„Prevention is the first imperative of justice“
(United Nations document S/2004/616, para. 4)
The Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice is a subsidiary body of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and was established by the ECOSOC resolution in 1992/1 upon request of the General Assembly (GA) to form one of the nine functional commissions of the Council.
The CCPCJ is made up of 40 Member States, which are elected by the ECOSOC for a period of three years. The members are chosen according to equitable geographical allocation and are composed of 12 African states, nine Asian-Pacific states, four Eastern European states, eight Latin American and Caribbean states, and seven Western European and other states. The Commission acts as the principal policymaking body of the United Nations as the title already hints at the field of crime prevention and criminal justice, which makes it a significant actor in the efforts for creating adequate conditions for sustainable development, peace and security. As a preparatory body to the United Nations Crime Congresses, Declarations, adopted by the congresses are transmitted through the CCPCJ and the ECOSOC to the GA for endorsement.
In 2006 the mandates of the CCPCJ were expanded to enable it to function as a governing body of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and to approve the budget of the United Nations Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice. This fund supports the UN Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Programme, which encompasses the active work done by the CCPCJ.
The body holds two annual sessions for the duration of one week in Vienna, once during the first half of the year, as well as one-day reconvened sessions in December to consider administrative and budgetary matters. There are also inter-sessional meetings to finalize the provisional agenda, address formal and substantive matters and to make available effective policy guidance.
The CCPCJ also offers Member States a forum for exchanging expertise, experience and information in order to develop national and international strategies, and to identify priorities for combating crime.
Topic I: Countering International Terrorism in the Digital Realm – Propaganda, Recruitment, Organization, Financing
Al-Qaeda, the Afghan Taliban, the so-called Islamic State – ever since the internet became available to a broad public, terrorist organizations have found ways to utilize it to serve their respective agendas. All of them have created well-versed media departments, supported by countless sympathizers and allied groups around the globe. The current conflict in Syria and Iraq made it prevalent how effective the use of social media for organization, propaganda and recruitment is. Recent attacks show how lone-wolf terrorists can radicalize themselves, leave statements and pledge loyalty for everyone to see without ever having to be in contact with an actual member of the group they feel affiliated to.
Propaganda only works if it reaches a vast audience. The terrorist organizations could not have asked for a better tool than the internet to accomplish this and bring fear to places far beyond their actual reach. Everyone has seen recordings of executions by the Daesh, which spread over the internet like a wildfire. If it does not reach the audience directly, then it does so via regular news outlets that show it as soon as they receive it. Everyone has read the stories of young men and women that were recruited online and given instructions how to join the jihad in chat groups. The number of terrorist websites is increasing, ranging from platforms filled with radical ideologies to instruction guidelines on how to build bombs to active fundraising. The use of untraceable cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin, is a popular way for criminals and terrorists alike to launder money and perform transactions with a relatively low risk. Shutting these operations down is simple, but not efficient. The anonymity of the internet is keeping the actors behind these sites in the shadow and observing activity can often produce more information than a quick action.
It has become a problematic task for national governments to react to the situation. Is it morally appropriate to monitor terrorist activity for intelligence gain? Can we force censorship or would that violate constitutional freedoms? Is mass surveillance efficient and how effective are all those measures if those responsible operate from outside our borders? As both terrorism and the internet are transnational in nature, it is in the interest of an international institution like the Committee on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (CCPCJ) to work on combined strategies for the prevention of the abuse of the digital space as well as ways to effectively prosecute and deal with it.
Topic II: Reviewing combined strategies against organized Human Trafficking
The fight against human trafficking is one of the top political agendas for many states. Every year, thousands of men, women and children fall into the hands of traffickers, in their own countries and abroad. Illegal immigration, slave trade or the trading of organs had a rapid growth in the recent couple of years. Using people’s needs and their desperation has become a profitable billion dollar business. The sluicing of people only in Western Europe on all routes brought traffickers three to four billion dollars. Refugees and migrants for example from Syria and Iraq even take 180 days or several years lasting trips through dangerous routes along deserts or the Mediterranean Sea on non-sea adapted boots, just to flee from their tenuous situation in their own country.
According to a September 2017 report from the International Labor Organizaion (ILO) and Walk Free Foundation: An estimated 24.9 million victims are trapped in modern- day slavery. Of these, sixteen million (64%) were exploited for labor, 4.8 million (19%) were sexually exploited, and 4.1 million (17%) were exploited in state-imposed forced labor.
The main problem concludes the huge support system of traffickers, which is built on people without criminal energy, who can earn money in a little amount of time. These supporters do not have moral qualms, because they are in belief to help people in need. Now in the digital era, networks, which human traffickers are using, have become more flexible and hard to accommodate. Human trafficking is a transnational problem, a threat to human dignity and physical integrity and most of all, a serious crime and a grave violation of human rights. Victims are tricked by hopes and false promises of good jobs and opportunities, and are exploited for prostitution, forced labor or similar practices and the removal of organs. Every country in the world, whether as a country of origin, transit or destination for victims is affected by these crimes. Stricter immigration regulations only, will not make a change. The challenge for all countries is to target the criminals, who exploit desperate people, whom endure unimaginable hardships in their bid for a better life.
As guardian of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC), the CCPCJ assists states in their efforts to strengthening the criminal justice response and implement measures to prevent, to prosecute and punish the traffickers and to protect the victim.