United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)

Legal basis (mandates) and mission

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is a global leader in the fight against illicit drugs, transnational organized crime, terrorism, and corruption. The UNODC serves as guardian of the following Conventions:

  • The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its three protocols (against trafficking in persons, smuggling of migrants and trafficking in firearms)
  • The United Nations Convention against Corruption
  • The international drug control conventions
  • United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners

The UNODC strategy for 2012-2015, adopted in E/RES/2012/12, prioritizes the following seven sub programmes:

  • Countering transnational organized crime, illicit trafficking, and drug trafficking
  • Countering corruption
  • Prevention of terrorism
  • Justice
  • Prevention, treatment and reintegration, and alternative development
  • Research, trend analysis, and forensics
  • Policy support

Within the UNAIDS family, UNODC is the convening agency for HIV in prisons.

Topics of interest in the prison setting

  • Communicable diseases, with emphasis on HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis (TB)
  • Vulnerable groups
  • Overcrowding
  • Torture and ill treatment
  • Injection drug use

Strategic operations

  • Preparation of training materials and treatment guides
  • Best practices research and promotion
  • Evaluation of programmes and policies
  • Technical collaboration with Member States
  • Technical collaboration with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)
  • Capacity building

Role in prisons

UNODC assists countries in implementing international standards and United Nations (UN) resolutions that support the right to health care, including HIV prevention and care. Health care services must be of equivalent quality to those offered in the community and must be offered without discrimination. In addition to standard prisons, UNODC's work in prison settings covers police lock-ups, pre-trial detention centres and closed institutions for juveniles in conflict with the law. UNODC's prison activities fall under sub programmes 4 and 5 of E/RES/2012/12.

Under sub programme 4, UNODC aims "to strengthen the rule of law through the prevention of crime and the promotion of effective, fair, humane and accountable criminal justice systems, in line with UN standards and norms in crime prevention and criminal justice and other relevant international instruments". Specific objectives include:

  • addressing prison overcrowding
  • ensuring that prisoners are treated in compliance with UN standards and norms
  • dedicating particular attention to the most vulnerable groups.

Under sub programme 5, UNODC aims "to reduce drug abuse and HIV/AIDS, specifically as related to injection drug use, prison settings, and human trafficking". Specific objectives for sub programme 5 include:

  • expanding Member States' capacity to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS among drug users (injecting drug users in particular) and in prison settings; and
  • expanding, in consultation with the Member States concerned, the capacity of relevant entities of civil society to respond to HIV/AIDS among drug users, in particular injecting drug users.

Target groups

  • Policy-makers, particularly those working in Member States
  • Practitioners and professionals working in prison settings
  • NGOs and other entities of civil society

Geographic region of focus