12 March 2021 – A year later than originally planned, because of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the 14th Crime Congress was held this week in Kyoto, Japan under strict health and safety standards, allowing for fruitful discussions between 5,600 participants, most of whom joined virtually through a dedicated platform. Held every five years, the Congress is the world’s largest gathering focusing on crime prevention, criminal justice, and rule of law matters, issues on which Governments and institutions worldwide agree will necessitate ever stronger cooperation and partnerships.
In his opening address to the Congress, delivered live from the United Nations headquarters in New York City, Secretary-General António Guterres spoke of the close relation between Governments and society: “Crime prevention, criminal justice and the rule of law have a key role in renewing the social contract between states and their populations.”
The Kyoto Declaration, adopted on the first day of the Congress, detailed the challenges and objectives facing the international community and the concrete actions needed to address international cooperation on crime prevention and criminal justice. Throughout the week, discussions took place in dozens of special events and ancillary meetings, with topics ranging from the numerous types of corruption problems facing the world to the wide range of crimes plaguing communities, with much mention being made of the impact of COVID-19 on many aspects of life.
UNODC Executive Director Ghada Waly acknowledged the impact of the pandemic in her opening statement: “As our world suffers in this prolonged crisis, we are united in the urgency to protect people and leave no one behind. We are in a race against time, as organized crime has spared no efforts in taking advantage of the crisis, from selling falsified vaccines, to exploiting those who have lost their livelihoods, and diverting stimulus funds.”
For UNODC’s Global Programme for the Implementation of the Doha Declaration, the Congress was the occasion to showcase the positive results of an active promotion of rule of law around the world. Having emerged from the 13th Crime Congress, the past five years have been dedicated to this through four separate, yet interrelated initiatives: Education for Justice, Youth Crime Prevention through Sport, Prisoner Rehabilitation, and Judicial Integrity. In addition to a special high-level event, the Global Programme held eight ancillary meetings, addressed by an impressive range of diverse speakers showcasing numerous strong partnerships established in these areas.
Five panels were held on different aspects of Education for Justice, where renowned specialists joined UNODC experts to discuss issues around technology, youth engagement, innovative teaching, gender, and gaming and how these each relate to and impact on the rule of law. The Global Programme also held an event on the promotion of prisoner rehabilitation programmes and post-release services to facilitate prisoners’ reintegration into society upon release, while another brought together a broad range of practitioners working to promote holistic youth crime prevention through the use of sports and sport-based learning to reach at-risk youth. And on the subject of Judicial Integrity, the role of the Global Judicial Integrity Network in strengthening the accountability, integrity and efficiency of judiciaries around the world was demonstrated. In all these sessions, experts in various fields presented their experience and perspectives on issues that the Global Programme has been promoting.
For the Congress, the Global Programme also launched Inspiras, a special magazine offering a unique retrospective of the five years of achievements and innovations; a virtual exhibition guiding visitors through the Global Programme’s various components and projects; an interactive achievements map of the Global Programme’s impact across the world; an in-person exhibition at the Kyoto International Conference Center; a video showcasing the five-year journey of the Global Programme; and a dedicated website summarizing key elements and documenting the 14th Crime Congress.
As the Global Programme reaches this juncture and the period between the 13th and 14th Congresses comes to a close, Global Coordinator Marco Teixeira reflected on the achievements made possible by dedication and joint work over this period: “The Global Programme has demonstrated how Member States, the UN system and other relevant stakeholders can actively and innovatively promote the rule of law and justice among children, youth, and people across the world.”
Indeed, it has – as one of our taglines reads – enabled UNODC to ‘Inspire. Change. Together’ for a better world for all.