Posted on 31 May 2021
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:
- Now is the time to engage with your government (which has or will designate a specific focal point designated for the review) using this letter, or your existing contacts.
- Read the UNODC questionnaire that states will answer under the current cluster.
- Consult the joint UNODC–GI-TOC guidelines for civil society engagement.
- Read the Review Mechanism official website for updates.
- Read the UNODC toolkit on stakeholder engagement.
- Check the UNODC Civil Society Unit page for updates on upcoming training or engagement sessions on the mechanism.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or Ian.email@example.com.
GI-TOC, UN-TOC Watch
GI-TOC, The Promise of Palermo
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 28 June to 18 July 2021.
Further details of the training can be found on this webpage.
Registration is possible here
The overall objective of this training 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 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 7 to 8 July 2021.
The training aims to prepare participants to contribute to UNTOC review process, with a focus on the self-assessment questionnaire.
Registration is possible here.