Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime
The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime is the leading international instrument in the fight against transnational organized crime.
The Convention was created to promote cooperation to prevent and combat transnational organized crime more effectively. It does not define "transnational organized crime", but it does define the term "organized criminal group" and obliges parties to criminalize specific types of conduct.
What is an organized criminal group?
Article 2 (a) of the Convention defines an organized criminal group as a structured group of three or more persons, existing for a period of time and acting in concert with the aim of committing one or more serious crimes or offences established in accordance with the Convention, in order to obtain, directly or indirectly, a financial or other material benefit.
What is serious crime?
The Convention also defines a "serious crime", which is a conduct constituting an offence with a possible maximum punishment of at least four years of imprisonment, or a more serious penalty.
The word "transnational" is used because criminal activities are not restricted to national borders. According to the Organized Crime Convention, transnational means any of the following:
- The crime is committed in more than one State.
- A substantial part of the crime's preparation, planning, direction or control takes place in another State.
- The crime involves an organized criminal group that engages in criminal activities in more than one State.
- The crime has substantial effects in another State.
Parties to the Organized Crime Convention are obliged to establish domestic criminal offences for participation in an organized criminal group, laundering of proceeds of crime, corruption and obstruction of justice. Parties are to adopt measures to enable the confiscation of proceeds of crime and property related to these offences. Parties also commit themselves to adopting new and comprehensive frameworks for extradition, mutual legal assistance and law enforcement cooperation, and to promote training and technical assistance.
Supplemental protocols of the Organized Crime Convention
The Organized Crime Convention has three supplemental protocols that include additional provisions that are relevant for these types of crimes:
- Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children.
- Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air.
- Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Their Parts and Components and Ammunition.
Functions of the Conference
The objective of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime is to improve the capacity of States parties to combat transnational organized crime and to promote and review the implementation of the Organized Crime Convention.
Article 32 (3) of the Convention provides examples of mechanisms that can be used by the Conference to reach its objectives, including:
- Facilitate activities by States parties for training and technical assistance, implementation of the Convention, and prevention, including by encouraging the mobilization of voluntary contributions.
- Facilitate the exchange of information among States parties on patterns and trends in transnational organized crime and on successful practices for combating it.
- Cooperate with relevant international and regional organizations, and non-governmental organizations.
- Review periodically the implementation of the Convention.
- Make recommendations to improve the Convention and its implementation.
The Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime is the most comprehensive body dealing with transnational organized crime within the United Nations.
One of the most distinct features of the Conference is the existence of the working groups that have been established to deal with specific issues relating to the Convention or its protocols. For instance, the working groups dedicated to the protocols of the Convention have been very active in promoting the ratification and implementation of those instruments.
Attendees at the Conference are made up of participants and observers. Their status is governed by the Rules of Procedure for the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime .
Aside from the States parties, which are the actual participants, a number of observers attend the conference including:
- The signatories and non-signatories;
- The United Nations Secretariat (along with programmes and funds of the United Nations, and the centres and institutes that are part of the United Nations crime prevention and criminal justice network);
- International organizations;
- Non-governmental organizations.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime acts as the secretariat of the Conference.
The States parties are those that have ratified or acceded to the Organized Crime Convention, which includes most Member States.
Rule 12 of the rules of procedure for the Conference states that "each State Party participating in a session shall be represented by one representative, who may be accompanied by alternate representatives and advisers as the State Party may require".
A full list of States parties to the Convention and its Protocols can be found here.
The Conference of the Parties may be attended by States that are not States parties to the Organized Crime Convention. However, these States do not have the same rights as the States parties.
States that have signed the Organized Crime Convention but have not ratified it have the following rights, under rule 14 of the Rules of Procedure for the Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime:
- To attend meetings of the Conference.
- To deliver statements.
- To receive documentation.
- To submit their views in writing.
- To participate in the deliberative process.
States that have neither signed nor ratified or acceded to the Organized Crime Convention may also take part, but with limited rights. According to rule 15 of the rules of procedure, they can do the following:
- Attend plenary meetings of the Conference.
- Deliver statements (if invited by the President).
- Receive documentation.
- Submit their views.
A list of possible observer States can be found here.
Observer non-governmental organizations
Non-governmental organizations with consultative status with the Economic and Social Council and those without such status can apply to be observers, in accordance with rule 17 of the rules of procedure for the Conference.
They cannot take part in the adoption of decisions on substantive and procedural matters, but can attend the plenary meetings, make oral statements, provide written reports and receive documentation.
The Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime has the following outcome documents:
- Decisions: these decisions deal with procedural matters.
- Resolutions: these resolutions address technical matters within the scope of the Convention. The rules of procedure state that States parties should make every effort to adopt resolutions by consensus. To date, all resolutions have been adopted by consensus at the Conference, despite the existence of rules for voting procedures. When no consensus is reached, the text is either amended or withdrawn.
- Report: these reports contain summaries of the deliberations.
Structure and flow of debate
The work of the Conference is also governed by the rules of procedure for the Conference.
At the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the Conference Support Section of the Organized Crime and Illicit Trafficking Branch is the secretariat and the focal point for the Conference. Coordinating with other parts of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the Section provides substantive and technical support to the Conference prior to, during and after its sessions.
The structure of the work of the Conference is outlined as follows:
- All parties to the Convention are invited to participate in the Conference, which holds a session every two years in Vienna. As explained, States signatories and non-signatories can attend as observers.
- The provisional agenda, which includes organizational and substantive matters, is approved at the previous session.
- The first activity of the Conference at its session is to adopt the agenda, after the election of officers, who are nominated in accordance with the principle of geographical rotation.
- There is a general discussion, during which time is allowed for States to make statements on matters of a general nature that are related to the implementation of the Convention and that may be of interest to the Conference.
- Deliberations afterwards include the review of the implementation of the Convention and its protocols.
- Deliberations are also held on issues such as international cooperation, new and emerging crimes, technical assistance and financial and budgetary matters.
- Over the years, the Conference has established working groups as consultative bodies to focus on specific areas, hold substantive discussions on practical issues, make recommendations that are submitted to the Conference for further decision-making and assist in the implementation of the mandates with regard to the Convention itself and its protocols. These working groups meet at various times during the year and can meet concurrently with the regular sessions of the Conference. They forward their reports and recommendations to the Conference. The concurrent working groups submit the recommendations that they adopt to the Conference for endorsement by means of a draft resolution.
Topics for discussion
University lecturers may wish to refer to the Guide to a MUN simulation of a Working Group of the Conference of the Parties to the Organized Crime Convention - part of Module 14 of the E4J University Module Series on Organized Crime - to bring a simulation of the Conference into their class.