The President of the UN General Assembly, Sam Kutesa, convened a high-level thematic debate on tackling social and economic challenges and promoting sustainable development through strengthening crime prevention and criminal justice.
Many participants highlighted the importance of enhancing the rule of law for achieving sustainable development, and called for making it an integral part of the post-2105 development agenda.
Many also welcomed proposed Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16, on promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, providing access to justice for all and building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.
25 February 2015: The President of the UN General Assembly, Sam Kutesa, convened a high-level thematic debate on tackling social and economic challenges and promoting sustainable development through strengthening crime prevention and criminal justice. Many participants highlighted the importance of enhancing the rule of law for achieving sustainable development, and called for making it an integral part of the post-2105 development agenda. Many also welcomed proposed Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16, on promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, providing access to justice for all and building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.
Opening the meeting on 25 February 2015, at UN Headquarters in New York, US, Kutesa characterized the debate as a “landmark event” in the context of intergovernmental negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda, and the 13th UN Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, which convenes on 12-19 April 2015, in Doha, Qatar (UN Crime Congress). He said crime “continues to transcend borders and to grow in size and scope.” He noted a growing recognition among Member States that strengthening the rule of law and criminal justice systems are needed to safeguard development work. Kutesa called for: creating effective criminal justice systems that are fit for the purpose of protecting fundamental human rights and promoting justice, equality and fairness; adopting and fully implementing all relevant international instruments, including the Conventions against Transnational Organized Crime and against Corruption; and reforming criminal justice so as to provide access to justice and promote an independent judiciary.
Jan Eliasson, UN Deputy Secretary-General, observed that sustainable development is seriously hampered where there is violence and crime. He said that, based on the first three words of the UN Charter, “We the peoples,” the UN must forge a strong post-2015 development agenda firmly rooted in human rights and the rule of law. He stressed the importance of “participation of all,” and called for greater efforts in collecting reliable data and sharing and disseminating information.
Martin Sajdik, President of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), said organized crime and corruption must be fought effectively to achieve prosperity, and called for multilateral strategies. He suggested to take into account the work of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (CCPCJ) in the thematic reviews to take place under the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF). Khalid Bin Mohammed AlAttiyah, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Qatar, said the 13th UN Crime Congress will adopt a single political declaration to be submitted to the UN General Assembly during its 70th session that “will set the tone” for the next five years.
Danilo Türk, Visiting Professor of Law at Columbia University and Former President of the Republic of Slovenia, highlighted human trafficking, smuggling of migrants, environmental crimes and cyber crime. He said crime has the greatest impact on those who face discrimination, including the poor, women and children. Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said genuine Member State ownership, underpinned by clear, meaningful and “customizable” targets, is essential, along with strengthening national statistical systems and capacity to measure progress.
During a session on successes and challenges in implementing comprehensive crime prevention and criminal justice policies for sustainable development, Luis Alfonso de Alba, CCPCJ Chair, drew attention to a UNGA resolution on the rule of law, crime prevention and criminal justice in the post-2015 development agenda (A/RES/68/188), and said rule of law, crime prevention and development are interlinked. Mahjoub El Haiba, Interministerial Delegate for Human Rights, Morocco, highlighted Morocco’s national strategy to combat drugs, and its law on money laundering, and said Morocco condemns all forms of terrorism. Security- and justice-based approaches must be complemented by economic and social measures, he added.
Irene Khan, Director-General, International Development Law Organization (IDLO), said “institutions work best when people make them accountable,” and stressed the importance of national ownership and of understanding national contexts. She observed that crime and rule of law are universal, as they exist in developed and developing countries. Noting that the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) saw a marked increase of criminal activity and violence at the beginning of the 21st century, Giselle Martin, CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security, discussed insecurity and crime in the region, including transnational organized crime, and noted their related impacts on economic and psycho-social components.
In a session on including crime prevention and criminal justice policies in the post-2015 development agenda, Omar Hilale, Permanent Representative of Morocco to the UN and co-chair of the session, stressed the need for capacity building in developing countries to prevent the spread of transnational crime, weapons, terrorists and human trafficking. Izumi Nakamitsu, UN Development Programme (UNDP), said 1.5 billion people live in countries affected by repeated political and criminal violence, which causes a 2-3% reduction in a country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). She stressed that the relationship between poverty and crime reduction is “one of interdependence, and requires an integrated approach among UN system organizations.
Dmitry Titov, UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), said the UN must build a pathway to peaceful, non-violent and inclusive development. He said DPKO’s work in countries around the world “may look technical, but they are about human values, empowerment, and the protection of the vulnerable.” Cherif Bassiouni, DePaul University and International Institute of Higher Studies in Criminal Sciences (ISISC), called for a comprehensive strategic approach to deal with all factors of crime and violence.
Vladimiro Zagrebelsky, European Court of Human Rights, stressed the need for a “rigorous defense of human rights and freedoms in economic growth,” including higher standards in the areas of protection and crime prevention. He specifically called for the independence of judges and the judiciary, which is critical for the legitimacy of rule of law. Addressing the interaction of the criminal justice system with the development agenda, Alison Hannah of Penal Reform International said people in poverty often cannot afford lawyers, bail or bribes, and their detention can have damaging effects on the well-being of their entire family. She urged prioritizing the special needs of women and children in the criminal justice system, and called for better resourcing of the penal system.
Reacting to the presentations, delegates outlined the importance of crime prevention, and partnerships and international cooperation to fight criminal activity, such as transnational crime, organized crime and illicit wildlife trafficking. They also called for: a fair, effective, transparent and accountable justice system; strengthening capacity and international efforts on criminal justice; sharing good practices and lessons learned to fight criminality, including organized crimes; increasing technical assistance to help developing countries better respond to threats; and building on existing international conventions and establishing a review mechanism for them. The EU and other Member States identified good governance as a key anti-corruption factor, and expressed their wish to see violence against women and girls, journalists, children and other stakeholders reflected in the outcome of the 13th UN Crime Congress.
Kutesa announced that a President’s Summary will be made available to all Member States and stakeholders, and transmitted to the UN Crime Congress for consideration.
The debate was organized following a proposal by the Permanent Missions of Italy, Mexico, Morocco, Qatar and Thailand, together with the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). [IISD RS Sources] [Meeting Webpage] [UNGA President’s Opening Remarks] [UNGA President’s Closing Remarks] [UN Press Release] [Calendar of UNGA President’s Event] [UNODC Press Release]