United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC; French: Office des Nations unies contre la drogue et le crime) is a United Nations office that was established in 1997 as the Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention by combining the United Nations International Drug Control Program (UNDCP) and the Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Division in the United Nations Office at Vienna.[1] It is a member of the United Nations Development Group[2] and was renamed the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in 2002.[3] In 2016–2017 it has an estimated biannual budget of US$700 million.[4]

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
TypeSecretariat office
HeadquartersVienna, Austria
Parent organization
United Nations Secretariat
Politics portal

Organizational structure

The agency, employing between 1,500 and 2,000 people worldwide, has its headquarters in Vienna (Austria), with 21 field offices and two liaison offices in Brussels and in New York City.kalindi The United Nations Secretary-General appoints the agency's Executive Director. Yuri Fedotov, the former Russian Ambassador to the United Kingdom, has held this position since his appointment in 2010, when he succeeded Antonio Maria Costa in his personal capacity, and also as Director-General of the United Nations Office at Vienna.

UNODC incorporates the secretariat of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB).[5]

Aims and functions

UNODC was established to assist the UN in better addressing a coordinated, comprehensive response to the interrelated issues of illicit trafficking in and abuse of drugs, crime prevention and criminal justice, international terrorism, and political corruption. These goals are pursued through three primary functions: research, guidance and support to governments in the adoption and implementation of various crime-, drug-, terrorism-, and corruption-related conventions, treaties and protocols, as well as technical/financial assistance to said governments to face their respective situations and challenges in these fields.

The office aims long-term to better equip governments to handle drug-, crime-, terrorism-, and corruption-related issues, to maximise knowledge on these issues among governmental institutions and agencies, and also to maximise awareness of said matters in public opinion, globally, nationally and at community level. Approximately 90% of the Office's funding comes from voluntary contributions, mainly from governments.

These are the main themes that UNODC deals with: Alternative Development, anti-corruption, Criminal Justice, Prison Reform and Crime Prevention, Drug Prevention, -Treatment and Care, HIV and AIDS, Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling, Money Laundering, Organized Crime, Piracy, Terrorism Prevention.

The World Drug Report

The World Drug Report is a yearly publication that presents a comprehensive assessment of the international drug problem, with detailed information on the illicit drug situation. It provides estimates and information on trends in the production, trafficking and use of opium/heroin, coca/cocaine, cannabis and amphetamine-type stimulants. The Report, based on data and estimates collected or prepared by Governments, UNODC and other international institutions, attempts to identify trends in the evolution of global illicit drug markets.[6]

Through the World Drug Report, UNODC aims to enhance Member States' understanding of global illicit drug trends and increase their awareness of the need for the more systematic collection and reporting of data relating to illicit drugs.


United Nations Conventions and their related Protocols underpin all the operational work of UNODC.

United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime

The Convention is a legally binding instrument that entered into force on 29 September 2003, through which States parties commit to taking a series of measures against transnational organized crime. States that ratify the convention has the duty of creation of domestic offences to combat the problem, the adoption of new, sweeping frameworks for mutual legal assistance, extradition, law enforcement cooperation, technical assistance and training. The convention signifies an important stage in dealing with transnational crime by recognizing the seriousness of the problem that the crime poses, and gaining understanding from the member states of the importance of a cooperative measure. The convention is complemented by three different protocols:

The Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children aims to provide a convergence in the states' domestic offences in the investigation and the persecution process. Another objective of the protocol is to protect the victims of trafficking in persons with full respect.

The Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air is concerned with the aggravating problem of organized crime groups for smuggling persons. The protocol aims to combat and prevent transnational smuggling as well as to promote cooperative measures for enhancing protective measures for victims.

The Protocol against the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, their Parts and Components and Ammunition was adopted to prevent and provide a cooperative measure for illicit manufacturing of and trafficking in firearms, their parts and components and ammunition. By adopting the protocol, the member states commit to adopt domestic criminal offences for illegal manufacturing, providing governmental licensing ammunition, and keeping track of the ammunition.[7]

United Nations Convention against Corruption

In its resolution 55/61, the General Assembly recognized that an effective international legal instrument against corruption, independent of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime was desirable. The text of the Convention was negotiated during seven sessions held between 21 January 2002 and 1 October 2003. The Convention was adopted by the General Assembly on 31 October 2003. In 2003, the United Nations adopted the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC). The Convention came into force in December 2005. As of 9 November 2012, 140 countries had signed and 164 countries (States Parties) had ratified the UNCAC. UNODC serves as the Secretariat for the Conference of the States Parties (CoSP) to the UNCAC.

UNODC, as the custodian of UNCAC, is also one of the main initiators of the establishment of the International Anti-Corruption Academy (IACA), whose main function is to, among other things, facilitate more effective implementation of the UNCAC.

There are three drug related treaties that guide UNODC's drug related programs. These are: The Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961 as amended by the 1972 Protocol ; the Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971 and the United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988.

These three major international drug control treaties are mutually supportive and complementary. An important purpose of the first two treaties is to codify internationally applicable control measures in order to ensure the availability of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances for medical and scientific purposes, and to prevent their diversion into illicit channels. They also include general provisions on trafficking and drug abuse.[8][9][10]


UNODC launches campaigns to raise awareness of drugs and crime problems. On 26 June every year, UNODC marks the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. On 9 December every year, UNODC commemorates the International Anti-Corruption Day.

"Do Drugs Control Your Life"? – World Drug Campaign

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) started this international campaign to raise awareness about the major challenge that illicit drugs represent to society as a whole, and especially to the young. The goal of the campaign is to mobilize support and to inspire people to act against drug abuse and trafficking. The campaign encourages young people to put their health first and not to take drugs.[11]

"Your No Counts" – International Anti-Corruption Campaign

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has teamed up with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to run this campaign as a focus on how corruption hinders efforts to achieve the internationally agreed upon MDGs, undermines democracy and the rule of law, leads to human rights violations, distorts markets, erodes quality of life and allows organized crime, terrorism and other threats to human security to flourish.[12]

"Think AIDS" – World AIDS Campaign

Young people aged 15 to 24 account for an estimated 40 per cent of new adult (15+) HIV infections worldwide. In some parts of the world, and in some marginalized sub-groups, the most frequent modes of HIV transmission for these young people are unsafe injecting drug use and unsafe sexual activities.

Because young people are also often more likely to use drugs, The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) targets this population with a campaign to raise awareness about drug use and its connection to the spread of HIV and AIDS. The slogan: "Think Before You Start ... Before You Shoot ... Before You Share" is used to provoke young people to consider the implications of using drugs, and particularly injecting drugs.[13]

Blue Heart Campaign Against Human Trafficking

The Blue Heart Campaign seeks to encourage involvement and action to help stop trafficking in persons. The campaign also allows people to show solidarity with the victims of human trafficking by wearing the Blue Heart. The use of the blue UN colour demonstrates the commitment of the United Nations to combat this crime.[14]


In 2007, the five largest donors to UNODC's budget in descending order were: European Union, Canada, United States, the UN itself, and Sweden.[15] According to the Transnational Institute this explains why, until recently, UNODC did not promote harm reduction policies like needle exchange and Heroin-assisted treatment. (This despite the actions of United Nations bodies (i.e. WHO and UNAIDS), who support these policies.)[16] UNODC promotes other methods for drug use prevention, treatment and care that UNODC sees as "based on scientific evidence and on ethical standards".[17] The UNODC has been criticized by human rights organizations such as Amnesty international for not promoting the inclusion of adherence to international human rights standards within its project in Iran. Amnesty states that in Iran there are "serious concerns regarding unfair trials and executions of those suspected of drug offences."[18]

Association with the General Prosecutor of Qatar

UNODC has signed a partnership with the controversial Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption Center, which was founded by Ali Bin Fetais Al-Marri, the General-Prosecutor of Qatar.[19][20][21]

Ali Bin Fetais Al-Marri has been accused of ill-gotten gains, corruption and support for Al-Qaeda terrorists by several media.[22][23][24] He has also defended the life imprisonment of a Qatari poet and human rights campaigner.[25]


In June 2012, Mohammad Reza Rahimi the Iranian Vice President made some controversial remarks during a speech at a UNODC Drugs and Crime conference in Tehran.[26]

He then went on to blame the Talmud, a key Jewish religious text, for the expansion of illegal drugs around the world and said that it teaches to "destroy everyone who opposes the Jews."[28]

Rahimi was widely condemned for his controversial remarks:

  • European Union High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton called his remarks "unacceptable" and reaffirmed the European Union's "absolute commitment to combating racism and anti-Semitism." Ashton went on to say that "the High Representative is deeply disturbed by racist and anti-Semitic statements made by Iranian First Vice President Mohammed Reza Rahimi at the U.N. International Day against Drug Abuse".[29]
  • The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement saying that he had "...on many occasions called on Iranian officials to refrain from these kinds of anti-Semitic statements...[and] believes it is the responsibility of leaders to promote harmony and understanding and he deeply regrets expressions of hatred and religious intolerance."[29]
  • The Minister for Middle East in the UK Alastair Burt said "We condemn utterly the baseless comments from Iran's Vice-President Rahimi about the Talmud and the Jewish faith, made at a United Nations drugs control event in Tehran this week. Racism and anti-semitism are unacceptable in any circumstance, let alone at an event sponsored by the United Nations. We call upon Iran to correct this scandalous statement, and to ensure that its officials respect the proper international norms and standards in the future."[30]
  • Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said that "Israel would not allow any Jew to be harmed."[26]

See also


  1. United Nations General Assembly Session 51 Document 950. Renewing the United Nations: A Program for Reform A/51/950 page 49. 14 July 1997. Retrieved 2007-11-16.
  2. "UNDG Members". UNDG. Archived from the original on May 11, 2011.
  3. United Nations Secretariat Secretary-General's Bulletin Organization of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime ST/SGB/2004/6 page 1. 15 March 2004. Retrieved 2007-11-16.
  4. United Nations Secretariat General Assembly document Organization of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime A/70/6 9 April 2015. Retrieved 2016-07-20.
  5. "About Us". United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. UNODC. 2014. Retrieved 2014-10-28. The Terrorism Prevention Branch (TPB) of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is the key United Nations entity with the mandate and expertise to deliver counter-terrorism legal technical assistance to Member States for the ratification, legislative incorporation and implementation of the international legal instruments against terrorism. [...] Since 2003, the Branch administers the Global Project on Strengthening the Legal Regime against Terrorism which provides the operational framework for UNODC's specialized legal and capacity building assistance related to terrorism.
  6. "World Drug Report - Global Illicit Drug Trends". UNODC.
  7. "United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the Protocols Thereto,2000". UNODC.
  8. "Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961" (PDF). INCB. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-01-31.
  9. "Convention on Psychotropic Substances, 1971" (PDF). INCB.
  10. "United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, 1988" (PDF). UNODC.
  11. "About the World Drug Campaign". UNODC.
  12. "ACT Against Corruption: About the Campaign". UNODC.
  13. "What is Think AIDS?". UNODC.
  14. "What is the Blue Heart Campaign?". UNODC.
  15. "Svensk bedömning av multilaterala organisationer - FN:s organ mot brott och narkotika, UNODC" [Swedish assessment of multilateral organizations - United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, UNODC] (PDF) (in Swedish). Ministry of Foreign Affairs Sweden. 2008. p. 2. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-06-12.
  16. "The United Nations and Harm Reduction Overview and Links". TNI.
  17. "Drug use prevention, treatment and care". UNODC.
  18. "Addicted to death: Executions for drug offenses in Iran" (PDF). Amnesty International. 2011.
  19. "International Anti-Corruption Day: recognizing excellence in combatting corruption". www.unodc.org. Retrieved 2019-02-16.
  20. "Attorney General of Qatar reappointed as UNODC advocate for anti-corruption in MENA region". www.unodc.org. Retrieved 2019-02-16.
  21. Hamel, Ian (2018-02-26). "Le Monsieur Anticorruption du Qatar et son hôtel particulier". Le Point (in French). Retrieved 2019-02-16.
  22. "Scenesetter for Visit of Deputy Attorney General Mark Filip to Qatar". 15 October 2008. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  23. "Role in Qaeda operatives' release returns to haunt Qatar Attorney General". english.alarabiya.net. Retrieved 2019-02-16.
  24. Qatar, Observateur Indépendant Du. "Le procureur du Qatar Ali Bin Fetais Al-Marri a-t-il aidé des membres d'Al-Qaida?". Mediapart (in French). Retrieved 2019-02-16.
  25. Miles, Hugh (2012-11-29). "Qatar poet receives life sentence". Retrieved 2019-02-16.
  26. "Israel accuses Iran of anti-Semitism after drug speech", 'Reuters', 27 June 2012
  27. "UK condemns Iranian vice president for anti-semitic remarks", 'The Guardian', 28 June 2012
  28. "Iran’s Vice President Makes Anti-Semitic Speech at Forum", 'The Washington Post', 26 June 2012
  29. "Iranian VP's Anti-Semitic Tirade Bombs with EU", 'CBN News', 28 June 2012
  30. "Britain condemns anti-semitic remarks by Iran's vice-president", 'The Independent', 28 June 2012

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