For more than half a century, the United Nations has held congresses aimed at strengthening international cooperation against expanding crime.
The quinquennial congresses have impacted criminal justice policies, as well as national procedures and professional practices throughout the world. The congresses are especially critical now, as the globalization of many contemporary problems, including crime, has made international collaboration an urgent priority. The United Nations’ efforts to set international guidelines for criminal justice are not without precedent. In 1872, the International Prison Commission — which later became the International Penal and Penitentiary Commission (IPPC) — was created during an international conference to make recommendations for prison reform. The IPPC became affiliated with the League of Nations and continued to hold crime control conferences every five years.
With the dissolution of IPPC after World War II, its functions were transferred to the United Nations in 1950, including the practice of holding international conferences on crime control matters at five year intervals. Accordingly, the First United Nations Congress was held in Geneva in 1955.
Fifty-five years later, this tradition continues with the Government of Brazil hosting the Twelfth United Nations Congress in Salvador, Brazil. The theme of the Twelfth Congress is “Comprehensive strategies for global challenges: crime prevention and criminal justice systems and their development in a changing world”.
55 years of United Nations crime congresses
The First Congress adopted the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.
The Second Congress recommended special police services for juvenile Justice.
The Third Congress analyzed the relationship between criminality and social change.
The Fourth Congress called for improving crime prevention planning for economic and social development.
Under the theme “Crime prevention and the quality of life”, the Sixth Congress recognized that crime prevention must be based on the social, cultural, political and economic circumstances of countries.
The Seventh Congress adopted the Milan Plan of Action and several new United Nations standards and norms under the theme “Crime prevention for freedom, justice, peace and development.
The Eighth Congress recommended action against organized crime and terrorism under the theme “International crime prevention and criminal justice in the Twenty-first century”.
The Ninth Congress focused on international cooperation and practical technical assistance for strengthening the rule of law under the theme “Seeking security and justice for all”.
The Tenth Congress adopted the Vienna Declaration committing Member States to strengthen international cooperation in the fight against transnational crime and criminal justice reform.
The Eleventh Congress adopted the Bangkok Declaration, a crucial political document laying the foundation for and showing the direction towards strengthening international coordination and cooperation efforts, in order to prevent and combat crime.