Our History

The Alliance of NGOs on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (the Alliance) is a global network of international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council and active in crime prevention and criminal justice operating through the United Nation’s Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The Alliance is simultaneously a committee of the Conference of NGOs (CoNGO) and one of the three major civil society coalitions partnering with the UNODC.

The Alliance framework for action is very broad to match that of the extensive work of the UNODC-guided Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (CCPCJ). This allows its NGOs members to participate in the Alliance as experts in their particular fields. In this way, the Alliance acts as an information—sharing, advocacy and collaboration platform supporting informed engagement by NGOs with the UNODC and member states.

The mission of the Alliance is to enable the innovative contributions to global policy arising through civil society innovation, expertise, and activism to be considered, debated, adapted, and adopted through the United Nations’ main crime prevention and criminal justice policy—making mechanism. In this way, civil society assists with the normalization of higher standards and improved practices as they pertain to the rule of law and a culture of justice.

For NGOs to be effective contributors in this intergovernmental arena, their staff and volunteers need to be adept at navigating global policy-making arenas, program development, and treaty monitoring. Therefore, in addition to providing essential information flow between UNODC and members, the Alliance provides ways for NGO representatives to enrich their understanding of the United Nations and how it works, decides, and is evolving in the light of global political, economic, and social changes.

Most of the Alliance’s high—performing members have consultative status with the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), and some are also associated with the UN Department of Public Information (DPI). However, with increasing globalization and the worldwide impact of today’s exponential technologies, there is also significant growth in the transnational nature of emergent problems. This, when combined with the particular difficulty transnational issues pose for the United Nations and member states and shrinking UN funding, informed support and partnerships with competent civil society actors has never been more crucial. Therefore, bolstering civil society actors as effective partners is needed.

The main intergovernmental meetings in which Alliance members are active include the annual Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, the annual Conference of States Parties to the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC), and the quinquennial Crime Congress. Members also work with the Civil Society Coalition against Corruption (UNCAC) in their focus on implementing the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC).

Alliance representatives also represent the larger civil society grouping during high-profile UNODC-related meetings, high-level meetings of ECOSOC, and special sessions of the General Assembly.


The Alliance first formed in 1972 in New York City prior to the formation of UNODC. It was organized at the instigation of William Clifford, the first chief of the then Social Defense Section (now the Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Branch) of ECOSOC. G. O. W. Mueller, of New York University, chaired the Alliance during its early years.

The Alliance was a small but active coalition of major NGOs with consultative status to ECOSOC and dedicated to crime prevention and criminal justice improvements. With the formation of UNODC and its subsequent move to Vienna in 1997, NGOs with representatives in Austria became more active.

Since its inception, the Alliance has laid great emphasis on the elaboration and application of the United Nations’ minimum rules for justice administration and has contributed toward monitoring the implementation of standards, developing the Restorative Justice Handbook, addressing issues of border control, weapons control, and changing and updating policies on victims of such crimes as in femicide, human trafficking, migrant smuggling, most often by enhancing civil relations.

Many NGO representatives active in the Alliance have contributed to the global work of crime prevention and criminal justice, including: special representatives to the secretary-general, consultants to the United Nations, and primary actors in international governmental organizations, and as leaders in their own nation’s crime prevention and criminal justice arenas.

Organization and membership

Originally, Alliance members were all representatives of organizations with ECOCSOC or DPI status. Today, the Alliance includes individuals and organizations without formal UN status as associate members when they have an interest in, expertise, and willingness to contribute to areas of concern. This evolution of the Alliance began early on and has continued throughout its lifetime. Marked changes occurred as the UNODC formalized and became headquartered in Vienna in 1997 taking over the tasks and responsibilities originally under the purview of ECOSOC’s Social Defense Section in New York.

The New York Alliance continuously met on the first Friday of every second month in New York City (with its working parties meeting as needed) until the end of 2012. NGOs started meeting at the Vienna International Center in 1997 and continue to liaise through the UNODC’s Civil Society Team.

Today, the New York and Vienna arms of the Alliance support the worldwide membership overseen by the cochairs. The Vienna chair sustains the Alliance presence and engagement, and the New York chair largely serves the international community and facilitates virtual meetings and the online resources and social media. Alliance leadership in the United States also ensures that the civil society voice is heard at UNHQ meetings of the UNODC, the ECOSOC, or the General Assembly.

Working parties and focal points

The work of the Alliance is largely accomplished through its working parties. These form and dissolve around specific objectives. They develop their own rules of engagement, meeting schedules, objectives, resources, and teams. Working parties report to the larger Alliance community and share their resources and achievements through meetings, articles, and events using the Alliance Web site as an information and communications hub.

Working parties have organized around: restorative justice, transnational border crime and technology, victims, corruption, religion and violent extremism, and more. They have been initiators of and major contributors to UNODC handbooks, such as the Handbook on Restorative Justice Programmes and the series of six Femicide Reports that also contributed to passing General Assembly resolution /68/191 on “taking action against gender-related killing of women and girls.”

Working parties also produce civil society statements for distribution and consideration during the congresses, commissions, and other international meetings. Statements at high—level meetings of the United Nations have included but are not limited to the Conference of States Parties to the UNCAC Marrakech, Morocco (2011); the UN General Assembly Thematic Debate on “Drugs and Crime as a Threat to Development,” UNHQ, NY (2012); the Doha Civil Society Declaration (2015) contribution to the 2015 Crime Congress; and the high-level debate on the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime at UNHQ (2017).

During the 2015 Crime Congress, the Alliance members identified focal points as another way to provide organizational support. Focal points include corrections and sentencing, corruption, crime prevention, femicide, gender, artificial intelligence (AI) and cybercrime, lawyers and prosecutors, prison chaplains, restorative justice, Sustainable Development Goal 16, terrorism prevention, and victims’ rights.

Adaptations to globalization and digitalization

Today, the Alliance helps to maximize the impact of civil society organizations and experts by leveraging technology to facilitate new conversations, share information, and drive new activity. For example, the Femicide Platform on the Alliance Web site became the largest online collection of femicide reports, stories, and resources. This organizing mechanism supported the work on the Femicide Reports and the related UNGA resolution.

Aware of the growing challenges wrought by organized crime leveraging new technologies, the Alliance is making new synergies possible between the various crime prevention and criminal justice stakeholders in the margins of intergovernmental meetings. For example, during the 27th UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, under the banner of SOLVE2018, the Alliance is facilitating a process akin to a strategy sprint. This innovative framework for professionals, civil society actors, diplomats, and global policy specialists introduces an agile methodology new to UNODC’s global strategy discussions and development.

Helping solve pressing crime prevention and criminal justice issues both through substance and process is the legacy and mission of the Alliance. To these ends, the Alliance continues to leverage the diverse resources and contributions of civil society as essential partners in strengthening the rule of law and a culture of lawfulness.

- Karen Judd Smith

Source: Judd Smith, K. (2019). "Alliance of NGOs on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice." In P. L. Reichel (Ed.), Global Crime: An Encyclopedia of Cyber Theft, Weapons Sales, and Other Illegal Activities (Vol. 1, pp. 9-13). Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, LLC. Used with permission.