© UNIS Vienna
KYOTO/VIENNA, 12 March 2021 – The world’s largest gathering on crime prevention and criminal justice wrapped up on Friday with calls for stronger partnerships among different parts of the international community to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and build a more just world.
Taking place under the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 14th UN Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice was held in a hybrid format for the first time in its 65-year history. More than 5,000 people took part, mostly joining online on a special event platform while a limited number of participants attended in person in Japan.
“We have united here to reject the divisions and inequalities COVID-19 has exposed and inflamed, to strengthen crime prevention and criminal justice to address the urgent needs of today,” said Ghada Waly, the Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and Secretary-General of the Congress, “as well as the challenges of tomorrow, and to advance the rule of law to leave no one behind.”
A record 152 Member States were represented at the Congress along with 114 non-governmental organizations, 37 intergovernmental organizations, 600 individual experts and several UN entities and institutes.
“Working from Kyoto, Vienna and New York, separated by geography and time zones but united in spirit, the able staff of UNOV and UNODC have proved once again that the UN remains open for business, to deliver for the people who need us,” said Ms. Waly, addressing the closing session of the six-day gathering by video link from Vienna.
Organized with the support of UNODC, the Crime Congress represents the world’s largest gathering of governments, international and regional organizations, civil society, experts and scholars focusing on crime prevention and criminal justice.
At the start of the Congress on Sunday, Member States adopted the Kyoto Declaration, under which governments agreed concrete actions to advance responses addressing crime prevention, criminal justice, rule of law and international cooperation, including against the backdrop of the pandemic. Member States will take those commitments forward at the 30th session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in Vienna in May.
The President of the Congress, Japanese Minister of Justice Yoko Kamikawa told participants in her closing remarks: “Our pledge to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals is now crystallized into the Kyoto Declaration.”
It was time to take action, the President said, adding: “The Kyoto Declaration is not a goal but a starting point. Following the Declaration, our next step is to implement it to realize just, peaceful and inclusive societies.”
UNODC Executive Director Ms. Waly said: “The Kyoto Declaration acknowledges the increasingly transnational, organized and complex nature of crime, and the urgent need to adapt and renew support, most of all to developing countries, to enhance capacities of law enforcement and criminal justice institutions, and enable international cooperation.”
Over six days participants discussed the challenges facing the world and how to tackle them to advance crime prevention and criminal justice, to promote the rule of law and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Those Goals had become even more important “when the fabric of societies was fraying” with the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable, the President said.
As well as the formal Congress proceedings there were dozens of special events and ancillary meetings hosted on the hybrid event platform, covering topics ranging from addressing corruption to tackle wildlife crime and gender dimensions of counter-terrorism, to the impact of COVID-19 in prison settings, addressing children associated with terrorist and violent extremist groups, and youth as agents for change to promote the rule of law.
“After 65 years since its inception, the Congress continues to bring together diverse stakeholders, including governments, intergovernmental organizations, civil society, academia and individual experts,” the Justice Minister said. “This is clearly because, to fight crime, seek justice and promote the rule of law, no stakeholder can succeed alone.”
The minister said now was the time for solidarity: “It is time to strengthen multi-stakeholder partnerships to build just, peaceful and inclusive societies in our post-COVID-19 world.”
The 14th Congress was postponed by General Assembly decision from its original date in April 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Japanese Government and UNODC cooperated closely on measures to minimize the risk of transmission at the Kyoto Congress from 7 to 12 March.
UNODC Executive Director Ms. Waly said it had been UNODC’s privilege to support Japan and Member States to hold the 14th UN Crime Congress, in challenging global circumstances: “We have emphasized from the start that safety and innovation will guide our approach, and I am so proud of my colleagues who have made this hybrid Congress possible.”
The 15th UN Crime Congress is scheduled to be held in 2025.