The UN’s drugs and crime office launched a new media awareness campaign yesterday to highlight the threat posed by the multi-billion dollar operations run by organized crime groups worldwide.
International crime rackets pull in an estimated annual turnover of US$870 billion, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said in a statement issued early yesterday.
That sum was the equivalent of 1.5 percent of global GDP — or six times the amount officially spent on development aid around the world, it added.
“Transnational organized crime reaches into every region and every country across the world,” said Yury Fedotov, executive director of UNODC, which is based in Vienna.
“Stopping this transnational threat represents one of the international community’s greatest global challenges,” he added.
UNODC’s multimedia campaign will underline the huge sums of money involved in organized crime, which covers everything from drug and arms trafficking to cybercrime to the smuggling of migrants.
And it will stress that these are anything but victimless crimes.
“Crime groups can destabilize countries and entire regions, undermining development assistance in those areas and increasing domestic corruption, extortion, racketeering and violence,” UNODC’s statement said.
The agency identified drug trafficking as by far the most lucrative trade for criminals: They estimated it brings in US$320 billion per year.
The counterfeiting of goods, it said, brought in US$250 billion annually.
Human trafficking and migrant smuggling totals an estimated US$39 billion a year; while trading of ivory and animal parts generates US$3.5 billion in criminal revenue.
According to the WHO, about 1 percent of the world’s medicines are thought to be counterfeit, a figure that rises as high as 30 percent in parts of Asia, Africa and South America.
“Money ... is laundered through banking systems, undermining legitimate international commerce,” UNODC said in its statement.
“People become victims of identity theft, with 1.5 million people each year being caught out,” it added. “Criminal groups traffic women for sexual exploitation and children for purposes of forced begging, burglary and pick pocketing.”
And fake medicines and food products put lives at risk, while at the same time undermining the legitimate market.
The campaign will go out on Twitter, Facebook and the social networking site Google+, as well as on the dedicated Web site www.unodc.org/toc.