Violence Against Children

UNODC contributes to SDG 16.2 by supporting countries in the prevention and elimination of violence against children in the field of crime prevention and criminal justice. Based on the obligations of States under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and relevant standards and norms, in particular the United Nations Model Strategies and Practical Measures on the Elimination of Violence against Children in the Field of Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, UNODC provides technical assistance in the following areas: 1) prevention of violence against children and of children's involvement in crime; 2) juvenile justice reform and restorative justice; 2) the role of the justice system in preventing and treatment of children recruited and exploited by terrorist and violent extremist groups; and 4) protection and assistance to child victims and witnesses of crime. 

The justice system, in particular given the risk of an overuse of detention for children, is a place of potential high risk for children rights and investing in a comprehensive and multidisciplinary response to violence against children is recognized as a catalytic action for reaching a number of relevant SDGs and human rights obligations.

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Violence Against Women

Violence against women is one of the most widespread violations of human rights. It can include physical, sexual, psychological and economic abuse, and it cuts across boundaries of age, race, culture, wealth and geography. Violence against women has far-reaching consequences by harming families and communities. UNODC's efforts in the area of violence against women contribute to the respect and protection of the rights of victims and their access to effective remedies, and are based on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

UNODC works to support countries in implementing the Updated Model Strategies and Practical Measures on the Elimination of Violence against Women in the Field of Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice. The Office helps countries to criminalize violence against women, including gender-related killing, by offering legislative assistance and support; enhances the capacity of police, prosecutors and judges to respond effectively to this form of violence; and assists countries in improving support services to victims and their families.

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Protection of victims and witnesses

The impact of crime on the people affected by it can be profound. Victims may suffer from physical, mental, emotional and financial harm, from which some may never recover. Injuries may be threatened or inflicted upon victims, witnesses or their families, and threats may even be made against lives. States have a responsibility to respect the fundamental rights of victims, assist them in accordance with their special needs, and protect them from further harm. In addition to the human rights obligations and incentives for assisting and protecting people who have fallen victim to or witnessed serious crimes, there are criminal justice incentives for doing so -the cooperation of victims and witnesses is crucial to achieving successful prosecutions of criminal offenders and dismantling organized criminal groups.

The provisions envisaged to ensure protection of victims and witnesses have a prominent position in the context of the United Nations instruments against transnational organized crime and corruption ( UNTOC and UNCAC).

To support Member States in assisting and protecting victims and witnesses, UNODC provides technical assistance in reviewing and strengthening legislative frameworks for victim support and witness protection. It also assists States to assist and when necessary, to protect victims and witnesses in accordance with the Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power, and other good practices.

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Crime prevention

Crime prevention offers opportunities for a humane and cost-effective approach to the challenges posed by crime and insecurity. UNODC's work on crime prevention contributes to advancing human rights through the promotion of a culture of lawfulness and measures to address the risk factors of crime and violence. Mindful of the fact that actions taken in the name of preventing crime may impinge on human rights, for instance in connection to excessive use of force by police and undue use of surveillance technology, UNODC promotes prevention practices that are evidence-based and human rights compliant.

In accordance with the Guidelines for the Prevention of Crime, UNODC's efforts on crime prevention encompass social development interventions, such as early prevention through improving parenting skills and life skills among youth, reducing opportunities for crime through environmental design, empowering communities to reduce crime and insecurity at the local level, and preventing recidivism through the social reintegration of offenders. UNODC supports crime prevention programmes with a particular focus on at-risk youth and other vulnerable populations.

Considering that education for children and youth is fundamental in promoting a culture that supports the rule of law, crime prevention and criminal justice, UNODC developed the Education for Justice (E4J) initiative under the Global Programme for the Implementation of the Doha Declaration. Through this initiative, the Office develops and disseminates education materials in UNODC mandated areas, including a strong focus on human rights, across the primary, secondary and tertiary education levels.

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Judiciary reform

The right to a competent, independent, and impartial tribunal is articulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 10) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 14), as well as in regional treaties and conventions. The judiciary plays a crucial role in stabilizing the balance of power within government and in enhancing public confidence in the government and in preventing or ensuring accountability for human rights violations.

UNODC assists Member States in developing legislation that will allow the judiciary to function independently, impartially, and with integrity, enhancing the capacity of the judiciary to train and educate judges and judicial officers, and enhancing the capacity of the judiciary to uphold human rights standards and norms in criminal cases. The work of UNODC in this area is guided by the relevant provision of UNCAC and the Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary (the Bangalore Principles).

Article 11 of the UNCAC emphasizes the crucial role of the judiciary in combating corruption and recognizes that in order to play this role effectively, the judiciary itself must be free of corruption and its members must act with integrity. Accordingly, it requires each State party to (a) take measures to strengthen integrity among members of the judiciary, and (b) take measures to prevent opportunities for corruption among members of the judiciary. In that context, UNCAC requires States parties to do so "bearing in mind the independence of the judiciary". A code of conduct for judges is also suggested as one such measure.

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Prosecution services

Public prosecutors play a unique role in criminal justice systems as they appear on behalf of the government as representatives of the people during a trial. Miscarriages of justice damage the integrity of criminal justice systems and violate public trust, and public prosecutors are obligated to uphold the rule of law and to ensure the accused receives a fair trial.

In 1990, the Eighth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders at Havana, Cuba, adopted the Guidelines on the Role of Prosecutors. The Guidelines assist Member States in ensuring basic values and human rights protections underpin their prosecution services and that criminal proceedings are effective, impartial, and fair. UNODC supports legislative reforms to enable/enhance prosecutorial independence and discretion; enhancing both accountability and public understanding of the prosecution service; and developing the professional and administrative skills necessary to meet the demands of increasingly complex criminal caseloads. UNODC also implements joint projects with the International Association of Prosecutors in various areas.

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Access to legal aid

UNODC promotes the implementation of the United Nations Principles and Guidelines on Access to Legal Aid in Criminal Justice Systems, particularly concerning groups with specific needs and quality of services. Legal aid is an essential element of a fair, humane and efficient criminal justice system that is based on the rule of law. It is a foundation for the enjoyment of other rights, including the right to a fair trial as defined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; a precondition to exercising such rights; and an important safeguard that ensures fundamental fairness and public trust in the criminal justice process.

A functioning legal aid system, as part of a functioning criminal justice system, may reduce the length of time suspects are held in police stations and detention centres, in addition to reducing the prison population, wrongful convictions, prison overcrowding and congestion in the courts, and reducing reoffending and revictimization.

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Prison reform and alternatives to imprisonment

UNODC's work in the area of prison reform contributes to the prevention of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment and to the protection of other rights of persons deprived of their liberty, with a focus on eliminating gender-based or any other form of discrimination.

UNODC provides policy advice and capacity-building aimed at reducing the overuse of imprisonment and increasing the resort to alternatives to imprisonment, strengthening prison management to ensure safe and humane prison conditions, which includes addressing the needs of special categories of prisoners, and supporting the social reintegration of offenders. The work of UNODC in this area is guided by the United Nations Convention Against Torture and a range of standards and norms, including the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules), the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for Non-custodial Measures (the Tokyo Rules) and the United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-Custodial Measures for Women Offenders (the Bangkok Rules).

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Police reform

The police are entrusted with maintaining peace and security and the rule of law. Furthermore, law enforcement officials shall respect and protect human dignity and maintain and uphold the rights of all. In most countries, police are given extensive powers to enforce the law and they play an important role in the criminal justice system, although the nature, quality and underlying doctrine of the law varies among countries. While police powers are designed to protect the fundamental liberty and rights of people, they also carry a high risk of serious human rights violations.

UNODC's efforts in the area of police reform contribute to protecting the right to life, liberty and security of person, and to preventing torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Guided by the United Nations Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, and the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms, UNODC provides technical assistance to strategic police reform, strengthening the capacity of police officers to prevent and investigate crime through effective, human-rights based policing strategies, and to improve police oversight and accountability mechanisms to strengthen public trust in the authorities.

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