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2012 Vienna UN Conference
UN Agencies Connecting with Academics and Civil Society
January 11 – 13, 2012
UN Office in Vienna

The conference was a major success, with more than 300 interested parties from the region, the Balkans, Europe, Africa, and North America registering and participating.

On the UN Studies Association website in-depth reports provided by our young team of rapporteurs can be dowloaded. 

On Friday, January 13, the Young Scholars’ Conference marked the inauguration of the UN Regional Academy, a tri-national effort (Austria, Czech Republic and Hungary), aiming at providing graduate and post-graduate students with the opportunity to further their understanding of the UN and its activity. Students presented papers focusing on the following themes:

  • Energy: access for all
  • Nuclear security and global governance
  • Global  zero (complete nuclear disarmament: fiction or reality)
  • Green economy and development
  • Corruption
  • Education and public awareness.

UN Agencies Connecting with Academics and Civil Society 2012 Conference (final program)

January 11 – 13, 2012
Dr. Abiodun Williams, Acting Senior Vice President of the Center for Conflict Management (CCM) at USIP and Chair-Elect of the Academic Council on the United Nations System (ACUNS)

Report on the United Nations Agencies Connecting with Academics and Civil Society: Organized Crime, White Collar Crime and Corruption

Maximilian Edelbacher, Member of ACUNS and Member of the Board of Austrian Criminal Investigators Organisation

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, UNODC, in Vienna, organized a conference on the topic: “Working together to combat transnational organized crime”, October 18th to 22nd, 2010, because we celebrated the tenth Anniversary of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, the so called “Palermo Convention”. Several side events took place and one dealt with “Organized Crime, White Collar Crime and Corruption”. This side event was a continuing roundtable follow up to meetings at the ACUNS Annual Meeting on “New Security Challenges”, which took place in Vienna in June 2010.

The basic idea was to analyze and discuss in this roundtable, how organized crime, white collar crime and corruption have changed in the last ten years and to consider whether the situation in the world – in Europe, in Austria, Germany, Italy and Slovenia – has become worse or better? The participants in the discussion included Professor Arije Antinori, University of Sapienza, Rome, Italy; Vice-Dean and Professor Bojan Dobovsek, University of Maribor, Slovenia; Petra Reski,  a German journalist living in Italy and author on books about the Mafia organizations; Peter Pilz, Parliamentarian and representative to the Austrian National Assembly of the Austrian Green Party; Anthony Mills from United Kingdom, International Press Institute; and Maximilian Edelbacher, former police chief in Austria. The group asked difficult and too-often ignored questions – if organized crime, white collar crime and corruption are increasing threats to the European Union and globally? What has changed especially in the countries of Austria, Germany, Italy and Slovenia? Are these phenomena linked together? And what has worked and what has failed in efforts to combat them, and to what extent were these phenomena the basic roots of the financial crisis which these countries had experienced in the last few years?

All of these hard questions could not be answered in one and a half hours, but several valuable and interesting insights nonetheless were contributed by the speakers. All participants agreed that organized crime, white collar crime and corruption are linked together intimately, and that the threats they pose are on increase. In the nineties, especially because of the heroic fight of the Italian judges Falcone and Borsolino there was the hope that the Italian model of fighting organized crime was a successful one. Europe was confronted with enormous challenges after the fall of the Iron Curtain, as criminal organized groups from the former Eastern Bloc countries collaborated with Italian Mafia organizations and the Maxima trials were seen as an enormous step forward to overcome the danger and threats of organized crime.

I remember attending an FBI training course in Virginia, USA, where Luis Free, the former chief of FBI addressed me as the Austrian Falcone, because (he said) Falcone was the symbol of the successful fight all over the world and founded so much hope and belief in destroying Mafia and organized crime.

Ten years later all over the world there exists depression in the ranks of crime investigators. If you watch what is going on in European countries, in Italy, Russia, France, there is little hope that organized crime, white collar crime and corruption can be and will be defeated. There is the impression the contrary happens. Organized Crime cannot exist without corruption, and corruption seems to be everywhere. If you listen to representatives of OLAF, the highest antifraud- and anticorruption unit in Europe, based in Brussels, they describe themselves as “tiger without hands and legs”. Europe invests more than one billion Euros each year in diverse projects. One third of these projects are competed for and won by fraudulent papers. Only ten percent of this can be proven, and the money cannot be confiscated by the authorities of OLAF, because they have no executive powers.

Arije Antinori showed how Italian Mafia organizations use economic structures, firms and companies to cover their activities. Petra Reski spoke about the dense connection between politics and Mafia, arguing that they are like fish and water, one cannot exist without the other. Anthony Mills, who had been living for about ten years in Lebanon, showed the links between terrorism and organized crime. Peter Pilz informed us about the dense links of an Austrian bank with Balkan Mafia groups, and how corruption and financial fraud fit together. Bojan Dobovsek addressed the question what works and what does not, and made the point that the criminal law is not efficient enough to overcome the problems of organized crime, white collar crime and corruption. In his understanding the only way forward is to establish more and more transparency, involve the society and building greater public awareness.

Altogether it was not a comforting discussion, but an enlightening one; and one that should energize greater efforts to understand and to counter these important threats and challenges.