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Over the course of seventy years, the United Nations Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Programme (the “UN Crime Programme”) has undergone three major transitions. The first was a transition from a forum for intellectual debate among primarily Western European and North American criminologists and practitioners, to a truly global programme (1950s – 1960s). The second was a transition from an expert-driven programme to a government-driven programme (the 1990s). The third was a transition from a soft law programme to a programme based also on hard law treaties (the 2000s).
Each of these transitions has, in different ways, changed and strengthened the UN Crime Programme, but each has entailed its own costs. This paper briefly describes the transitions, as well as their accompanying costs and benefits. It also suggests that a fourth transition is underway, one that is framed by the 2030 UN Sustainable Development Agenda.