12th Crime Congress

What’s on: Tuesday, 13 April

Posted in Uncategorized by 12thcrimecongress on 13 April 2010

Finally! Blue skies! It’s been overcast, intermittently rainy and very humid for days, so it was a relief to wake up this morning to the sun trying to come through. That said, judging by the rain falling over the ocean, water here is never far away (the photo shows a view from the conference centre).

Today’s a big day. Member States will be tackling four important items on their agenda: youth and crime, the United Nations guidelines on crime prevention, technical assistance for implementing the international instruments against terrorism, and cybercrime.

On top of all that, about 18 ancillary meetings are scheduled on issues ranging from the death penalty, child porngraphy, the Stolen Asset Recovery (StAR) initiative, and the need for a cybercrime treaty. Also on the issue of cybercrime, a “UNODC cybercrime investigations lab” has been organized to run from today until Friday.

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NGOs get together for their first coordination meeting

Posted in Uncategorized by 12thcrimecongress on 12 April 2010

Some 90 participants from NGOs, research institutions and academic entities, as well as volunteer report writers and interpreters, met this afternoon for a first get-together. It was an opportunity for everyone to get information from Mirella Dummar-Frahi of UNODC on how to best get their voice heard by Member States in the Plenary. Mirella also suggested that NGOs identify one organization, ideally one that has been accredited by the Economic and Social Council, to give a message at the high-level segment that will start on the afternoon of Saturday, 17 April.

 Other practical advice was given by Gary Hill, who has been facilitating the ancillary meetings, on how the schedule of meetings would be run and on the kind of assistance he could provide (room allocation, presentation equipment, interpretation services etc.).

During the question-and-answer session and after the meeting, people exchanged information on their respective presentations and the work of their organizations. For many people, this is their first time at a United Nations congress. Others, however, have been attending Congresses and sessions of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice for years. For them, in the words of one participant, these events are “like reuniting with a big family. I end up doing a lot of hugging”.

 NGO coordination meetings will be held daily at 9 a.m. in the Cocal room (third floor of the congress centre).

Human trafficking a “human-made disaster”

Posted in Uncategorized by 12thcrimecongress on 11 April 2010

At 10 a.m. on 14 April a documentary called “Prostituida” will be shown at 10 a.m., in Cocal room, as part of the programme of ancillary meetings. The documentary, which is 50 minutes long, was produced and directed by Frida Spiwak, a Colombian clinical psychologist who has been working on the issue of human trafficking for 15 years.

This afternoon Frida walked into the ancillary meetings office in a bright lime-green skirt, a gold handbag hanging on her arm and a pile of posters about the documentary. A couple of hours later, we got talking and she told me that her interest in human trafficking developed out of her work on trauma and from talking to women who were in therapy with her. “Many of the women had suffered from abuse of power, domestic violence and sexual abuse”, she explained.

“Then, between 1996 and 1998, I worked in Colombia in a government programme on people who had been kidnapped or who had disappeared”. It was during that time that she realized that a significant number of young women had disappeared from a relatively poor area of Bogotá; although she and her colleagues worked with law enforcement officers to find these women, they were never found. Frida stresses that everywhere in the world, “it is the poor and vulnerable” who are at risk. Those with more means are more protected.

In her view, the problem lies in the fact that many of the activities in which trafficked women are involved are, in fact, legal or socially accepted in much of the world: “Brothels, exotic dancing venues, Internet pornography: they are all legal. Also, for example, in Colombia and many other countries, the legal age of consent is 14, which makes it very difficult for minors who have been sold into prostitution to get recourse: they cannot go to a judge by themselves, they cannot leave the country…”

Among the solutions Frida proposes are to make brothels etc. illegal and to increase the age of consent to 18. In addition, governments should not focus only international trafficking, but also on domestic trafficking. Efforts should be made to raise public awareness so that it becomes unacceptable for women to be exploited sexually. Frida sees human trafficking as nothing short of a “human-made disaster”.

About the Congress

Posted in Uncategorized by 12thcrimecongress on 9 April 2010

The countdown has started: today is my last day at work before I leave for Brazil tomorrow morning and it’s only three days to the start of the Congress. Since I’m not on site yet, below is some official information (some of it taken from the press kit prepared by the United Nations Information Service in Vienna and shown in the picture).

The Twelfth United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice is a global forum bringing together a diverse gathering of policymakers and practitioners in crime prevention and criminal justice.

Between 12 and 19 April 2010, government representatives will meet in Salvador, Brazil, to discuss a wide range of issues, including youth and crime, smuggling of migrants and trafficking in persons, money-laundering, corruption, cybercrime and violence against migrants. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, based in Vienna, acts as secretariat of the Congress. For the official agenda, click here.

In addition, over 70 so-called “ancillary” meetings will be held by experts from research institutes affiliated with the United Nations, non-governmental organizations, think tanks and other entities working on issues related to crime prevention, criminal justice and the rule of law. Some of their presentations will be on issues that are already on the agenda to be discussed by governments (youth and crime, for example), while others are not (victims’ rights is one). For more information about the workshops and presentations offered, click here.