#UN70: Seven Decades of the United Nations

In 1945, representatives met in San Francisco, USA, at the United Nations Conference on International Organization to draw up the United Nations Charter. That same year, on 24 October, the UN officially came into existence following the ratification of the Charter by China, France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, the United States and by a majority of other signatories.

To recognize this historic day, United Nations Day is celebrated annually on 24 October. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Organization and with this a new, UN-wide campaign - #UN70 - has been initiated to share special moments from the past seven decades.

To showcase the history of UNODC and its predecessors, we will be highlighting a different decade each month in the lead up to UN Day, running from the 1950s to the present.

Here are some of the core events, decade-by-decade, that have shaped UNODC:

The 2010s:  Shared international responsibilities on governance and development for a sustainable future

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), established in 2000 following the United Nations Millennium Summit, committed the nations of the world to achieving certain goals across eight priority areas of social and economic development by 2015. Some goals, while present in the Millennium Declaration, were not operationalized in the original MDGs. In the past few years, there has been explicit acknowledgment of the fact that progress on the "qualitative" dimensions of development, such as Human Rights, Access to Justice, Good Governance, Rule of Law and Security, is very much a part of any framework for sustainable and equitable growth.

In 2013, UNODC in consultation with an Expert Group on issues related to rule of law, justice, and security developed a paper, which considers a measurement framework for justice and security in relation to development. It builds upon a 2013 report on the Post-2015 Development Agenda entitled A New Global Partnership: Eradicate Poverty and Transform Economies through Sustainable Development . The paper also sets out the case for a post-2015 development agenda that explicitly accounts for security and justice.

A series of new goals - the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) - have been designed to comprehensively cover a range of areas, including those most closely linked to UNODC's work. The agenda also looks to overcome the traditional divide between developed and developing countries, by facilitating ways and means of solving global problems through collective action and compelling Member States to think in terms of shared responsibilities for a shared future. Recognizing the impact of destabilizing issues such as corruption, illicit drugs, terrorism and transitional organized crime which undermine good governance and the rule of law and threaten security, development and people's lives is therefore more critical than ever.

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UNODC and the Post-2015 Development Agenda

The Sustainable Development Goals and UNODC.

The 2000s: landmark Conventions against Corruption and Transnational Organized Crime

UNODC is mandated to guard and promote two important international treaties, from which multiple areas of the Office's work are derived: one is a Convention dealing with transnational organized crime, while the other addresses corruption.

The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime is the main international instrument to counter organized crime and a critical force underpinning coordinated international cooperation to that end. Adopted in 2000, it is supplemented by three protocols that target trafficking in persons, especially women and children; smuggling of migrants; and illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in firearms. As the Secretary to the Convention, which now enjoys near-universal adoption, UNODC supports Governments in creating the domestic legal framework needed to investigate criminal offences and adopt new frameworks for extradition, mutual legal assistance and international law enforcement cooperation. This work enables countries to tackle organized crime, prosecute and convict offenders, and assist and protect victims and witnesses.

Similarly, UNODC is the guardian of the United Nations Convention against Corruption, which was adopted in 2003 and which entered into force in 2005. It obliges States parties to prevent and criminalize corruption, promote international cooperation, work together for the recovery of stolen assets and enhance technical assistance and information exchange. The Convention addresses both the public and private sectors, as well as civil society, and provides all national, regional and multinational anti-corruption efforts with a single set of agreed-upon anti-corruption obligations and guidelines. UNODC also facilitates the ratification and implementation of the Convention and supports States in devising coherent responses to prevent and combat corruption. In 2009, as the States Parties to the Convention agreed to establish a mechanism to review the implementation of the convention, UNODC was mandated to manage this Review Mechanism.

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United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime

United Nations Convention against Corruption

The 1990s: The merging of the United Nations drugs and crime bodies

From the 1950s into the early 1980s the original United Nations drugs agencies - the Division on Narcotic Drugs and the Secretariat of the International Narcotics Control Board - worked on drug-control treaties and drug-related research. These separate entities monitored the status of drugs and their control among countries and worked on drug treaty issues. In 1970 the United Nations Fund for Drug Abuse Control (UNFDAC) was formed to undertake small, grant-funded projects related to demand reduction and anti-trafficking.

UNFDAC was restructured and renamed the United Nations International Drug Control Programme (UNDCP) in 1991. Six years later, in 1997, UNDCP was merged with the Centre for International Crime Prevention (CICP) to form UNODCCP, the United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention. Finally, in 2002, the Office was reorganized and took up its current name of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

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UNODC's 'Menu of services'

1991: Members of the Hmong hilltribe in Northern Thailand, where a UNDCP-supported project is discouraging the cultivation of opium poppies. The project, which promotes the planting of replacement crops such as coffee, potatoes, cabbages and kidney beans, also supports educational and health activities. Photo: UN Photo/J. Sailas.

The 1980s: The UN Convention against Trafficking of Illicit Drugs

The UN Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988 built upon the two previous international instruments which constitute, as a whole, the drug control framework in the United Nations system (see below, the 1960s).

After both previous international agreements - from 1961 and 1971 - the UN entities entrusted with the normative aspects of drug control, the Commission of Narcotic Drugs and the International Narcotics Control Board, considered that the world drug problem required an updated international governing treaty, as the traffic of illegal drugs "menaced the health and well-being of individuals, spread corruption, abetted criminal conspiracy, and subverted public order. It threatened the sovereignty and security of States and disrupted the economic, social and cultural structures of society," this according to one of the resolutions which gave way to producing the 1988 Convention.

As the most comprehensive international treaty focusing on the traffic of illicit drugs, it includes provisions which address tracing and freezing the proceeds of drug trafficking, strengthening extradition proceedings between the countries affected by this illegal activity, the control of chemical substances used in the production of illicit drugs, securing air and maritime transportation, enhancing the provision of legal assistance between countries dealing with this threat, among many others. The Convention was held in Vienna, in November and December of 1988, with the participation of 106 countries. The necessary number of ratifications and accessions having been reached in less than two years, the Convention entered into force on 11 November 1990.

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Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances

UNODC's World Drug Campaign

Photo: Commonwealth of Australia

The 1970s: Establishment of the UN Vienna headquarters

The Vienna International Centre (VIC) in the Austrian capital was officially opened on 23 August 1979 and handed over to the United Nations, including its specialized body, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). It is commonly known locally as 'UNO City'.

Many United Nations offices have a home at the VIC: from the IAEA, to bodies dealing with trade law (UNCITRAL), industrial development (UNIDO) and outer space issues (UNOOSA). After decades of hosting different entities dealing with international drug control and criminal justice - for instance, the International Drug Control Programme and the Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Division - Vienna became the headquarters of the consolidated United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in 1997. UNODC helps countries to reduce their vulnerability to the closely interrelated threats of drugs and crime, and promotes security and justice for all.

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The United Nations in Vienna

A view of the Vienna International Centre: 01 September 1979, Vienna, Austria. Photo: UN Photo 

Photogallery: The Vienna International Centre

The 1960s: The International Drug Control Conventions

While the beginnings of drug control in the international system date back to well before the formation of the United Nations - such as with the 1925 International Opium Convention - it is really since the emergence of the global body that a consolidated approach came about.

The necessity for a single instrument for narcotic drug control was made all the more important given the global historical developments around this issue: at the end of World War II, such control was governed by six treaties, and three more protocols were adopted under the aegis of the United Nations. This often led to obscurities and inconsistencies, also rendering the international control machinery more complex than was either desirable or necessary.

In 1961 the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs was convened and entered into force in 1964. It was later amended by an additional Protocol in 1972. This Convention collected several multilateral treaties into one single instrument, and reduced the number of international treaty organs dedicated solely to the control of narcotic drugs - such as the Permanent Central Opium Board and Drug Supervisory Body. It also provided for the control of the production of their raw materials. Two other Conventions - the Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971 and the Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988 - further strengthened the drug control system globally.

Today, these three major international drug control treaties guide UNODC's work in drug use prevention, treatment and rehabilitation efforts.

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Full text of the 1961, 1971 and 1988 drug control Conventions

1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances 1988 Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances

Video: Make Health your Fashion

Mr. Soekardjo Wirjopranoto of Indonesia signing the Final Act of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs: 30 march 1961, NYC.

Get the Facts brochure

UNODC's work on drug use prevention, treatment and care

UNODC's work on drug trafficking

World Drug Campaign

The 1950s: The world's first Crime Congress

In 1955 the first United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders was held in Geneva, bringing together over 50 Governments and 500 experts. The main focus of the event was the treatment of juvenile delinquents and prisoners, the numbers of which had risen dramatically in post-war Europe. The Congress resulted in the adoption of the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners which cover the general management of institutions, and are applicable to all categories of prisoners, criminal or civil, in pre-trial detention or following conviction and sentencing, including prisoners subject to "security measures" or corrective measures ordered by a judge. Today they remain the standards against which many concerned human rights, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations determine the treatment of prisoners.

Since its inception, Crime Congresses have been held every five years, bringing together policymakers and practitioners working in crime prevention and criminal justice to help shape the agenda and standards of the United Nations on crime prevention and criminal justice. The meetings have been a truly global affair: Austria, Brazil, Cuba, Egypt, Italy, Japan, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Venezuela and the UK have all hosted Congresses, with the most recent in April 2015, being held in in Qatar, marking the 60th anniversary of the Crime Congress.

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Video: History of the UN Crime Congress

Photo Gallery: 1955 UN Crime Congress, Geneva

UN Crime Congress, 1955, UN Photo/SC

Brochure: UN Crime Congresses, 1955-2015