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New! Summary report on UNICRI’s virtual meetings “COVID-19, crime prevention and criminal justice priorities: A spotlight on vulnerable groups



This new summary report from UNICRI collates learnings from four days of virtual meetings on “COVID-19, crime prevention and criminal justice priorities: A spotlight on vulnerable groups”, held online from the 30th November to 3rd December 2020. The meetings involved over 200 participants, and featured speakers from diplomatic missions, government institutions, academia, civil society and intergovernmental organizations, providing a forum to discuss the emerging threats caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, their impact on vulnerable groups and recommendations for building back better.

The report presents learnings and key takeaways on a wide range of topics affecting vulnerable people, including:

  • The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on terrorism, violent extremism and counter terrorism.
  • Women’s rights and the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on children and young people.
  • Use of technology by terrorist groups and organized crime during the crisis.
  • New opportunities for organized crime to infiltrate into the legal economy and new corruption risks.
  • How COVID-19 impacted trafficking in persons.
  • Impact of COVID-19 on tourism-driven economies.
  • Impact of COVID-19 on human rights and rule of law, with particular focus on people deprived of their liberty.
  • Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) risk mitigation initiatives to prevent and respond to potential CBRN threats.
  • COVID-19 and Substance Use Disorders.

One of the overarching messages of the report is that the pandemic has disproportionately affected vulnerable groups, such as children and young people, women, and those deprived of their liberty. The report suggests that the pandemic may have even engendered a human rights crisis, demonstrating the need for the international community to come together in order to uphold the rule of law and protect those most vulnerable.

Overall, key takeaways from the report include:

  • The importance of bolstering support to vulnerable groups in times of major health crises.
  • The value of sharing lessons learned and good practices.
  • The need to further strengthen international collaboration to ensure the provision of continuous support and technical assistance to Member States (particularly to Member States with fewer means to protect vulnerable groups). 

The report also highlights how COVID-19 should be considered as an opportunity to emerge from the pandemic with improved tools and greater resiliency, particularly with respect to gender equality and child-sensitive interventions. Equally, the new report repeatedly states that any measures taken to recover from the crisis must be participatory and focus on empowering vulnerable groups in order to increase interaction between institutions and civil society and to ensure that policies and measures adopted reflect local realities.

As highlighted by Antonia Marie de Meo, Director of UNICRI, in her opening remarks, “the pandemic has been exacerbating pre-existing vulnerabilities of certain groups, who are now the most in need.” Within this context, the meetings and the report serve to contribute to efforts by UNICRI to mitigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on vulnerable groups, by enhancing resilience, preventing crime and promoting peaceful, safe, and inclusive communities, in line with UNICRI’s Strategic Programme Framework and Sustainable Development Goal 16.


With more than 50 years of international action, the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI) has acquired a unique experience in dealing with crime and justice issues within broader policies for socio-economic change and development, the protection of human rights and the promotion of peace. UNICRI is supporting the global community through research, knowledge dissemination, technical assistance, legal reforms, training and capacity building.