In October 2020, the long-awaited Implementation Review Mechanism of the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) was launched in Vienna, the home of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Since then, and without much fanfare, the mechanism has begun its operations and state officials are engaging with each other and the UNODC.

The mechanism is intended to assess how states are implementing UNTOC and the protocols to which they are party, and to identify what gaps exist in implementation that could be addressed through capacity building and technical assistance. But as the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime (GI-TOC) has written before, there are serious drawbacks in the design of the mechanism, including its low levels of transparency and limited scope for substantive engagement with civil society on specific issues in specific countries. This risks hampering the effectiveness of the mechanism, as civil society can provide data and expertise that is not always available to the state.

In order for civil society to engage in this process, information and guidance is needed. This blog recaps some of the key information and resources that interested civil society will need to attempt to engage with the mechanism, and therefore hopefully inform and improve the response to transnational organized crime.

Which countries are being reviewed now, and what issues are being examined?

All the countries to be reviewed have been split into three groups, the first group of which have already begun their self-assessment phase and have been assigned two countries that will review the self-assessment. According to the guidelines of the Convention, the timeline for the self-assessment process is as follows, although given the disruption caused by the pandemic, we expect delays to occur:

  • Within two weeks of start of review: appointment of focal points (December 2020)
  • Within four weeks of start of review: appointment of governmental experts (January 2021)
  • Within six weeks of start of review: consultations among reviewing and reviewed states through focal points (January 2021)
  • Within six months of start of review: responses to the self-assessment questionnaires to be submitted by the State party under review (May 2021)
  • Within six months of submission of responses: written feedback to be submitted by reviewing States parties (November 2021)
  • Within six months of submission of feedback: lists of observations to be prepared by experts (May 2022)

The next group of countries will not start their first two-year review cluster until November 2021, and the third group will start in November 2022.

The mechanism will review four clusters of provisions of the Convention. The first cluster to be reviewed is ‘Criminalization and Jurisdiction’. This cluster covers articles 2, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 15 and 23 of UNTOC; articles 3 and 5 of the Trafficking in Persons Protocol; articles 3, 5 and 6 of the Smuggling of Migrants Protocol; and articles 3, 5 and 8 of the Firearms Protocol. To assess their implementation of this cluster of provisions, states will use this UNODC questionnaire.

What can I do now?

The 62 countries with reviews underway are encouraged to engage with civil society during this self-assessment process. For civil society actors, time may be of the essence: the window for engagement could be closing soon. This is what you can do:

What else?

The other official avenues for engagement are the ‘constructive dialogues’ between civil society and States parties (which are not expected to start until 2022) and the plenary of the conference, the next session of which will be held in October 2022. So the focus of engagement for now must be on the self-assessment phase and any related lobbying, communications and advocacy that you may wish to undertake.

Gathering feedback

We are interested to hear your experiences and feedback regarding your experiences engaging with the UNTOC Implementation Review Mechanism. Please send any comments or questions to secretariat@globalinitiative.net or Ian.tennant@globalinitiative.net.

Other resources

GI-TOC, UN-TOC Watch

GI-TOC, The Promise of Palermo

GI-TOC statement at the 10th UNTOC Conference of Parties

UNODC, Review Mechanism – Tools


The following upcoming training opportunities are being coordinated by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), in partnership with the GI-TOC:

  • “Stakeholder Engagement for the Implementation of the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (SE4U) Training” will take place in a self-paced and remote format from 15 October to 1 December 2021.

Further details of the training can be found on this webpage.

Registration is possible here. (5 October deadline)

The overall objective of this course is to improve the capacity of civil society organizations, academia and the private sector to contribute to the implementation of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) and its Review Mechanism in accordance with Resolution 9/1 of the Conference of the Parties (COP) and to prepare them for constructive dialogue with government authorities and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

  • “Stakeholder Engagement in the Implementation of the Review Mechanism of the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime” will take place in a hybrid or online format from 27-29 October 2021.

Further details of the training can be found on this webpage.

Registration is possible here. (10 October deadline)

The training aims to prepare participants to contribute to UNTOC review process, with a focus on the self-assessment questionnaire.