The normative foundation for United Nations rule of law work is the Charter, together with four main pillars of the international legal system: international human rights law, international humanitarian law, international criminal law and international refugee law.

Transnational organized crime and illicit trafficking in drugs, human beings, arms, money and natural resources, as well as related corrupt practices and terrorism, have become global threats, undercutting the rule of law and good governance, and hampering the achievement of sustainable development. Such issues cannot be successfully tackled unilaterally or in a compartmentalized manner. Rather, they require an integrated multilateral response at the global, regional, country and local levels.

The work of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is guided by a broad range of international legally binding instruments, such as the three drug control conventions, the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its protocols, the UN Convention against Corruption, the UN standards and norms on crime prevention and criminal justice and nineteen universal legal instruments against terrorism.

The rule of law, human rights and development are interrelated and mutually reinforcing.  Through its field office network, including eight regional offices and 10 country offices, UNODC ensures that global norms and standards are integrated in regional and national agendas, and implements regional and country programmes, in close consultation with regional entities, partner countries, UN partners and civil society.

UNODC functions as the Secretariat for the United Nations Congresses on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, which are held once every five years and bring together a broad range of stakeholders in government, civil society and academia to discuss good practices and approaches to challenges in crime prevention and criminal justice at the national, regional and global levels. The Thirteenth Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice held from 12 to 19 April 2015 in Doha, Qatar, and marking the anniversary of the first such Congress, took place at an important historical juncture, where issues such as the rule of law and the post-2015 development agenda are taking centre stage globally. Its outcome, the Doha Declaration, not only sets the tone for, but more importantly, gives direction to the work in the area of crime prevention and criminal justice for the next five years, and beyond.

Building on its normative, analytical and operational work, UNODC will continue working through partnerships within and outside the UN system to help Member States provide citizens with efficient and accountable security and justice services that can break cycles of violence and disempowerment, paving the way for equitable and sustainable development.

High court Mombasa. The court was built through the UNODC Counter-Piracy Programme. Credits: Eirik Talleraas/UNODC

High court Mombasa. The court was built through the UNODC Counter-Piracy Programme. Credits: Eirik Talleraas/UNODC