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Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice

 

The Economic and Social Council is one of the principal organs of the United Nations. It sets up commissions in economic and social fields and for the promotion of human rights, and such other commissions as may be required for the performance of its functions (article 68 of the Charter).

Thus, in its resolution 1992/1, upon the request of the General Assembly in its resolution 46/152, the Economic and Social Council established the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice as one of its functional commissions, which also acts as a subsidiary body.

Functions

The Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice meets every year in Vienna. It is the principal policymaking body within the United Nations system on crime prevention and criminal justice issues.

In accordance with the "Statement of principles and programme of action of the United Nations crime prevention and criminal justice programme", contained in the annex to General Assembly resolution 46/152, the Commission has the following functions:

  • To provide policy guidance to the United Nations in the field of crime prevention and criminal justice.
  • To develop, monitor and review the implementation of the crime prevention and criminal justice programme.
  • To facilitate and help to coordinate the activities of the institutes for the prevention of crime and treatment of offenders, affiliated to the United Nations.
  • To mobilize the support of Member States for the programme.
  • To prepare for United Nations congresses on crime prevention and criminal justice.
  • To consider suggestions regarding possible subjects for the programme of work.

In addition to strategic management, budgetary and administrative questions, during its regular session, the Commission considers a number of standing items, including:

  • The integration and coordination of efforts by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and by Member States in the field of crime prevention and criminal justice, as well as United Nations standards and norms;
  • Global crime trends and emerging issues and responses in the field of crime prevention and criminal justice;
  • Matters relating to previous United Nations congresses and upcoming ones.

In its resolution 46/152, the General Assembly decided that the United Nations crime prevention and criminal justice programme would provide States with practical assistance, such as data collection, information- and experience-sharing and training, to prevent crime within and among States and to improve responses to it.

Moreover, in its resolution 61/252, the General Assembly enabled the Commission to approve the budget of the United Nations Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Fund.

Unique characteristics

One of the distinctive features of the work of the Vienna-based commissions, namely the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice and the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, is the application of the Vienna consensus, an informal practice used in negotiations on draft resolutions.

The Vienna consensus promotes extensive negotiations on each resolution and encourages commitment from all parties involved to achieve the support of all States and to adopt resolutions on the basis of consensus.

A voting procedure is, in principle, possible, as provided for in rule 57 of the rules of procedure of the functional commissions of the Economic and Social Council. It is, however, not regularly used, in the light of the Vienna consensus and the spirit of cooperation among Member States.

Participation

Participation is governed by the rules of procedure of the functional commissions of the Economic and Social Council, which apply to all the subsidiary bodies established by the Council.

Aside from Commission members, non-Member States and non-governmental organizations can attend. Other participants include the centres and institutes that are part of the United Nations crime prevention and criminal justice programme network, and special rapporteurs of the Human Rights Council on issues of relevance to the work of the Commission.

States members of the Commission

The Commission is composed of 40 States members. The distribution of seats follows common and usual practice within United Nations bodies, and is done on a regional basis (12 for Africa, 9 for Asia, 8 for Latin America and the Caribbean, 4 for Eastern Europe and 7 for Western Europe and other States). According to General Assembly resolution 46/152 and Economic and Social Council resolution 1992/1, half of the membership is elected for a term of three years.

A list of current members of the Commission can be found here.

Non-member States

Member States that are not members of the Commission can take part in the proceedings. While there are a number of restrictions for non-members, a large number of Member States that are not members of the Commission usually participate in its sessions.

Member States that are not members of the Commission do not have the right to vote. They are, however, able to submit proposals that may be put to the vote on request of any member of the Commission or of the subsidiary organ concerned.

Non-members also engage in informal negotiations on resolutions that are adopted by way of the Vienna consensus. The seating arrangements reflect the composition of the Commission: its members are seated at the front of the conference room, in alphabetical order, followed by non-members and other observers at the back of the room.

Non-governmental organizations

Non-governmental organizations having consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations are also present at the Commission.

They may designate authorized representatives to sit as observers at public meetings of the Commission and its subsidiary organs. Moreover, the Commission may consult with such organizations, and they are usually heard by the Commission after Members have spoken.

Outcome documents

The main outcomes of the Commission are the resolutions, as is the case for the majority of the intergovernmental bodies of the United Nations. Virtually all the resolutions are adopted by consensus. If no consensus is reached, the proposed text is usually subject to negotiations until agreement is reached or the text is withdrawn.

The Commission may also recommend draft resolutions either for adoption by the Economic and Social Council or for approval by the Council and subsequent adoption by the General Assembly.

All the resolutions and decisions adopted or recommended by the Commission are brought to the attention of the Economic and Social Council through reportsadopted by the Commission at the end of each session. The reports also include summaries of the deliberations that took place.

Structure and conduct of work

The work of the Commission is governed by the Rules of Procedure of the Functional Commissions of the Economic and Social Council . The structure of the work of the Commission is outlined as follows:

  • The reconvened session of the Commission is usually held in December to consider strategic management, budgetary and administrative questions. At the end of the reconvened session, the following session is opened for the purpose of electing its Bureau.
  • The Bureau of the Commission is composed of a Chair, three Vice-Chairs and a Rapporteur. These officers of the Bureau are elected based on the principle of equitable geographical distribution.
  • A group composed of the Chairs of the five regional groups, the Chair of the Group of 77 and China, and a representative of or observer for the State holding the Presidency of the European Union assists the Chair of the Commission.
  • Pre-session consultations usually take place on the last working day before the start of the regular session of the Commission.
  • The regular session of the Commission takes place in Vienna over five days towards the end of the first part of the year (usually in May).
  • At the beginning of the regular session, the Commission adopts its agenda and programme of work.
  • The Commission also holds a discussion on a theme, with introductory statements and statements from representatives of Member States, observers and expert panellists.
  • Action on agenda items involves the adoption of resolutions, which are the main outcomes of each session, and of decisions, which for the most part deal with procedural matters.

As in other intergovernmental bodies of the United Nations and in accordance with established practice, the Commission first considers draft resolutions in the Committee of the Whole. This Committee meets in parallel with the plenary before such proposals are submitted to the plenary for adoption in the last day of the session. No debate or discussion on any proposal can take place before copies of such a document are circulated among Member States, although informal consultations normally take place before that.

Topics for discussion

 

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