UNODC Strengthens Cooperation in Criminal Matters Through Updated Mutual Assistance Legislation 

Acts of terrorism and transnational organized crime, such as the trafficking in persons, the smuggling of migrants, or the illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in firearms, as well as acts of terrorism, pose imminent dangers to international peace and security.

As a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic, these dangers are dramatically on the rise as organized criminal groups are finding new opportunities to capitalize on the crisis. To dampen the flourishing of global criminal activity, international cooperation is of upmost importance.

With its many years of experience acting as the guardian of the major United Nations treaties on drugs, terrorism, organized crime and corruption, UNODC has firmly established itself as a centre of excellence for the exchange of knowledge; providing a forum where experts across the globe gather to share their expertise and contribute to the development of tools aimed at fostering treaty implementation. In this regard, UNODC has - during the past years - hosted expert group meetings to develop, inter alia, the 2004 Model Law on Extradition and the 2007 Model Law on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters.

During the Conference of the Parties (COP) held in Vienna in October 2020, the impact of the pandemic on terrorism and organized crime was highlighted and UNODC whom, despite the global COVID-19 crisis remains dedicated to delivering technical assistance to Member States, was mandated to “update, as necessary, model instruments and publications, such as the Model Law on Mutual Assistance (MLA) in Criminal Matters developed by the Office in 2007, with a view, as appropriate, to including provisions and updated material on the use of special investigative techniques and the gathering of electronic evidence.

In this regard, UNODC organized an informal Expert Group Meeting (EGM) on updating the Model Law on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters on 17-18 March 2021 on UNODC’s Counter-Terrorism Learning Platform, which allowed for simultaneous interpretation in all official UN languages. The EGM brought together experts from more than 40 Member States and organizations with working experience in central authorities or other competent authorities dealing with international cooperation requests, with a particular focus, inter alia, on those involving electronic evidence.

The EGM was led as a stocktaking exercise to collect practices and legislative approaches from participating countries and it will be complemented by a second EGM - planned for Autumn 2021.

Participants were asked to review certain provisions of the existing text of the Model Law and to suggest amendments where they are deemed desirable or necessary, based on their own national perspectives and current challenges.

The informal EGM was part of UNODC’s project on “Tackling cybercrime: strengthening legislation, law enforcement and international cooperation”, funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

For more information about this EGM, please visit:


For further information, please contact:

Arianna Lepore

Coordinator of the UNODC Global Initiative on Electronic Evidence