Press Releases

    UNIS/INF/281
    22 September 2008

    Countries invited to sign, ratify or accede to multilateral treaties during the Treaty Event 23-25 and 29 September and 1 October 2008

    Annual Event to Focus on Treaties Associated with the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Year of Planet Earth, the International Year of Sanitation and the International Polar Year

    VIENNA, 22 September (UN Information Service) - In a continuing effort to bolster international law and promote its implementation, the United Nations will organize the tenth annual treaty event at United Nations Headquarters on 23-25 and 29 September and 1 October.

    This year's event, entitled "Universal Participation and Implementation - Dignity and Justice for All of Us", echoes the theme of the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In his letter of invitation to Member States, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted that the treaty event provides "the opportunity to reach the goal of universal participation in a number of treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights" in an effort to work towards "dignity and justice for all of us."

    Among the human rights treaties highlighted in this year's event are the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities of 2006 which entered into force in May this year − one of the fastest ever human rights treaties to do so − and which currently has 35 State Parties. The Convention sets global standards on human rights for the 10 per cent of the world's population experiencing some form of disability who continue to face discriminatory practices in their daily lives.

    Another recently adopted treaty, the 2006 International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance includes an absolute prohibition on the practice of enforced disappearance, outlaws practices such as secret detention and requires countries to maintain detailed records on all detainees. The Convention currently has 73 signatories, but only four State Parties.

    The 2002 Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment which establishes a system of independent monitoring of detention locations in order to prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, entered into force in mid-2006 and has 35 State Parties.

    The recently adopted Convention on Cluster Munitions, which prohibits the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of these weapons, is not part of this year's Treaty Event; however, it will open for signature in December this year. The Convention is a major step forward for the protection of civilians, requiring that States clear areas contaminated with unexploded cluster munitions and provide assistance to victims.

    In line with 2008 being the International Year of Planet Earth, the International Year of Sanitation and the International Polar Year, several highlighted treaties reinforce the relationship between protecting the environment and advancing development goals.

    The 1997 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Non-Navigational Uses of International Watercourses, which addresses the use and management of rivers, lakes and other bodies of water that cross borders or are shared by States, has enormous potential to address water mismanagement and overuse and promote the sustainable management and protection of these precious resources, as well as prevent future conflicts over shared water supplies. Yet the Convention currently has less than half the parties required to enter into force. The current status of law governing international watercourses means that 60 per cent of transboundary basins are without agreements governing their proper use and management.

    While the majority of the 50 treaties highlighted in this year's Treaty Event are in the area of human rights (17) and protection of the environment (15), treaties covering trade and transit, disarmament, privileges and immunities and the safety of UN and associated personnel are also included.

    Conventions in the field of drugs and crime

    During the Treaty Event, the more than 500 treaties deposited with the Secretary-General are all open for either signature, ratification, acceptance, approval or accession in accordance with their respective provisions, among them treaties which are administered by Vienna-based UN agencies in the field of drugs and crime, including:

    The 2000 United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime represents a major step forward in the fight against transnational organized crime and signifies the recognition by Member States of the seriousness of the problems posed by it, as well as the need to foster and enhance close international cooperation in order to tackle those problems. States that ratify this instrument commit themselves to taking a series of measures against transnational organized crime, including the creation of domestic criminal offences such as participation in an organized criminal group, money laundering, corruption and obstruction of justice. Member Sates also pledge to adopt new and sweeping frameworks for extradition, mutual legal assistance and law enforcement cooperation as well as to promote training and technical assistance for building or upgrading the necessary capacity of national authorities. The Convention currently has 147 signatories, and 146 State Parties.

    The 2000 United Nations Convention against Corruption is a major victory in the international struggle against the scourge of corruption. It is the first global legal instrument in the field. The Convention offers States a comprehensive set of universally agreed standards that they can apply to strengthen their regulatory regimes and institutions. It incorporates crucial elements of the fight against corruption, such as preventive measures and criminalization. At the same time, under the Convention, countries agreed to cooperate with one another in every aspect of the fight against corruption. In particular the provisions on asset recovery represent a major breakthrough in the efforts towards returning looted assets to the countries of origin. Signed by 140 States, the Convention has 123 States Parties.

    The 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs aims to combat drug abuse by coordinated international action. There are two forms of intervention and control that work together. First, it seeks to limit the possession, use, trade in, distribution, import, export, manufacture and production of drugs exclusively to medical and scientific purposes. Second, it combats drug trafficking through international cooperation to deter and discourage drug traffickers. It has 153 State Parties.

    The 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances establishes an international control system for psychotropic substances. It responded to the diversification and expansion of the spectrum of drugs of abuse and introduced controls over a number of synthetic drugs according to their abuse potential on the one hand and their therapeutic value on the other. It has 183 State Parties.

    The 1988 Convention against the Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances provides comprehensive measures against drug trafficking, including provisions against money laundering and the diversion of precursor chemicals. It provides for international cooperation through, for example, extradition of drug traffickers, controlled deliveries and transfer of proceedings. It has also 183 State Parties.

    On 4-5 September 2008, the General Assembly reviewed the implementation of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy adopted two years ago. It reaffirmed the Strategy and Calls upon States that have not done so to consider becoming parties in a timely manner to the existing 16 international conventions and protocols against terrorism (Resolution 62/272 of 5 September 2008). One of the latest treaties, the 2005 International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism covers a broad range of offences and possible targets, including nuclear power plants and nuclear reactors as well as threats and attempts to commit such crimes or to participate in them, as an accomplice. It stipulates that offenders shall be either extradited or prosecuted and encourages States to cooperate in preventing terroroist attacks by sharing information and assisting each other in connection with criminal investigations and extradition proceedings. Signed by 153 States, it has 43 State Parties.

    Background

    In September 2000, the United Nations invited world leaders attending the landmark Millennium Summit to take advantage of their presence at United Nations Headquarters to sign a wide range of major international treaties. That year, a successful side event called "An Invitation to Universal Participation" offered a platform for Governments to showcase their commitment to strengthening the rule of law at home and in the global arena. Since then, the treaty event has been held annually, usually coinciding with the General Debate of the General Assembly in September. Nine treaty events have been held since 2000, which have resulted in more than 1350 new signatures, ratifications,

    The participation figures of States in the treaties mentioned in this press release are as of 3 September 2008. For daily updates, please see the website of the UN Treaty Section, Office of Legal Affairs, at http://treaties.un.org

    For background information on the treaty event, please visit the UNIS website: www.unis.unvienna.org

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    For further information, please contact:

    Lothar Mikulla
    Associate Information Officer, UNIS Vienna
    Telephone: (+43-1) 26060-5693
    Mobile: (+43-699) 1459-5693
    Email: Lothar.Mikulla@unvienna.org

    Walter Kemp
    Speechwriter and Spokesman
    United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
    Telephone: (+43-1) 26060-5629
    Mobile: (+43-699) 1459-5629
    Email: walter.kemp@unodc.org