When Russia submitted his name to become Executive Director of the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in 2010, international public opinion was divided. After all, four decades of working at the Russian Foreign Ministry has given him the experience of international diplomacy. His country once assigned him to a number of UN organizations, on a level just below that of Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon.
Yet, his appointment met with criticism, many claiming that Fedotov had no experience in this area. But Russia insisted he take the post, to eradicate opium fields in Afghanistan, which is suspected of being both the source of Taliban funds, and responsible for turning 2 million Russians into addicts.
His opponents were also worried about the Fedotov effect, on efforts to eradicate corruption, one of UNODC,s areas. He is perceived to be supported by a corrupt regime. After all, from a list of perception index released by Transparency International, Russia is number 133, below Indonesia, which stands at 118. Russia is also known for its syndicated groups operating across borders.
At the end, however, Russia’s lobbying of Ban Ki Moon had the desired effect. With Fedotov in UNODC, the hierarchy, once led by countries which contributed the most, changed radically.
Last week, on International Anti-Corruption Day, Fedotov met with Tempo reporters Adek Media Roza, Purwani Diyah Prabandari and Sadika Hamid for an interview at the UNODC office in Jakarta. His trip to Indonesia was part of a 12-day trip to a number of ASEAN countries. Excerpts of the interview:
What is the focus of UNODC programs in Indonesia?
We have five major priorities, and it is hard to say which are the most important. I would say the highlights are illegal logging, HIV/AIDS and corruption. But clearly, Indonesia is a strategic partner for UNODC in Southeast Asia, to strengthen international cooperation in fighting corruption which has a transnational dimension. All forms of transnational organized crimes exist because they are fueled by corruption. The proceeds from organized crime are then laundered and becomes a source for new corruption. It is a vicious circle and we need to do more to break it.
You met several government officials and law enforcers during your visit. What did you discuss with them?
I had a very good discussion with the KPK and I met with the governor of Central Kalimantan to discuss corruption. But there is also another dimension of what we are doing in conjunction with corruption, which is illegal logging. On my return to Vienna, I will discuss with potential donors on how we can raise more funds for this area of anticorruption in Indonesia.
Do you think the Indonesian government has the political will to eradicate corruption?
I met government officials. I have to believe what they told me, that they are committed and well-prepared to support their commitment.
But there are many corruption cases involving senior officials and politicians. And Indonesia’s Corruption Perception Index has just declined.
If there are many legal cases against corrupt officials, to my mind, it should not be viewed as a lack of effort but rather a success in fighting corruption. Public disclosure, persecution, trials and other legal measures create public awareness that corruption can no longer be tolerated.
Investigation on corruption cases often works poorly because of the lack of coordination between law enforcement agencies. One recent example is the investigation of the procurement of driving simulators. This has pitted the KPK against the police. Will this have an impact on our reform efforts?
Indonesia is not an exception. These problems happen in many countries because corruption and other transnational crimes are within the areas of responsibility of many government agencies, ministries and institutions.
What do you suggest we do to address this?
It would be advisable to have some sort of coordinating commission that would bring together all issues related to organized crime such as corruption, drugs and human trafficking. But even with the current system, we can work with Indonesia’s agencies and ministries and we look forward to continuing to do that.
In what countries have such coordinating commissions succeeded?
I just came from Vietnam, and they have an interagency commission chaired by their deputy prime minister. Each agency and ministries have to play their own role, but there is a coordinating structure that lets them understand each other.
Corruption does not only occur in the bureaucracy, it also involves the private sectors. How does UNODC deal with that?
The private sector sometimes can be a source of corruption but they can also be the victim. Because of corruption, companies cannot be as cost-effective as they want to be, and they cannot have a level playing field. That is the reason the UNODC will help countries improve their legislation to provide the private sector with fair business condition.
What have you done to promote anticorruption programs?
We try to be active in the area of awareness and education. We need to start teaching students at school on what corruption is, how to resist corruption in early ages and at post-graduate studies. We are developing a curriculum and are prepared to share it soon to our member states.
In 2007, the UNODC and the World Bank launched an initiative to recover stolen assets and you cooperated with Indonesia on this. What has been the result?
The UNODC is not a law enforcement and intelligence agency, so we cannot track money. But what we can do to help is build a network between different law enforcement agencies and provide technical assistance. We can encourage a country to cooperate within their national jurisdictions, especially on final decision-making. Regarding our cooperation with Indonesia, I have not heard anything that worries me or that something is going wrong.
What about the future of this cooperation?
We are prepared if Indonesia wants to do more and we would consider making a new agreement.
Beside corruption, Indonesia also faces major problems fighting drug trafficking.
Indonesia is the final destination for many trafficking drugs, such as synthetic drugs, amphetamine, methamphetamine, heroin and other drugs. So we need to see what can be done through regional cooperation. In this region, one of the major sources of drugs is still Myanmar. But they have a political will to stop it. I met with their government officials and opposition leaders recently. They are prepared to eradicate drugs but they need more support. And of course, we cannot address drug issues without reducing demand. Indonesia, on the other hand, has adopted important measures, like the anti-drug law in 2009.
Indonesia remains an important drug market despite the threat of a death sentence for perpetrators.
In some countries death sentence is still applicable. But we don’t have any data and evidence saying that in countries where death sentence is enforced, the situation is better than in countries where that is not the case. So it does not have serious impact on the prevalence of drugs. That is why UNODC advocates the abolition of the death sentence or if it is not possible, to limit the death sentence only to most serious crimes which involves taking the life of another person.
Did you discuss it with the government?
We did not discuss it at length. But we have our well-known position and I don’t think there is much communication between us and the government of Indonesia on this issue.
So, what are the best ways to fight drug trafficking?
We need to reduce or stop both the supply and demand of drugs. To reduce supply, we need to intercept trafficking. To reduce demand, we need to take drug prevention measures. To save lives we need to bring (messages of the danger of drugs) to families, schools and communities. Also, the UNODC is about to launch a paper on international standards on drug prevention which may serve as a reference. Of course it needs to be adopted at the national level but we believe it is a good idea to have it, given our experience in developing response prevention.
Our navy patrols are under-equipped so it is difficult to intercept drug traffickers. Has there been any discussion on how UNODC and the Indonesian government can solve this problem?
I’m afraid that with Indonesia’s geographical condition, even a very strong navy would be unable to control it. That is why it is important to intercept drug trafficking at the source. We need to work more to reduce the cultivation and production of drugs in countries such as Myanmar, Afghanistan and Latin America. More importantly, to have a closer regional cooperation. ASEAN objective by 2015 is to be drug-free, so there should be a precedence for it.
Wildlife crimes are also a UNODC priority. How do you see the Indonesian government’s commitment in protecting the environment?
In some cases there may be a lack of coordination, but overall there is full understanding on the goals of protecting the climate, especially on the moratorium of loggings in primary forests.
Sometimes, conservation clashes with people’s economic needs. What solution do you propose?
That is beyond the UNODC competence. But a balanced solution may be found which could both help to preserve the environment and ensure job opportunities for people.
What kind of balanced solution?
That’s the million-dollar question (laughing)!
Yury Viktorovich Fedotov
Place & Date of Birth: Russia, December 14, 1947 Education: Moscow State Institute of International Relations (1971) Career: Dep. Director, Department of International Organizations, Foreign Ministry (1988-1993), Dep. Permanent Representative of Russian Federal Republic to the United Nations (1993-1999) Dep. Permanent-Permanent Representative, for the Russian Federation in the UN in New York (1993-1999), Dep. Director, Department of International Organizations, Foreign Ministry (1999-2002), Russian Dep. Foreign Minister (2002-2005), Russian Ambassador to Great Britain (2005-2010), Exec. Director, Illegal Drugs and Crimes (UNODC) and Dir. Gen. of UNOV, Vienna, Austria (since 2010)
No. 17/13, December 18, 2012