Statement of H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza
Apostolic Nuncio, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the
Seventy-third Session of the United Nations General Assembly, Third Committee
Agenda Item 109: Crime prevention and criminal justice, and
Item 110: International drug control
New York, 4 October 2018
Terrorism and organized crime threaten the dignity of human beings and the common good wherever they are present in the world. Countries and societies, families and individuals suffer because of them. Technological progress, while bringing enormous benefits, has also become a vector of new forms of terrorism and criminal activity, or has made older forms of organized crime ever more harmful with the use of new and extremely powerful tools.
In this regard, my Delegation is concerned by the continuous growth of cybercrime and its evolution from an emerging threat to a series of full-blown criminal enterprises, which some believe could have a market value bigger than the illicit drug economy. Cybercrime includes so many offences, among which are hacking, computer-related forgery, the spread of fake news, the dissemination of child pornography, copyright infractions and countless others.
It is deeply disheartening that the advent of new information and communication technologies (ICTs) has opened many doors to the abuse and exploitation of children. As the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has found in a study, girls account for the majority of victims of cyber child abuse and exploitation, although boys are increasingly at risk as well. Prior abuse and family dysfunction may elevate the 1 risk of victimization, particularly for commercial sexual exploitation of children. Very young children and even infants increasingly fall victim to child pornography and sex trafficking. This evil is compounded by the fact that adolescents and the young, being frequent users of the internet, run the highest risk of cyber-enticement, cyberbullying, and exposure to harmful materials like child pornography.
We cannot therefore underestimate the enormous harm that cybercrime does to children and adolescents. All of us are called to unite our efforts and take concrete actions to raise awareness of the gravity of the problem, enact suitable legislation, oversee developments in and responsible use of technology, identify victims and prosecute those guilty of crimes.
The Holy See is also concerned about the ever-growing spread of drug abuse and illicit trafficking in narcotics and psychotropic substances, which public opinion seems at times to accept with widespread indifference, in the belief that decriminalizing narcotics might be the best way to fight the illicit trade in narcotics, but without much consideration to its grave consequences on the victims. The production and trafficking of illicit drugs obeys the law of supply and demand: drug trafficking exists because there is a lucrative market created by individuals addicted to illicit drugs. Thus, preventing and fighting the consumption of such drugs is key to preventing and fighting their production and trafficking. My delegation wishes to reaffirm the Holy See’s opposition to legalizing drug use as a means of fighting drug addiction.
There are many factors that contribute to drug addiction, among which are the absence of family support, social pressures, the enticements of drug dealers, and the desire for new experiences. In this regard, my Delegation wishes to underline once again the importance of the family as the cornerstone of prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, reintegration and health strategies. Strengthening parenting skills and raising the collective awareness of family members about the evils of narcotics use are key to preventing risk factors from resulting in the commission of crime and drug abuse among young people.
It is undeniable that the problem of drugs is part of the “throwaway culture” which deprives the human person of his or her dignity and hope. It is therefore necessary to acknowledge the drug problem, with its widely diffused centers of production, broad systems of distribution, and sophisticated money-laundering schemes imbedded in financial centres and banking operations. The many tentacles of the octopus must be severed if the fight against drugs, cybercrime and other organized criminal activities is to be won. For this reason, the Holy See strongly encourages the strengthening of international cooperation through well-planned and effective programmes, at both legislative and operational levels.
At the same time, great importance has to be given to both preventive and therapeutic medical treatment that seeks to help the victims of drug abuse to rediscover their dignity as human beings by rebuilding their personal resources, damaged by drugs abuse. Curbing the demand for drugs requires great effort and it calls for the implementation of social programs that are geared toward health, family support, and particularly toward education and human formation.
Though international drug control is an arduous battle, Pope Francis reminds us that, by engaging in it, “we are defending the whole human family; we are defending young people and children.”
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
1. UNODC Study on the Effects of New Information Technologies on the Abuse and Exploitation of Children, https://www.unodc.org/documents/Cybercrime/Study_on_the_Effects.pdf.
2. Pope Francis, Address to participants in the meeting sponsored by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on “Narcotics: problems and solutions to this global issue,” Vatican, 24 November 2016.