Remarks of the Executive Director at the 31st Council of Europe Conference of Ministers of Justice Opening Session: Responses of justice to urban violence
20 September 2012
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you for the invitation to the 31 st Council of Europe Conference of Ministers of Justice and this panel session on the responses of justice to urban violence.
Since the beginning of the 21 st century around 50 per cent of the world's population has been living in the world's urban areas.
It is estimated this figure will reach 70 per cent by the year 2050. The fastest rates of urban growth are currently in Africa and Asia.
Persons under the age of 25 make up 43 per cent of the world's population with the majority of these young people living in developing countries.
These are not isolated facts.
The combination of developing nations, high density populations, and a growing proportion of young people is a combustible combination in some parts of the world.
According to UNODC's Global Study on Homicide, big cities represent risk areas for violent crime.
Rising homicide rates are often caused by such factors as inequality, segregation and poverty as well as the number of potential victims and the existence of drug markets and other illicit networks.
Over the years, there have been calls by UNODC and other UN bodies and agencies for crime and violence prevention policies to be integrated into the development agenda.
Drugs and Crime threaten the achievement of the MDG's as well as our future work post-2015.
The pre-requisites of development are the rule of law, respect for human rights, education, health, housing, economic investment and secure jobs.
When countries and cities combat urban crime and violence, attention has traditionally focused on strengthening law enforcement.
In the area of policing, for example, it has been recognized that we need responses that are analytical, evidence-based, proportionate and localised.
Although the relationship between firearms and homicide is complex, the control of firearm sales forms an essential element of the criminal justice response to violence and crime.
A fair humane, effective and accessible criminal justice system also plays an important role in the protection of victims as well as in reducing crime and violence.
We must ensure proper access to justice founded on the state's and international community's commitment to human rights.
It is not enough, for example, to say that offenders or prisoners, have rights. We must express those rights, implement them and provide full access.
With the exception of serious crimes, community-based-sanctions should be considered where possible. They can often be more effective than imprisonment in preventing recidivism.
To successfully prevent crime, we need to confront its causes, such as: inequality, poverty and discrimination.
Urban and youth crime, child victimization, recruitment into gangs, organized crime, trafficking and corruption, share the same causes and drivers.
Within our societies special programmes need to be developed offering support and assistance to disadvantaged groups such as street children, unemployed youth, and drug addicts.
City municipalities can reduce levels of crime and violence by helping at-risk youth develop communication and life skills, as well as to improve their chances of obtaining employment.
Juvenile justice systems can and must reintegrate young people into society by offering them a second chance, while making them aware of their responsibilities. The Council of Europe Guidelines on Child-friendly Justice are an example.
Of equal importance is the need to align the local to the global.
Policies should recognise and address the inter linkages between transnational organised crime, local vulnerabilities and the impact of organized crime at the local level.
Organized crime makes local populations vulnerable to being recruited by drug traffickers or becoming the victims of drug-related crime.
Accordingly, UNODC has five fundamental approaches to crime when providing technical assistance and helping to build the capacities of Member States:
- · Base crime prevention programs and strategies on good knowledge and data;
- · Address the specific needs, opportunities and constraints at the local level;
- · Promote crime prevention programmes tailored to the specific needs, risk factors and vulnerabilities of key populations;
- · Prioritize pro-active prevention and social inclusion; and
- · Form close partnerships with municipal governments, educational institutions and civil society.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Crime prevention is vital within urban settings and for the promotion of sustainable development.
As the cities of the world continue to grow, the challenges of crime within these environments will also expand.
UNODC's role is to work with other UN agencies to develop a holistic response that addresses law enforcement, and crime prevention, including issues related to development.