Engaging with the UNTOC review mechanism: an overview for civil society

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

The mechanism aims to assess how States are implementing the UNTOC and the protocols to which they are party, and to identify existing gaps in implementation that could be addressed through capacity building and technical assistance. But as the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime (GI-TOC) has previously written, the design of the mechanism has serious drawbacks, including its low level 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.

For civil society to engage in this process, information and advice are needed. This blog summarizes some of the key information and resources that interested civil society will need in an attempt to engage with the mechanism, and thus hopefully inform and improve the response to transnational organized crime.

Which countries are currently being reviewed and what issues are being reviewed?

All countries to be reviewed have been divided into three groups, of which the first group has already started its self-assessment phase and has been assigned two countries that will review the self-assessment. According to the Convention guidelines, the timeline for the self-assessment process is as follows, although delays are occurring, which means that many Member States are already well behind these milestones:

  • Within two weeks of the start of the review: appointment of focal points
  • Within four weeks of the start of the review: appointment of government experts
  • Within six weeks of the start of the review: consultations between reviewing and reviewed States through focal points
  • Within six months of the start of the review: responses to the self-assessment questionnaires to be submitted by the State party under review
  • Within six months of submission of responses: written comments to be submitted by reviewing States Parties
  • Within six months of feedback: lists of observations to be prepared by experts

The next group of 63 countries began its first biennial review group in November 2021, and the third group will begin in November 2022.

The mechanism will examine four groups of provisions of the Convention. The first group to examine is “Criminalization and Jurisdiction”. This group covers Articles 2, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 15 and 23 of the UNTOC; Articles 3 and 5 of the Trafficking in Persons Protocol; articles 3, 5 and 6 of the Protocol against the smuggling of migrants; and Articles 3, 5 and 8 of the Firearms Protocol. To assess their implementation of this group of provisions, States will use this UNODC questionnaire.

What can I do now?

The 125 countries with reviews underway are encouraged to engage with civil society during this self-assessment process. For civil society actors, time may be running out: the window for engagement may be closing soon or, for some countries in the first group, it may already be closed.

  • Now is the time to engage with your government (which has designated or will designate a specific designated focal point for the review) using this letter, or your existing contacts.
  • Read the UNODC questionnaire that States will respond to as part of the current panel.
  • See the joint UNODC-GI-TOC guidelines for civil society engagement.
  • Check the official review mechanism website for updates.
  • Read the UNODC Stakeholder Engagement Toolkit.
  • Check the UNODC Civil Society Unit page for updates on upcoming training or engagement sessions on the mechanism.
  • You can complete the questionnaires for civil society developed by GI-TOC. These are available on the sidebar of this page. Please read the instructions carefully and contact us if you have any questions or would like assistance or assistance in completing them and/or submitting them to your government or other stakeholders. Currently available in English and French. GI-TOC and other NGOs are already using these questionnaires to engage with some governments in their review process, we look forward to sharing best practices and lessons learned in due course.

UPDATE: Get ready for constructive dialogues and the October COP!

Other formal avenues of engagement are the “constructive dialogues” between civil society and state parties (to be held on 6 May, 27 May and 1 July 2022 in Vienna, Austria) and the conference plenary, the next session will be held in October 2022. You can already register to participate in the thematic constructive dialogues:

  • Constructive Dialogue on Firearms: May 6, 2022. register here until March 17, 2022 midnight, Vienna time.
  • Constructive dialogue on international cooperation and technical assistance:May 27, 2022. register here until March 17, 2022 midnight, Vienna time.
  • Constructive dialogue on migrant smuggling and human trafficking:July 1, 2022. register here until May 8, 2022 midnight, Vienna time.

Constructive dialogues are the primary opportunity for substantive engagement between governments and civil society on key UNTOC themes. However, “national situations” cannot be mentioned, so the discussion will focus on trends and analysis rather than specific country situations.

We will keep this page updated when more information becomes available on the UNTOC Conference of the Parties, which will take place in October 2022 in Vienna.


Collect feedback

We are interested to hear your experiences and feedback regarding your experiences of engaging with the UNTOC Implementation Review Mechanism. Please send your 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 coordinated by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), in partnership with GI-TOC:

  • Self-paced UNODC SE4U course in Arabic, French and Spanish
    The next SE4U Self-Paced Course for Engaging Civilian Non-State Actors in the UNTOC Review Mechanism will take place from March 15 to April 30, 2022 (in Arabic, French and Spanish only). UNODC invites you to nominate individuals from your organizations to participate. This course focuses on the implementation of the UNTOC and its review mechanism, and can be taken at your own pace and at your own pace over a period of six weeks. The workload is approximately 18 hours. It will be facilitated by a dedicated SE4U expert and selected SE4U alumni may be considered to participate in follow-up activities.

Duration: March 15, 2022–April 30, 2022

Please register here before March 6, 2022

  • UNODC SE4U Online Workshop
    The SE4U Online Workshop for Engaging Non-State Actors in the UNTOC Review Mechanism will take place from 4-6 April 2022 (in English, Arabic, French and Spanish). The objective of the workshop is to prepare participants to contribute to the overall review and constructive dialogues. The training will take place in virtual format and will be conducted using Microsoft Teams. This will involve live plenaries, interactions in discussion groups and Q&A sessions. It is possible that due to COVID-19 regulations, the training will take place in hybrid mode.

Duration: April 4, 2022–April 6, 2022

Please register here before March 6, 2022

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