The U.S. Agency for International Development is proud to use its efforts to promote global development in support of this President's new strategy to combat transnational crime. This past September, President Obama announced the first-ever Presidential Policy Directive on development at the United Nations. This forward-looking policy statement makes clear that international development is in our national interest.
It is in our economic interest since it creates exports and jobs for American citizens; it aligns with our value structure in that we seek a peaceful, prosperous, democratic world. Perhaps most relevant to today, international development promotes our national security.
Transnational organized crime affects nearly every country, but fragile, poor and conflict-affected states are most vulnerable and most victimized by organized crime, in particular as the site for trafficking in persons, drugs, and weapons. Such activities threaten the social, political, and economic security of the most vulnerable members of developing societies, and they threaten us.
Organized crime is a cancer that eats from within at the credibility and legitimacy of national governments.
It deprives nations of much needed investment; squeezes out legitimate business from access to key markets; and increases transaction costs to citizens. Helping developing countries protect themselves from organized crime will make the world a safer and better place for Americans as well.
At USAID, we are addressing this challenge through a comprehensive approach to strengthen the capacity of governments, businesses, and civil society institutions to resist the influence of organized criminal enterprises. This involves a multi-pronged approach to assist law enforcement, promote judicial reform, encourage transparency and oversight, combat corruption, and strengthen social fabric.
For example, USAID, the Department of State and the Department of Justice have been applying this approach in Latin America through the Central America Regional Security Initiative, the Merida Initiative and other regional and bilateral assistance programs. This is a long way to go, but thus far, the results have been promising. Our work has helped reduce crime and violence in hotspots; generated scalable programs to promote resilient communities and regions; and promoted concrete actions for anti-corruption and transparency in national, state, and local governments.
USAID's efforts to combat human trafficking are grounded in a similar multidimensional framework: prevention, protection, prosecution, and partnership. These programs, including promotion of education and economic growth, help create an environment in which trafficking cannot thrive.
Trafficking is not only a crime and human rights abuse, but also a development problem that is exacerbated by poverty, lack of access to education and employment, ethnic and gender discrimination, weak rule of law, and conflict - the same challenges USAID addresses every day in its global mission. Coordinating with a broad range of stakeholders, USAID has provided $160 million in over 70 countries to combat trafficking over the past decades. We are ramping up these programs under our new Center for Democracy, Human Rights and Governance.
In sum, transnational organized crime destroys the institutional frameworks in which it operates. Within a whole of government approach, USAID welcomes the launch of today's comprehensive strategy and is proud to play our role in combating transnational organized crime. Thank you.
Last updated: May 31, 2012