The UNODC and International Criminal Law

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is a global leader in the fight against illicit drugs and international crime. International cooperation in criminal matters has long been the centre of the UNODC’s work, acting as the guardian of several international treaties that deal extensively with international cooperation as well as serving as the Secretariat to various inter-governmental bodies.

We explore the key information outlined on the UNODC website highlighting their global focus and commitment to international cooperation.


Inter-governmental bodies

The UNODC acts as Secretariat to a number of inter-governmental bodies which play a key role in fostering international cooperation. These bodies consist of practitioners, policy makers and other experts around the world on the issues of drugs and crime, and offer Member States a platform for exchanging information and expertise in these areas. Key inter-governmental bodies include:

  • Commission on Narcotic Drugs – acts as the main policymaking body of the United Nations in the area of drugs
  • Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice – acts as the main policymaking body of the United Nations in the field of crime prevention and criminal justice
  • United Nations Congresses on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice – held every 5 years around the world, focusing on a broad range of topics including international cooperation
  • Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime – established by this Convention to improve the capacity of States Parties to combat transnational organized crime and to promote and review the implementation of this Convention.
  • Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption – established by this Convention to improve the capacity of States Parties to implement its provisions, to enhance cooperation among States in achieving the objectives of the Convention and to promote and review the implementation of the Convention.



To facilitate data collection and the dissemination of information, UNODC has developed a variety of online databases. The databases provide easy access to laws and other information on existing national practices and strategies, allowing practitioners to expand their knowledge and learn from the experiences of other countries.

Key databases include:

  • Sharing Electronic Resources and Laws on Crime Portal (SHERLOC) – facilitates the dissemination of information regarding the implementation of the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime
  • Human Trafficking Knowledge Portal – part of SHERLOC; dedicated case law and legislation database
  • Smuggling of Migrants Knowledge Portal – part of SHERLOC; dedicated case law and legislation database
  • Tools and Resources for Anti-Corruption Knowledge Platform (TRACK) – provides online access to laws and information on anti-corruption authorities from all over the world
  • Cybercrime Repository – central data repository of cybercrime laws and lessons learned
  • International Money-Laundering Information Network (IMoLIN) – research resource in the area of AML/CTF



International conventions often oblige States Parties to designate competent national authorities in various areas. UNODC disseminates this information through a number of directories:

  • Directory of Competent National Authorities under the United Nations Convention against Corruption
  • Directory of National Authorities under the 1988 Drug Convention and the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime
  • Directory of Competent National Authorities under the International Drug Control Treaties


Publications and tools

In order to enhance knowledge and strengthen capacities of practitioners, UNODC has developed a broad range of legal and technical publications and tools dedicated to various areas of international cooperation. Key publications and tools include:


Manuals, handbooks and training materials

  • Manual on Mutual Legal Assistance and Extradition
  • Manual on International Cooperation for the Purposes of Confiscation of Proceeds of Crime
  • Handbook on the International Transfer of Sentenced Persons
  • Manual on International Cooperation in Criminal Matters related to Terrorism
  • In-Depth Training Manual on Investigating and Prosecuting the Smuggling of Migrants
  • Anti-Human Trafficking Manual for Criminal Justice Practitioners
  • Handbook on Identity-related Crime
  • Mutual Legal Assistance Request Writer Tool


Model laws and treaties on international cooperation

A number of model treaties have been developed by UNODC to assist Member States in giving effect to the provisions of the model treaties approved by the General Assembly, in order to enhance effective international cooperation.

  • Model Law and Model Treaty on Extradition
  • Model Law and Model Treaty on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters
  • Model Treaty on the Transfer of Proceedings in Criminal Matters
  • Model Legislative Provisions against Organized Crime


Technical assistance

UNODC provides a wide range of technical assistance activities to countries, including providing legislative advice and legal drafting support, training and capacity-building activities, or assistance in the development of national policies and strategies. Effective international cooperation is often the central topic of technical assistance projects and activities.

Key areas of technical assistance include: organised crime; human trafficking; migrant smuggling; firearms; drug trafficking; cybercrime; terrorism; corruption; and money laundering.



International cooperation networks have proven to be invaluable in exchanging information and expertise, building trust and creating contacts among practitioners. Key networks include:

  • Commonwealth Network of Contact Persons – facilitates international cooperation in criminal cases between Commonwealth member States, including on mutual legal assistance and extradition, and to provide relevant legal and practical information.
  • European Judicial Network – network of national contact points for the facilitation of judicial cooperation in criminal matters between the members States of the European Union.
  • Eurojust – facilitates coordination of action for investigations and prosecutions covering the territory of more than one member State.



UNODC has developed numerous training courses and e-learning modules available through the UNODC Global eLearning Programme.

In addition, the UNODC Counter-Terrorism Learning Platform is an interactive tool specifically designed to assist criminal justice officers with enhancing their capacities in the fight against terrorism.

Nyman Gibson Miralis provide expert advice and representation in complex-cross border cases, often involving illicit drugs and international organised crime.

Contact us if you require assistance.