Ghada Waly

Director-General/Executive Director


High-level Meeting of the Group of Friends of the Nelson Mandela Rules: Presentation of the United Nations Common Position on Incarceration

  17 May 2021

Distinguished Co-Chairs,

Excellencies, colleagues,

The Group of Friends of the Nelson Mandela Rules honours the legacy of Nelson Mandela by championing effective and humane prison policies.

This high-level meeting is the right place to introduce the UN Common Position on Incarceration to Member States for the first time.

Around 11 million people are part of the global prison population, according to the latest estimates. More than 700,000 of them are women, and more than 400,000 are children. More than half a million people in prisons are estimated to have been infected in the COVID-19 pandemic.

In too many cases, people are sent to prisons for extensive time periods, in settings which tend to be over-stretched and lacking in resources, while alternatives such as treatment in the community are not given due consideration.

Prison staff are often overburdened and without support.

The UN Common Position aims to support Member States to improve prison management and conditions; advance rehabilitation and social reintegration of offenders; and make more effective use of prevention and non-custodial measures.

It will also help us improve UN system coordination in order to better assist Member States.

I am grateful to our co-drafters, DPO and OHCHR, as well as to the members of the wider UN working group, for their valuable contributions to this document.

At the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, we will remain committed to assisting Member States in addressing global prison challenges.

I sincerely hope that the UN common position will spark new approaches to incarceration and rehabilitation, while prioritizing human rights and evidence-based policies.

Thank you.