic B: Illicit Manufacturing and Trafficking of Firearms and Ammunition in Europe
The trafficking of firearms, their components, and ammunition is a long-standing global problem and is of particular importance to UNTOC because this illicit trade directly affects international peace and security. Since 2004, there have been several terror attacks across Europe, including in heavily populated cities such as Madrid, London, Paris, Brussels, Nice, and Berlin. In fact, in 2017 the number of failed, foiled, or completed terror attacks in Europe was estimated to be around 205, a 44% increase over the previous year. Many of the weapons used in these attacks were sourced from the Balkans. In 2018, UNODC’s Global Firearms Programme held a meeting focused on countering the trafficking of illicit weapons in the western Balkans. Restricting the trade of firearms is also critical for protecting the security of the world and its citizens. For example, between 3 and 5 million Ukrainian civilians were found to possess illicit weapons during the Crimean crisis. Eliminating the trade of illicit firearms is a critical component of the UN’s agenda, which strives to ensure the good health, safety, and well-being of all global citizens.