UNODC Celebrates 20th Anniversary of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC)

© UNODC/Carla McKirdy

Vienna (Austria), 16 November 2020 — Organized crime profits from vulnerable legal frameworks, threatening the most vulnerable populations and plunging victims into poverty and hardship. A global problem requires a multilateral solution, and in the year 2000 UNODC rose to the challenge by adopting a comprehensive framework to lead the fight against organized crime: the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC).

This year marked the 20th anniversary of the groundbreaking Convention – and to date, UNTOC remains the sole legally binding instrument to combat transnational organized crime. With 190 State parties, it is also the only multilateral protocol of its kind as well as the foremost tool for promoting international cooperation in the prevention and countering of organized crime.

As denoted by the ongoing health crisis interlaced with a rise in criminal activity, organized crime is a scourge that has seeped into every facet of people’s lives.

“The disruption caused by the COVID-19 crisis is presenting criminals with new opportunities to exploit the marginalized and at risk,” warned United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in a video address to commemorate the passing of the landmark Convention. “International cooperation through the Convention […] is more necessary than ever to promote the rule of law, tackle links between organized crime and terrorism, support victims and protect human rights,” he added.

In her remarks at the virtual Ministerial event to mark the Protocol’s 20th anniversary, UNODC Executive Director Ghada Waly reminded attendees of the vital role UNODC continues to play as a champion for this Convention. “By supporting governments to develop agile and effective international cooperation, countries and regions are better able to tackle new and evolving forms of crime. This includes urgent threats in the COVID crisis, such as trafficking in falsified medical products and cybercrime, as well as challenges highlighted in resolutions adopted in October, including trafficking in cultural property and crimes that affect the environment,” she said.

UNODC continues to help and protect countless victims of organized crime by spearheading UNTOC and providing assistance to its implementing parties. As the growing scourge of organized crime reaches new realms, the Convention grows to meet new challenges by establishing standards that assist States in adopting legislation to prosecute criminal offences. It also establishes frameworks for international cooperation; be it mutual legal assistance and extradition, or fostering law enforcement cooperation.

In her statement, Ms. Waly reminded that although there is still a long road towards tackling organized crime by means of the Convention once and for all, the path forward is best approached as a cooperative effort. “Renewed action and concrete support are the true testament to commitment to tackling transnational organized crime, and protecting people. Let us use this anniversary to revitalize and reinvigorate cooperation through the Convention,” she said. 


As the guardian of the implementation of UNTOC, UNODC has a vital role to play in assisting States as they translate their commitments into actions. That is why over its twenty years of existence as an emblematic tool to tackle one of the world’s major threats to peace and security, UNTOC has been supplemented by three Protocols that specifically address the major challenges of our times: Trafficking in Persons, Smuggling of Migrants, and Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms respectively. Most recently, in 2018, UNODC further launched the Review Mechanism to the Convention, to facilitate cross-border cooperation and coordination in the implementation of UNTOC and its Protocols.

In October of this year, UNDOC continued to build synergies among member states by holding the 10th session of the Conference of the Parties to UNTOC, where a record seven resolutions were adopted by Member States. The efforts have further enhanced the UNTOC review mechanism, extending its reach to now include specific provisions for trafficking in firearms, trafficking in persons, trafficking in cultural property, environmental crime and falsified medical products.

Follow developments on this milestone throughout 2020 via social media through the hashtag #UNTOC20.