This briefing examines the transnational organized crime (TOC) challenges facing the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) as its new executive director – Egypt’s Minister of Social Solidarity Ghada Fathi Waly – prepares to take office. The TOC challenges that the UNODC is mandated to address are varied, increasingly globalized and interconnected, and will need to be tackled in the midst of an apparent decline in multilateralism worldwide. The new executive director will have to gain attention and influence in increasingly crowded UN circles, while being based at the UN in Vienna, far from the centre of power in New York and in the shadow of the bigger siblings of the UN family in Geneva.

The UNODC has a compelling and important set of mandates, accumulated experience and knowledge on its issues, and a growing funding base. The new executive director has an extraordinary opportunity to capitalize on this scenario. However, something is holding the organization back. She will need to lead the UNODC towards a more open and engaging future, by adapting both its operations and communications to these complex challenges and political contexts, by prioritizing interagency cooperation in the field and at HQ levels, and by reversing its perception as a competitive and defensive member of the UN family. In order to contribute to the next phase in the journey of the UNODC, this briefing sets out some of the key challenges and suggests ways to respond to them.

Vienna calling: A briefing to the incoming head of the UNODC

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Ian Tennant

Ian joined the Global Initiative in 2019 as the Fund Manager for the Civil Society Resilience Fund. He is based in Vienna, having previously worked at the UK Permanent Mission to the UN in Vienna. During his five years at the UK Mission Ian led UK engagement with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and represented the UK in several prominent UN negotiations on organised crime and related issues, including the UN General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem (UNGASS 2016), and the UNTOC Conference of Parties which established its Review Mechanism in 2018. Prior to joining the UK Mission Ian worked in the UK Parliament, and in political consultancy and corporate communications. He has an MA in British Politics, and a BA in French and Hispanic Studies.

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