The United Nations is active in developing and promoting universal principles in crime prevention and criminal justice. Over the years a significant body of related United Nations standards and norms has emerged, covering a diversity of issues including access to justice, treatment of offenders, justice for children, victim protection, and violence against women. The United Nations Crime Congresses, held every five years since 1955, provide an invaluable source and driving force for developing these standards and norms. Since its inception in 1992, the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (CCPCJ) has taken the lead in their development. These standards and norms provide flexible guidance for reform that accounts for differences in legal traditions, systems and structures whilst providing a collective vision of how criminal justice systems should be structured.
The CCPCJ is an essential mechanism for practical collaboration among States on criminal justice issues. Its mandate and priorities are to improve international action to combat national and transnational crime, and efficiency and fairness of criminal justice administration systems. As the principal policymaking body of the United Nations in the field of crime prevention and criminal justice, the CCPCJ is the forum where Member States negotiate and agree on relevant standards and norms. It also offers States a forum for exchanging expertise, experience and information to develop national and international strategies, and to identify priorities for combating crime.
The United Nations standards and norms are contained in instruments like resolutions or declarations. Adopted by the General Assembly or other intergovernmental bodies, they enjoy the general consensus of Member States. A number of new standards and norms developed over the last decade in the areas of treatment of prisoners, women offenders, legal aid, judicial integrity, justice for children and violence against women, as well as the declarations of the most recent United Nations congresses on crime prevention and criminal justice. Today, there are over 58 different instruments containing standards and norms that relate to:
The standards and norms are a main pillar of UNODC work and make a significant contribution to promoting more effective and fair criminal justice structures in three dimensions: first, they are utilized at the national level by fostering in-depth assessments leading to the adoption of necessary criminal justice reforms; second, they help countries to develop sub regional and regional strategies; and third, the standards and norms represent universal 'best practices' that can be adapted by States to meet national needs.