On the occasion of the celebration of the United day in 24 October the UN conducted a series of interviews exclusively for Al-Ahram online.
The UN day marks the anniversary of the entry of the UN chart into force in 1945. With the ratification of this founding document by the majority of its signatories, including the five permanent members of the security Council, the United Nations officially came into being.
The fifth interview in the series is with Cristina Albertin, The UNODC regional representative for Middle East and Northt Africa.
UNODC and Egypt have been cooperating in different areas since the late 1990s. How do you view the progress of this cooperation?
When UNODC created its Regional Office for the Middle East and North Africa in 1997 in Cairo, our mandates given by the UN member states had just been expanded from a drug control organization working on drug use prevention and treatment and well as on drug law enforcement in line with the three UN drug control treaties to one that would also support the promotion and implementation of the United Nations Standards and Norms on Criminal Justice and Crime Prevention. As of the year 2000, our mandate has further broadened to cover how to prevent (i) transnational organized crimes, such as human trafficking and smuggling of migrants, (ii) corruption and (iii) terrorism.
Today we work in Egypt with many Ministries, such as the Ministry of Interior, of Justice, of Health and Social Solidarity and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but also the Prosecutors’ General office and others to build and strengthen their response to all these forms of crimes and violence, at legislative, policy and technical level keeping also in mind the needs of victims and survivors of violence. And we do the same in countries in the region using increasingly Egyptian capacities and expertise to do so.
If there is one thing that Egyptians are extremely concerned about, it is corruption that makes their life hard. Combating corruption is one of the main mandates of UNODC. What do you think that UNODC can provide to help Egyptians in overcoming this challenge?
The widespread and deeply rooted corruption is a concern globally. When people have to pay considerable amounts of their monthly salaries to get licenses, passports or services, it makes life very challenging. Also, corruption undermines good governance, affects business and undercuts the trust in the public sector. In recognition of the detrimental effects of corruption across the world, in 2005 the United Nations adopted the ever first binding international treaty against corruption, the United Nations Convention against Corruption.
The Convention outlines comprehensive action against corruption through (i) preventive measures both for the public and private sector, (ii) criminalization of corrupt practices, (iii) international cooperation to ensure that perpetrators who commit offences of corruption can be brought to justice and (iv) asset recovery to bring back stolen assets to the national treasury. By ratifying the Convention in 2005, Egypt has fully committed to the implementation of all these measures. Since then, UNODC has been working in Egypt in all four areas, for example through media campaigns to sensitize on the harm done by corruption, on investigation techniques with law enforcement officials to produce proper evidence for the courts and on money-laundering cases and asset recovery.
Given the breadth of your mandate, what are your priorities for the next years for Egypt?
We have a lot of priorities which we define closely with our partners. First, we continue our ongoing work aiming at enhancing capacities to deal with serious and complex crimes, i.e. human trafficking, smuggling of migrants, drug trafficking, money-laundering, corruption and terrorism using modernized specialized investigation techniques.
In addition, there are three areas that are very close to my heart and I would like us to strengthen our work there: (i) building on our ongoing work with police offices to investigate violence against women, I would like to expand this not only to train more, in particular women police officers, but also to equip the competent agencies with protective environments and needed equipment such as forensic equipment and tools they need with the final aim to deliver justice to the survivors; (ii) I would also like to support more children and youth in detention centers with options for rehabilitation and reintegration capitalizing on our ongoing activities in Marg as well as (iii) support drug use prevention activities with the youth and strengthen treatment services for people who use drugs and live with HIV. By doing this, we would invest in especially the youth and the vulnerable contributing to use their full potential as we promised when we adopted the Sustainable Development Goals leaving no one behind.