UN Crime Commission addresses emerging threats

18 April 2008 - The United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice wrapped up its annual session today. From 14 to 18 April, its 17th session adopted resolutions on a wide range of issues requiring effective global criminal justice responses.

Placing the Commission's work under the broader aims of achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), in his opening statement to the Commission, Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of UNODC, said there was a clear correlation between weak rule of law and weak socio-economic performance. Therefore, strengthening the rule of law is not only an important goal in itself, but it could also help achieve the other MDGs.  (The year 2008 will see a mid-point review of progress towards fulfilling the MDGs by the target date of 2015.)

The thematic discussion of the Crime Commission highlighted the scourge of violence against women and girls, an issue Mr. Costa said should be "a central part of our criminal justice work over the next 7 years." The Commission addressed legal measures and responses needed to make women feel safer, guarantee equal access to justice and address women's special needs.

Prevention of such violence should include measures such as family-based approaches to domestic violence. Special focus was directed at vulnerable groups such as migrant workers and women in conflict and post-conflict situations. Support for victims of violence, including of sexual assault, was also stressed. Victims should not be re-victimized by society and the law.

The Commission adopted a decision entitled "Strengthening crime prevention and criminal justice responses to violence against women and girls. The decision strongly condemned all forms of violence against women and girls and called for UNODC to convene an inter-governmental group of experts to review and update the Model Strategies and Practical Measures on the Elimination of Violence against Women in the Field of Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, and to make recommendations to the Commission at its nineteenth session. The Commission welcomed the offer of the Government of Thailand to host this expert meeting to be held in 2008.

Measures were also discussed to counter the adverse environmental, social and economic impact in many countries of trafficking in timber, wildlife and illegal logging, and the involvement of organized crime in such pursuits. "I am glad that this session achieved a breakthrough on preventing and combating the illicit trafficking in forest products. This improves our chances of protecting natural resources, and ensuring environmental sustainability (a key Millennium Development Goal)," said Mr. Costa.

The Commission gave increased focus to urban crime, a particular concern in cities across the world. Mr. Costa called for a more active approach to urban crime prevention, in both the developed and developing world. UNODC is intensifying cooperation with municipal authorities, civil society and UN-HABITAT. Steps were also taken to improve protection against trafficking in cultural property.

The Commission also took steps to put UNODC's finances on a more secure footing. Looking ahead, it decided to hold the 12 th UN Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in Brazil in 2010.