Research and knowledge

The promotion of human rights requires documentation of their abuse. Through research, UNODC promotes human rights by collecting data on and analysing crimes with human rights implications. Biennially, it publishes the Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, which tracks violations of Article 4 (prohibition of slavery) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Recently, UNODC published its first Global Study on Smuggling of Migrants, a crime affecting thousands of the most vulnerable. Other work, such as the periodic Global Study on Homicide, reflects on the deprivation of life and violence against women and children. UNODC research on drug problems, such as the World Drug Report , highlights the human rights concerns in the areas of justice, security and health by presenting the vulnerabilities of different population groups that have been affected by the drug problem at different levels.

Through its annual surveys, UNODC also collects data on criminal justice operations (UN-CTS) and the drug problem (ARQ) that directly impact human rights, including the rights to life, liberty, access to justice and due process. Analysing these data can help to shed light on human rights violations related to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Data are all sex and age disaggregated so that discrimination in the criminal justice system can be properly analysed. National and regional studies on the relationship between crime and development also reflect on the right of all human beings to reach their full potential.

UNODC standards in the field of statistics promote the development of national crime statistical systems able to provide human-rights sensitive information. The International Classification of Crime for Statistical Purposes (ICCS), for example, promotes the classification of crime according to a number of disaggregating and qualifying variables, thereby facilitating the identification of vulnerable populations and typologies of crime relevant to understand human rights abuses.

Examples of knowledge produced by UNODC research at national, regional or global level highlighting human rights concerns include:

  1. Gaps in accessibility or availability of drug treatment services for people who use drugs.
  2. Access to and availability of services for prevention, treatment and care for people who use drugs living with HIV in the community and prisons.
  3. Access to opioids for the management of chronic pain and palliative care as well as for post-surgical care and treatment of opioids use disorder.
  4. Vulnerabilities of women, young people and older people with regard to drug use, its health and social consequences, as well as their vulnerabilities in drug cultivation, production, trafficking and in contact with the criminal justice system.
  5. Nexus among corruption, illicit financial flows and terrorism and their impact on security issues, justice and the rule of law.
  6. Impact of the drug problem, and the response thereto, on development at the individual, community and national levels. From the perspective of the Sustainable Development Goals, the impact of the drug problem on social and economic development, environmental sustainability, peaceful, just and inclusive societies.
  7. Homicide by sex, age, and mechanisms, including family-related homicide of women and men.
  8. Extent of pre-trial detention.
  9. Level and characteristics of persons who had to pay a bribe to access a public service.
  10. Household conditions in areas with illicit crop cultivation (this information identifies ways to build resilience in areas with illicit crop cultivation and overcome challenges related to the threat of suddenly losing substantial parts of their income due to law enforcement and eradication).
  11. Socioeconomic data in countries with illicit crop cultivation with a focus on the role of women, security and environmentally related issues that impact the living conditions of the farmers in illicit crop growing areas.



Forensic science services

Every incident, be it an illicit trafficking event, gender-based violence, crimes against humanity, or other, leaves traces at the scene. The goal of subsequent forensic investigation is to correctly interpret the facts, reconstruct the events and understand what happened. Forensics, grounded in good science and internationally accepted best practices, provide an inherent safeguard for human rights by promoting the right of the individual to a fair trial.

UNODC ensures the availability of scientific evidence for fair and transparent investigations in over 80 countries worldwide by supporting forensic science institutions to assure the quality and reliability of their results - a prerequisite for safeguarding human rights and fundamental freedoms. Such normative and technical assistance include building capacity to ensure evidence integrity, which is critical for the admissibility of evidence for court purposes as well as for human rights inquiries and humanitarian action, and by administering proficiency tests to evaluate the performance of forensic institutions.


•     UNODC-WHO sexual violence toolkit

•     Guidelines for the Forensic analysis of drugs facilitating sexual assault and other criminal acts

•     Crime Scene Investigation

•     Proficiency testing for forensic science institutions




The promotion and protection of human rights (HR) and gender equality (GE) are guiding principles for all United Nations entities. There is virtually no aspect of the work of the United Nations that does not have a human rights dimension. In this context, HR and GE approaches are at the forefront of the Global Evaluation Agenda. Evaluation plays a crucial role in assessing how these dimensions are integrated in the work of UNODC and showing what works and why.

This is also fully in line with the UNEG norms and standards, whereby UNODC requires evaluations to consider how well its interventions have addressed the principles of HR and GE and to identify and analyse specific results at these levels. Therefore, human rights and gender aspects need to be considered as part of any UNODC evaluation. The main concepts underlying evaluations that are HR and GE-responsive are inclusion, participation, non-discrimination and fair power relations. Considering these concepts helps improve programming by taking into account important social and cultural issues that can make interventions more effective and sustainable. One of the key benefits of HR and GE responsive evaluations is increased accountability to related commitments and ensuring organizational learning.

Therefore, UNODC has revised its evaluation norms and standards to ensure that universally recognized values and principles of human rights and gender equality are integrated into all stages of every evaluation. The Office has also mainstreamed the assessment of its contribution to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals as well as human rights and gender into the whole evaluation cycle.


UNEG (2014): Integrating Human Rights and Gender Equality in Evaluations