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World’s crime fighters push back against COVID-19’s ‘divisions and inequalities’

We have strengthened “crime prevention and criminal justice to address the urgent needs of today as well as the challenges of tomorrow…to leave no one behind”, said Ghada Waly, Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and Secretary-General of the 14th Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice. 

Organized with UNODC support, a record-setting 152 Member States, 114 non-governmental organizations, 37 intergovernmental organizations, 600 individual experts, and other UN entities, also called for stronger international partnerships to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and build a more just world. 

Crystallizing SDGs into Kyoto 

At the start of the Congress on Sunday, Member States adopted the Kyoto Declaration, under which governments agreed to concrete actions to address crime prevention, criminal justice, rule of law concerns, and international cooperation.  

Member States will take those commitments forward in May at the 30th session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in Vienna.  

“Our pledge to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals is now crystallized into the Kyoto Declaration”, Congress President, Japanese Minister of Justice Yoko Kamikawa told participants. 

Calling the Declaration “not a goal but a starting point”, she underscored that it was time to act: “our next step is to implement it to realize just, peaceful and inclusive societies”. 

Meanwhile, Ms. Waly upheld that the Kyoto Declaration “acknowledges the increasingly transnational, organized and complex nature of crime, and the urgent need to adapt and renew support, most of all to developing countries, to enhance capacities of law enforcement and criminal justice institutions and enable international cooperation”. 

Improving security 

Over six days the participants discussed how to advance crime prevention and criminal justice, promote the rule of law and achieve the SDGs, which the President said had become even more important as “the fabric of societies was fraying” with COVID-19 disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable.  

On the sidelines, dozens of special events and meetings hosted on the hybrid event platform covered a range of topics from tackling wildlife crime to the impact of COVID-19 in prison settings and children associated with terrorist and violent extremist groups. 

Since its inception 65 years ago, the Congress “continues to bring together diverse stakeholders…because, to fight crime, seek justice, and promote the rule of law, no stakeholder can succeed alone”, said the Japanese justice minister. 

She stressed that now was the time for solidarity, saying “it is time to strengthen multi-stakeholder partnerships to build just, peaceful and inclusive societies in our post-COVID-19 world”. 

Making it work 

The pandemic had prompted the General Assembly to postpone the Congress from its original date last April.  

“Working from Kyoto, Vienna and New York, separated by geography and time zones but united in spirit, the able staff of UNOV and UNODC have proved once again that the UN remains open for business, to deliver for the people who need us”, said Ms. Waly. 

The 15th UN Crime Congress is scheduled to take place in 2025.

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