United Nations Crime Congress: 50 years

For half a century, the United Nations has held congresses aimed at strengthening international cooperation against expanding crime. The First Congress took place in Geneva in 1955. Since then, cities as far afield as Cairo and Caracas have hosted this major event.

These congresses have impacted national policies and professional practice. They are especially critical now, as the globalization of many contemporary problems, including crime, has made international collaboration an urgent priority.

The Eleventh Congress, which is being held in Bangkok in April 2005, focuses on "Synergies and Responses: Strategic Alliances in Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice." The United Nations intends the influence of this Congress to be as far-reaching as the results of those earlier meetings.

  • The United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, adopted at the First Congress, are still used today and inspire countries and human rights organizations alike.
  • The Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Being Subjected to Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment - approved by the Fifth Congress - later evolved into a convention at the Commission on Human Rights.

The United Nations' efforts to create a common framework of guidelines for criminal justice date back to the establishment of the Organization. The tradition of the congresses however, precedes the creation of the United Nations. As early as the nineteenth century, representatives of various European nations met periodically to exchange information and consider common standards in the treatment of offenders. In 1872, the International Prison Commission (IPC) - which later became the International Penal and Penitentiary Commission (IPPC) - was set up to make recommendations for prison reform in Europe. When the League of Nations was formed in 1919, the promotion of the rule of law in the international community was part of its mandate. The IPC became affiliated with the League and continued to hold conferences in European capitals. When the League ceased its activities in 1946 its assets were transferred to the newly formed United Nations.

The General Assembly dissolved the IPPC in 1950, transferring to the United Nations the obligation to hold regular international conferences on crime control matters. Almost sixty years later, this tradition continues as experts from all over the world meet in Thailand for the Eleventh United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice from 18 to 25 April.

United Nations congresses


Geneva, Switzerland


London, United Kingdom


Stockholm, Sweden


Kyoto, Japan


Geneva, Switzerland


Caracas, Venezuela


Milan, Italy


Havana, Cuba


Cairo, Egypt


Vienna, Austria