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NGOs take the Road to Marrakech: Active participation of civil society at the Conference of the States Parties

October 2011 – 200 NGO representatives participated in the fourth Conference of the States Parties (CoSP4) which took place from 24-28 October in Marrakech, Morocco, and contributed meaningfully to the various activities related to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC). This year’s Conference looked at ways to improve international cooperation to tackle corruption and strengthen integrity. Member States also addressed the issue of civil society participation in the Implementation Review Group (IRG). The Conference decided that civil society briefings shall be conducted on the margins of the sessions of the Group to further promote a constructive dialogue with NGOs and to draw upon useful contributions from them. Speaking about the role of civil society in his opening statement, the Executive Director stressed that as “fighting corruption is everyone's business, we need the assistance of civil society to resist corruption, build a culture of integrity, and deliver change.”

CSO action during the CoSP 4

The UNCAC is the only legally binding universal anti-corruption instrument that devotes an entire article (Article 13) on participation of civil society. The Conference addressed key issues regarding the review of the implementation of the Convention, asset recovery and prevention, but also discussed the role young people can play in tackling corruption and the question of how to develop their knowledge of ethical standards. On the last day, the Conference adopted the "Marrakech Declaration on Prevention of Corruption", which calls on states to do more to prevent corruption. The Declaration recognizes that corruption is a serious impediment to reducing poverty and endangers the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

Prior to the Conference, over 100 NGO representatives participated in the briefing session for CSOs - the Civil Society Preparatory Meeting - on Sunday 23 October, which introduced NGOs to the rules and procedures of the Conference. Numerous NGO representatives also took the opportunity to attend the daily briefing sessions. The UNCAC Coalition, UNODC's CSO partner umbrella organization (on issues related to the Convention), also organized a series of special events entitled "Best Practices in Implementation and Monitoring of UNCAC", which took place on 25, 26 and 27 October.

These special events addressed topics including transparency and CSO participation in the UNCAC review process; the right of access to information, including information required in the UNCAC review process;  the involvement of citizens and elected representatives in the fight against corruption; and best practices on the implementation of article 13 of UNCAC and on the protection of witnesses and whistleblowers. A further panel dealt with best practices on asset recovery and anti-money laundering. Panelists spoke on aspects of the two UNCAC Coalition statements submitted to the CoSP4, one on Article 13 and one on Asset recovery and anti-money laundering. All the panels highlighted the importance of civil society engagement in anti-corruption activities.

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UNODC and civil society against drug dependence and crime: The fifty-fourth Commission on Narcotic Drugs and the twentieth session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice

“We regard the NGO community as a key partner and a powerful voice in reaching the people whom UNODC ultimately works to serve” said UNODC Executive Director, Yury Fedotov, at the 54th Session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) in Vienna. Mr. Fedotov expressed his support for NGOs’ work some weeks later at the 20th Session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (CCPCJ), where he pointed out that UNDOC needs the civil society community in order to fulfil its mandate.

pUNODC Executive Director and NGO delegates during the 54th CND (21-25 March 2011)

The presence and active involvement of civil society representatives in the international policy debate is a major goal of the “Looking Beyond” Project, which was properly served by the participation of 168 representatives from 76 NGOs at the CND, and 101 representatives from nearly 50 NGOs at the CCPCJ. The involvement of NGOs during the two Commissions provided a powerful voice for civil society in several bilateral and multilateral negotiations. According to Michel Perron, the Chairman of the Vienna NGO Committee on Drugs (VNGOC), “local NGOs are working hard alongside their national governments to make a difference in the lives of those affected by drugs and drug policy.”

“The CND annual session is an important event and we need to ensure that decisions taken there reflect the reality of what needs to be done in my country, while taking into consideration experience from around the globe,” said another NGO delegate. Representatives of civil society not only attended plenary sessions and side events, but also actively participated in round table discussions with Member States. UNDOC’s newly appointed Goodwill Ambassador, Christopher Kennedy Lawford, took part in many of these events and met with several NGO representatives to learn more about their experiences with victims of drug abuse.

In addition, the UNODC Civil Society Team and the VNGOC organized the side event “Building on Beyond 2008 Recommendations: Partnerships for Effective Drug Policy”. Representatives of three NGOs from Argentina, the Kyrgyz Republic and Senegal reported on the lessons learnt from "Beyond 2008". They identified effective ways forward for Member States and civil society to work together in the development and implementation of evidence and practice based drug policies. All NGOs highlighted the positive support of UNODC and VNGOC which made it possible for  them to get involved in the relevant decision and policy-making process.

The fruitful participation of NGOs in central policy making bodies within the United Nations was also marked three weeks later during the CCPCJ in Vienna. Michael Platzer, head of the Vienna Alliance of NGOs on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, expressed the important and indispensable role of NGOs in creating and applying UNODC’s basic norms of crime prevention and criminal justice.

ppSide event "Religion in Prison" --  CCPCJ (11-15 April 2011)

Both Member States and civil society actors participated in several NGO-organized side events, such as “Religion in Prison” which focused on basic principles of religious assistance in prisons and freedom of religion in prisons. Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna, attended this event along side a number of religious leaders of different denominations. Another CCPCJ side event  titled “Ratification of the Firearms Protocol and EU States,” organized by ACUNS, the World Society of Victimology, Small Arms Survey and UNODC addressed illegal arms trafficking and the need to establish international standards for exporting weapons.

During an informal dialogue with NGOs, Mr. Fedotov underlined the need to push forward the relationship between UNODC and civil society in order to confront challenges together. “Don’t hesitate to contact me or my staff,” said Mr. Fedotov.

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Anti-corruption NGOs receive training and tools on UNCAC and its Review Mechanism

Civil society -- UNCAC Training

Participants at the training in Laxenburg

An NGO training to strengthen civil society capacity on the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) and its Review Mechanism was jointly organized by UNODC and Transparency International.

The event was held from 2 to 4 February in the newly inaugurated International Anti-Corruption Academy (IACA), in Laxenburg, Austria.

Some 35 delegates from NGOs specialized in protecting citizens against corruption studied and practiced the application of the articles of the Convention during the three days. They discussed how to contribute to their country review mechanism.


Civil Society UNCAC Training, 2-4 February 2011

These civil  society representatives came from the countries undergoing the first year of review of the UNCAC (Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, Fiji, Indonesia, Lithuania, Mongolia, Niger, Peru, Rwanda, Togo, Uganda and  Zambia)  and the second year of review (Sierra Leone, Mauritius, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Georgia, El Salvador, Colombia, United Kingdom, Portugal, Switzerland). Regional experts from the Middle East and Latin America also attended. This was the first ever training on UNCAC and its Review mechanism organized for NGOs. For more on this topic, please read the webstory.

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NGO participation to the fifth session of the Conference of the Parties to the Palermo Convention, 18 - 22 October 2010, Vienna

More than 120 delegates from a total of 44 Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) attended the Fifth session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (CTOC/COP 5), which was held from 18 to 22 October 2010 in Vienna, Austria. The intergovernmental conference discussed the implementation of the Convention and its three Protocols, namely the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air and the Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms. The session opened with a high-level segment commemorating the tenth anniversary of the signature of the Convention in Palermo.

Fifty NGOs took the opportunity of the Conference to present a Joint Statement, addressing the need to establish a victim-centred review mechanism to the Palermo Convention that is both inclusive and comprehensive, involving all stakeholders.

Mr. Yury Fedotov, UNODC Executive Director, who met with NGOs in an informal dialogue session held on 20 October, praised the contribution of NGOs, saying: "Your testimony is crucial in the international debate on the prevention of organized crime and the protection of its victims". The informal dialogue is an important part of UNODC’s engagement with civil society and was the first official event with NGOs held by the Executive Director since he took office.

Furthermore, a significant number of side events and exhibitions have been coordinated by NGOs, covering: victim-centred responses to human trafficking; gangs, armed groups, and guns; and organised crime, white collar crime and corruption. In addition, a demonstration of anti-human trafficking training for prosecutors was held.

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Civil Society Organizations played an active role at the Twelfth United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, 12-19 April 2010, Salvador, Brazil

Over 250 representatives of 46 Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) from all over the world participated in the Twelfth United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice which was held in Salvador, Brazil, from 12 to 19 April 2010. At the first NGO coordination meeting, the group agreed to develop a joint NGO Statement for presentation to the high-level segment of the Congress. The statement (doc) called for just and humane responses to both the victims and the perpetrators of crime addressing also juvenile issues, the access to justice and fair treatment as well as the implementation of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) and the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC).

Eighty-two ancillary meetings, summarized in a booklet, took place during the Crime Congress, covering such critical issues as access to justice, crime prevention, human rights, restorative justice, women, terrorism, human trafficking, cyber crime, juvenile justice, transparency and corruption. The UNODC Civil Society Team together with the UNCAC Coalition: A Global Civil Society Network organized an ancillary meeting on "Engagement of Civil Society in the UNCAC Review: Latin American Perspectives" to raise awareness of the UNCAC in Latin America and promote the Convention's review mechanism. This meeting discussed opportunities for civil society action in the upcoming UNCAC review process, lessons learned from both inside and outside the anti-corruption movement about monitoring and participation, and the need for benchmarks and performance indicators to assess progress. An informal discussion on the UNCAC implementation review process also took place. Regional CSOs proved to be very active in the discussion, sharing their experiences and committing to following the region's best practices in the implementation of UNCAC in their own countries.

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Civil society engagement during the fifty-third session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs

During this year's 53rd session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, some 160 delegates representing more than 55 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council were present in Vienna from 8 to 12 March 2010. See a UNODC webstory covering the engagement of NGOs and UNODC in drug policy here.

The NGOs held a variety of side events, embracing subjects such as essential medicines, assessment of drug policy, and the universal access to treatment and care. On the latter topic, the Vienna NGO Committee on Drugs together with UNODC and the World Health Organization organized a side event on drug dependence treatment. Special guest speaker Christopher Kennedy Lawford, renowned actor, author and activist shared his story in an emotional and inspiring address.

In the spirit of the project "Beyond 2008", two informal dialogues were held between NGO representatives, UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa and INCB President Sevil Atasoy.

To learn more about the "Beyond 2008" and the current "Looking beyond" project, click on the link.

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Third session of the Conference of the State Parties to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, (CAC/COSP 3), 9-13 November 2009, Doha, Qatar

CSO delegates in action at the Plenary

CSOs meeting with Mr Antonio Maria Costa Watch the slideshow.

Over 110 representatives of some 40 Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) from all over the world participated in the Third session of the Conference of the State Parties to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption CAC/COSP 3 that took place in Doha, Qatar from 9 to 13 November 2009.

The UNCAC Coalition: A Global Civil Society Network organized a briefing session on 8 November to prepare the CSO work during the conference.

The group was very active during the session and held a one day CSO forum.

The Statement was submitted to Conference and included in the official documentation as conference room paper 13. A welcomed coincidence with article 13 of the Convention!

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Eighteenth session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice and preparations for the Twelfth United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice

CCPCJ 2009

During the eighteenth session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, which took place in Vienna from 16 to 24 April 2009, three coordination meetings for NGOs were held. The first two (held on 16 and 20 April) were introductory meetings at which participants were briefed about the main issues that would be raised during the session and matters related to the participation of NGOs. The third meeting (held on 23 April) focused on preparations for the twelfth United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, which will take place in Salvador, Brazil, from 12 to 19 April 2010, and for ancillary meetings to the congress. For further information on the twelfth crime congress and the ancillary meetings, consult the leaflet.

On the sidelines of the commission, a series of events on crime-related issues were organized by NGOs, including:

  • A side event entitled "Prisons and Mental Health", organized by the International Catholic Commission on Prison Pastoral Care, at which participants discussed ways to improve health, safety and living conditions in prisons
  • A side event entitled "Teaching Criminal Justice", organized by the Academic Council on the United Nations System, at which participants focused on computer-based (online) tools for teaching about criminal justice
  • A side event entitled "Victims' Rights and Care", organized by the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, at which participants emphasized the fact that victims of crime and terrorism are not sufficiently represented and taken care of by international organizations working on crime-related issues
  • A side event entitled "Promoting Cross-national Cooperation when Fighting Human Trafficking", at which participants identified effective and ineffective techniques in cooperation.
  • Finally, the eighteenth session of the Commission provided an opportunity to organize a launching event for the Handbook for Prison Pastoral Care Workers Confronted with Torture, compiled by the International Catholic Commission on Prison Pastoral Care. Mr. Manfred Nowak, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment took part in the panel and called for more transparency in the management of prisons and for more frequent monitoring visits of prisons

Click here to view the official programme of events held at the eighteenth session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice.

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Civil society contribution to the fifty-second session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs and its high-level segment

The Commission on Narcotic Drugs acts as the central policymaking body of the United Nations in drug related matters. Some 200 delegates from 65 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with consultative status with the Economic and Social Council attended the fifty-second session of the Commission, which was held in Vienna from 11 to 20 March 2009. Some NGOs organized side events to present and put forward their expertise to UNODC staff and Member States. Side events were held on a wide range of subjects, from essential medicines to drug dependence, and highlighted good practices in cyberspace and on the role of law enforcement bodies. (The full programme, including side events, is available by clicking on this link. )

This year's special session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs started with a high-level segment, which was held on the first two days of the session. Participants in the high-level segment adopted a political declaration and plan of action that is directed towards an integrated and balanced strategy to counter the world drug problem. This was the result of a broad review of the international drug control system to which civil society organizations actively participated in the framework of the project "Beyond 2008" . Their contribution was praised by UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa, who thanked NGOs for "helping set the agenda for Beyond 2008" in his closing remarks.

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Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime

CTOC logo The fourth session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocols was held in Vienna from 8 to 17 October 2008. Approximately 55 representatives from 35 civil society organizations attended the event as observers and contributors. Two NGO coordination meetings helped foster communication between these organizations and allowed groups working on similar issues to come together and share ideas and proposals for progress. A briefing was also held with Ms. Marjorie Bonn of the Ministry of Justice of the Netherlands and with the chairperson of the Working Group of Government Experts on Technical Assistance. Ms. Bonn presented an overview of the proceedings of the Working Group, participation in which was restricted to Member States.

Civil society organizations also contributed to two side events:

  • A panel discussion on "The Need for a Review Mechanism to the Human Trafficking Protocol" was organized by the Global Alliance against Traffic in Women, Antislavery International and La Strada International. A speaker from Transparency International spoke about the efforts already made to establish a review mechanism for the United Nations Convention against Corruption. These efforts were presented as a guideline for construction of a similar mechanism for the Organized Crime Convention. The panelist from the Buhay Foundation in the Philippines emphasized the importance of engaging with civil society and stressed the need to focus on the human rights aspects of the Trafficking in Persons Protocol. The panelists agreed that the mechanism must be effective, transparent and cost efficient. This review mechanism was presented as a potentially important tool for identifying the main obstacles to successful implementation of the Trafficking in Perosns Protocol and for identifying the impact of existing anti-trafficking policies whose ultimate purpose is to convict traffickers and protect victims.
  • A presentation was given on the importance of international cooperation in addressing environmental crime. Read more about environmental crime in this report by the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA).UNODC Executive EIA Director Antonio Maria Costa opened the event entitled "Environmental Crime: Our Planet, Our Problem", organized by the Environmental Investigation Agency, an NGO from the United Kingdom. Environmental crime takes many forms, including illegal trade in flora and fauna, illegal disposal of hazardous waste, illegal logging, smuggling of ozone depleting substances and illegal mining and trade of precious stones. Mr. Costa thanked EIA and other environmental groups for raising awareness of these disastrous offences and for urging the international community to act to combat such crimes. He stressed the importance of applying the existing legal framework provided by the Organized Crime Convention towards this aim and called for the strict application of the Convention against Corruption to put an end to the corrupt behavior that enables these activities to take place. He encouraged all present to contribute to the cause by reducing the consumption of and demand for illegally traded products. An EIA representative presented a short film and answered questions from concerned participants. EIA and Mr. Costa stressed the importance of recognizing that environmental crime is not, as many think, a "victimless crime." These atrocious acts are destroying the planet and therefore affect not only everyone living today, but the prosperity and health of generations to come.

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Civil Society contribution to the 2008 United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice

" Let's open our doors and our minds to involve all those who want to build a safer and more just world" said Mr Costa, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in his opening statement at the 17 th Session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (CCPJC) held on 14-18 April 2008. He emphasized the need to build a strong partnership with society in addressing the continued increase in the menace of organized crime.

The turnout of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) during the CCPCJ session confirmed UNODC's effort to facilitate a constructive dialogue between non-governmental organizations (NGO) and government delegates. Contributions on a regional and global scale as well as achievements of some CSOs were presented during several interactive side-events organized and co-sponsored by NGOs during the Commission week.

Highlights of some of the side events included:

Following the Thematic Debate on Violence against Women, the Panel Discussion on Responding to the Needs of Women in Prison, held on 15 April 2008 and proudly sponsored by Thailand on the initiative of HRH Princess Bajarakitiyabha Mahidol of Thailand, included a presentation on "The impact of parental imprisonment on children" by Oliver Robertson (The Friends world Committee for consultation, Quaker United Nations Office).

On Wednesday 16 April 2008, the Panel Discussion on Prisoners with Special Needs was hosted by the International Commission for the Catholic Prison Pastoral Care (ICCPPC) and UNODC in cooperation with Penal Reform International, Human Rights Watch and the Institute of Criminology of the University of Vienna. The event, attended by more than 70 participants, presented the up-coming UNODC Handbook on Special Needs and provided an overview on "Prisoners with Mental Health Care Needs" (Allison Hannan, Penal Reform International), "Prisoners under Sentence of Death" (Brian Gowans, ICCPPC), and "Women in Protective Custody" ( Farida Deif, Human Rights Watch).

The Panel Discussion on "Strategies to address Violence against Children in conflict with the Law", held on 17 April 2008, presented contributions from the Interagency Panel of Juvenile Justice and Defence for Children International.

In 2007, a panel discussion on the Role of Civil Society in the Prevention of Urban Violence and Organized Crime highlighted lessons learned of NGOs from four continents.

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Vienna Forum to Fight Human Trafficking (UN.GIFT) on 13-15 February 2008

The forum saw an impressive level of participation of key players (including approximately 350 civil society representatives) from across the globe to raise awareness and enhance cooperation in the fight against human trafficking. Throughout the Vienna Forum, the significance of civil society's role in combating human trafficking was repeatedly emphasized In the vast majority of panels and workshops, civil society representatives occupied prominent positions, and, throughout the Vienna Forum, a special CSO Knowledge Exchange Centre was available for civil society organisations to present their counter-trafficking activities and display material. In closing, the UNODC Executive Director highlighted the importance of the continued participation of civil society in the fight against human trafficking.

Civil Society and the UN Convention Against Corruption

Art. 13 of UNCAC, on the participation of civil society Civil society organizations from around the world participated in the second session of the Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), that took place from 28 January to 2 February 2008 in Bali, Indonesia. The Coalition of the Civil Society Friends of UNCAC, which includes Transparency International and another 45 civil society organizations from all over the world, organized on 29 January a forum focusing on "whistleblowers and anti-corruption activists in hostile environments" and "the need for mechanism for review of implementation for UNCAC".

Three whistleblowers (all public servants), told their stories, which demonstrated the devastating consequences of exposing and denouncing corruption for them and their families. The output from the meeting was a decision to set up an International Solidarity Network comprising anti-corruption organisations, trade unions and others to support and protect anti-corruption activists. Additionally, the Coalition approved its position statement (pdf) on the implementation of the Convention, which called for the creation of a transparent and participatory review mechanism, a fund for asset recovery, the coordination of technical assistance, and the protection of whistleblowers.

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"Squisito" 2008 - UNODC and San Patrignano promote Food as an alternative to Drugs

Also this year's edition of Squisito, an international food event organized by San Patrignano, the largest drug rehabilitation centre in Europe was held under the auspices of UNODC. The event that took place from 30 May to 2 June 2008 attracted an overwhelming response from the media and was well-attended by over 20,000 visitors from all over Italy.

Squisito gathered 13 Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) projects, exhibited at the GoodFood pavilion, showcasing products from around the world grown by small farmers participating in the UNODC's Alternative Development programme. Some prominent NGOs such as DACAAR , ICARDA and DoiTung actively working with UNODC on Alternative Development projects in Afghanistan, Thailand, Peru, Myanmar and Colombia offered samples of their products, photo exhibits and informative material on their programmes to visitors.

The GoodFood pavilion exhibited a wide range of products such as mint, saffron, and pistachio from Afghanistan, and Lahu Mountain Green and Black tea from Myanmar. Peru offered coffee Oro Verde Café from Lamas - San Martin, and some palmito. Myanmar exhibited textile products ranging from handbags and wallets to tapestries. Carpignani, an Italian ice cream maker sold Gelato made from mint saffron and pistachios produced from Afghanistan. Visitors marveled at the quality of the products and of the Alternative Development programmes aimed at providing licit income-generating opportunities to small farmers who would otherwise be engaged in the cultivation of opium poppy, coca and cannabis. Squisito raised the interest of small and medium-sized enterprises in Italy to commercialise these high-quality products on the Italian market.

The event not only exhibited products, but also created global awareness of the environmental consequences of the cultivation of illicit drugs. In his welcoming speech, Jorge Rios, Chief of UNODC's Sustainable Livelihoods Unit revealed that, "Growing illicit crops and manufacturing drugs not only is a negative factor for the family or the community, but also has a devastating impact on the environment". He further indicated that, "in Colombia over the last 20 years, 2.2 million hectares of tropical forest in one of the world's most important biological hotspots have been destroyed to cultivate coca".

San Patrignano looks forward to provide in the coming years other events that will convene diverse multicultural and international Alternative Development products.