A Critical Analysis of the UNODC
Origin and Primary Mandate
The United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC) is a supranational organization under the United Nations (UN) that seeks to prevent the spread of illegal drugs and transnational crime. Founded in 1997, the UNODC originated through the union of two separate offices – the United Nations Drug Control Programme (UNDCP) and the Center for International Crime Prevention (CICP), with each of their respective mandates converging to that of the present organization (UNODC).
The UNODC operates in different parts of the world, with 90% of their budgetary funding coming from contributions of Member States. In return, it organizes those Member States to build efforts against the proliferation of illegal drugs, transnational crime and terrorism. The Millennium Declaration mandates both the UNODC and Member States to conduct efforts to counter those problems in multiple aspects through concerted endeavors and intensified measures (UNODC).
Three main pillars support the UNODC in its efforts. The first pillar aims to improve the competence of Member States to fight those problems using technical cooperation efforts based on fieldwork. The second pillar concerns the use of research and analysis to contribute to the knowledge bank for policy formation and decision-making in related operations. The third pillar targets the empowerment of Member States to ratify and implement treaties and domestic laws against illegal drugs, transnational crime and terrorism as they render salient services to relevant governing bodies. The UNODC ensures the fulfillment of those three pillars through mainstreaming gender policies in the form of anti-trafficking action courses and introduction of alternative livelihoods (UNODC).
Strengths of the UNODC
Through a clear-cut coverage statement, the UNODC stands as a strong organization in dealing with several problems associated to illegal drugs, transnational crime and terrorism. Under its Menu of Services, the UNODC seeks to solve problems related to (1) criminal and trafficking activities done by organized groups, (2) corruption, (3) prevention of crime and reformation of criminal justice, (4) prevention of drug abuse and health-related risks and (5) prevention of terrorism attacks. The cooperation of Member States is crucial in preventing any problems related to those five areas, for the UNODC has the objective to uproot those problems in the national, regional and transnational levels. The borderless nature of those problems has so far attracted Member States to seek assistance from the UNODC. In return, the cooperation structure of the UNODC ensures the security of those cooperating Member States. Executive Director Yury Fedotov himself called on to Member States to turn to them in the event issues and concerns on drugs and crime driven by terrorism and corruption afflict their welfare. The organizational make-up of the UNODC, composed of four divisions under the Executive Director and multiple subdivisions under those divisions, provides Member States an expansive coverage for any of their related problems (UNODC).
The UNODC is strong in another aspect – it was constructively successful in organizing the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. Its provision of guides for legislation and several legal mechanisms have assisted several Member States in their efforts to curtail human trafficking and the organized groups behind it. The Convention provided clear descriptions of terms enabled Member States to prosecute organized crime with ease and without many ambiguities (Rammerstorfer 15). Being a major factor for the fulfillment of the objectives of the UNODC, the Convention continues to develop in successive sessions, with the latest (sixth) one held in Vienna on October 15 to 19, 2012 (UNODC).
Weaknesses of the UNODC
A notable weakness of the UNODC is that it requires the full support of Member States in its objectives. While that does not mean to say that it has to reform its structure against that principle, it carries the burden of instilling cooperation between Member States towards their objectives through their various mechanisms (Rammerstorfer 15; UNODC). For the UNODC to fulfill their objectives, the Member States have to accept that drugs and transnational crime are detrimental to the people, as they would not enjoy their right to live in the absence of fear. Concerted efforts coming from the Member States could effectively destroy illegal organizations involved in drugs and various crimes. The UNODC, in this case, would serve only as a framework body for Member States who are willing to get rid of those dreadful problems (Rammerstorfer 15).
Iran’s unjust prosecution of illegal drug offenders is one issue in which the UNODC has found particular weakness. The guidelines set forth by the UNODC duly cover Iran, a UN Member State. Yet, it has persistently prosecuted drug offences under the Anti-Narcotics Law and its related amendments, which sanctions capital punishment combined with an unjust justice system. Thus, the UNODC received criticisms over the matter, saying that it did not do well enough in promoting human rights alongside its anti-drug and crime campaign in said nation (Amnesty International 13-24).
Amnesty International (43) has called on the UNODC to intensify their efforts to abolish capital punishment in Iran. The organization has claimed that the UNODC did not emphasize the emergence of a more extensive scope of death penalty usage with the introduction of the new Anti-Narcotics Law in 2011, despite its involvement with domestic political institutions on the matter. In other words, it seemed that the UNODC has turned a blind eye on the implementation of the death penalty – one deemed detrimental to human rights. The UNODC has thus failed to uphold their inherent responsibility to uphold human rights as they promote the abolition of illegal drug and criminal practices worldwide (Amnesty International 11-12).
Conclusion – Has The UNODC Been Effective In Addressing Its Primary Mandate?
Notwithstanding flaws that have emerged, the UNODC has become successful in imposing its mandate upon its Member States. The UNODC possesses a clear structure that clearly identifies their main objectives to impede the proliferation of illegal drugs and transnational crime. It possesses a clear vision to work with Member States towards objectives that would end toleration for the problems it seeks to end, although its mandate makes clear that the Member States, in return, have to submit their full cooperation in order to become more effective in eradicating the problems all of them seek to eradicate.
UNODC’s efforts to organize conventions such as the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime prove that they have the willful effort to fulfill their objectives. Yet, at the implementation level, it has to show significant improvements, particularly in observing its inherent duty to protect human rights. The case of Iran’s excessive resort to capital punishment for drug offenders is a daunting one that directly involved the organization, in which it did not commit efforts to promote humane means of prosecution. Whereas the organization may have lauded Iran’s efforts, it failed to attend to consequences that violated human rights.
About UNODC. UNODC: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2013. Web. 6 Feb. 2013.
Amnesty International. Addicted to Death: Executions for Drug Offences in Iran. United Kingdom: Amnesty International, 2011. Print.
Rammerstorfer, Karin. UNODC and the Global Programmes. Germany: GRIN Verlag, 2008. Print.