The United Nations in Vienna – a Sociologist´s Treasure

Rudolf Richter and Rosemary Barberet at the 20th Session of the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice in 2011.

The United Nations Office in Vienna (UNOV), established in 1980, is one of the four major UN office sites where various UN agencies have a joint presence: International Atomic Energy Agency, International Money Laundering Information Network, International Narcotics Control Board, Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, United Nations Commission on International Trade Law, United Nations Industrial Development Organization, United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). This year, Vienna has been in the news because of the IAEA and the negotiation of the nuclear arms treaty with Iran. After two years of negotiation, Iran and six world powers reached a nuclear deal on July 14 2015 in Vienna. Normally, the UN Office at Vienna does not make headlines. However, to me as an international criminologist, it is the global meeting place for decision making on crime and criminal justice issues.

I have been traveling to Vienna annually since 2002 to observe meetings at the United Nations in Vienna, and I started doing so as an ISA representative to the United Nations in 2007. As a criminologist, I am most interested in the work of the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, which meets for a week or longer every spring, usually in April. There are always cutting edge topics on the agenda, such as the trafficking of flora and fauna; the rights of victims of terrorism; maritime piracy; and this past year, the discussion of modernized standard minimum rules for the treatment of prisoners, successfully adopted as the Mandela Rules. The sessions always culminate with the adoption of a dozen or more resolutions, designed to influence national and international criminal justice policy. Continue reading