Justice for all was a critical key to the success of the new sustainable development goals and an invaluable tool to fight criminal activities, terrorism and violence threatening communities around the world, delegates heard as the thirteenth United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice concluded today.
Guiding the way towards a more just future, speakers said, was the Doha Declaration on “Integrating crime prevention and criminal justice into the wider United Nations agenda to address social and economic challenges and to promote the rule of law at the national and international levels, and public participation” (document A/CONF.222/L.6), adopted by acclamation at the start of the Congress on 12 April.
Applauding delegates for their contribution to the international community in the field of justice by adopting the Declaration, Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa al-Thani, Prime Minister of Qatar and President of the Congress, said the gathering had resulted in important agreement on a “humane way” to prevent crime. Fighting poverty, crime and terrorism, and all forms of extremism and violence were responsibilities of all States, and the work of the thirteenth Congress was an “example” of true international cooperation in that regard. Hoping delegates would return to their countries to implement the pledges they had made in the Declaration, he called on all Member States to also take with them the recommendations produced by their younger counterparts at the first ever Doha Youth Forum on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, held 7‑9 April.
Indeed, on its sixtieth anniversary, the Congress had achieved a number of “firsts”, including unanimously adopting the Declaration on the opening day, said Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and Secretary-General of the Congress. Not only had the Congress been convened at a unique moment when the rule of law and the post-2015 development agenda held the world’s “centre stage”, but also as transnational organized crime was becoming ever more deadly. “There can be no more relevant example of what this Congress stands for, and what we confront around the world, than this awful news today of another group of migrants — 700 men, women and children that are feared to have drowned off the coast of Lampedusa,” he said, calling on all countries, intergovernmental organizations and civil society to work together in a spirit of cooperation to end such senseless deaths. “Such tragedies must serve to strengthen our determination to ensure that we implement the Doha Declaration on behalf of the victims of crime, including migrants, and that we track down the smugglers who feed off desperation.” The smuggling of migrants was among the broad range of topics covered in the plenary and in a record number of 200 ancillary events, which also focused on issues such as the rule of law, combating wildlife crime and violence against women and children. With unprecedented participation, more than 4,000 participants from 149 countries were joined by the United Nations Secretary-General and the Presidents of the General Assembly and Economic and Social Council.
During eight days of deliberations, the Congress had provided the international community with a platform to recognize the tangible links between the rule of law and sustainable development, Mr. Fedotov continued, emphasizing that “we must build on those links, as we set our post-2015 sustainable development agenda”. An empowering political statement aimed at strengthening crime prevention and criminal justice systems, the Declaration was founded on fairness, justice and humanity, he said. It also showed how the lack of effective social crime prevention policies and ineffective criminal justice systems allowed crime, terrorism and violence to stymie social and economic development. Many of those issues were featured in the Declaration, as well as during the plenary debates, which together focused on the link between the rule of law and sustainable development, the importance of international cooperation, tackling new and emerging crime and national approaches to public participation in strengthening crime prevention and criminal justice.
During the plenary debates, delegates shared innovative solutions and accomplishments, such as novel social media initiatives to broaden public participation. They also discussed the death penalty, with some calling for a moratorium on the practice, while others underlined the sovereign rights of States to decide on the issue. Representatives also outlined concerns and challenges such as cybercrime, terrorist groups recruiting foreign fighters and trafficking in cultural property and fraudulent medicine. Speakers shared their perspectives on how to address the spread of terrorism, with some calling for a strategy that must include Security Council action and a guarantee of the implementation of that body’s resolutions, along with bolstered international cooperation to freeze the flows of funds and foreign fighters. To combat the trend of foreign fighters and the radicalization of youth, some speakers said, police departments were now broadening their presence on the Internet, which hosted much of the ongoing terrorist group recruitment. During a discussion on whether a new convention was needed to tackle the ever-evasive threat of cybercrime, some speakers underlined that new crimes required new conventions. Others said that, instead of wasting time drafting new instruments, efforts would be better spent bolstering international cooperation to implement existing ones, including the Declaration.
The 13-page Declaration covers those issues in detail, and by it, Member States acknowledge, among other things, that sustainable development and the rule of law are strongly interrelated and mutually reinforcing. They also reaffirm their commitment and strong political will in support of effective, fair, humane and accountable criminal justice systems and the institutions comprising them, and encourage the effective participation and inclusion of all sectors of society. Also by the Declaration, Member States endeavour to adopt comprehensive and inclusive national crime prevention and criminal justice policies and programmes that fully take into account evidence and other relevant factors, including the root causes of crime. They also pledge to make every effort to prevent and counter corruption, integrate child- and youth-related issues into criminal justice reform efforts and take action to address new threats, including exploring specific measures designed to create a secure and resilient cyberenvironment and prevent and counter criminal activities carried out over the Internet.
“The challenge we all face now is turning this Declaration into action,” Mr. Fedotov said. “The Doha Declaration was not passed because the UN and the international community have a desire for fine words, I would even say scintillating words and sentences, but it was passed for people like Skye,” a Nepalese woman, who, after being taken to India as a child, had escaped and successfully filed a legal case against her trafficker. With that in mind, he called on all delegates to turn the Declaration into action. Yoko Kamikawa, Minister for Justice of Japan, the host country of the fourteenth United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice to be convened in 2020, also addressed the Congress via videoconference. “The Doha Declaration,” he said, “represents our renewed commitment to make the world safer and more peaceful by combating crime and promoting the rule of law at all levels of society.”
In other business, the Congress adopted, as orally revised, the reports of its Credentials Committee (document A/CONF.222/L.5), as well as those of its two subsidiary committees (documents A/CONF.222/L.3, A/CONF.222/L.3/Add.1, A/CONF.222/L.4 and A/CONF.222/L.4/Add.1). It then adopted, as orally revised, the reports of the plenary (documents A/CONF.222/L.2, A/CONF.222/L.2/Add.1, A/CONF.222/L.2/Add.2, A/CONF.222/L.2/Add.3, A/CONF.222/L.2/Add.4 and A/CONF.222/L.7).
Also delivering closing statements were representatives of Japan, Guatemala, Morocco, Nigeria, Brazil (speaking for the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Jordan, Panama, Turkey, Paraguay, Oman and Azerbaijan, as well as the European Union and the League of Arab States.
For complete coverage of the thirteenth Congress plenary debates and high-level segment, please visit: www.un.org/press/en/highlights/CrimeCongress