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United Nations Timeline

This timeline shows the developments in UN Crime Prevention and Counterterrorism from the 1940s to the present day. Primarily, it underscores that anticipatory, pre-crime measures were endorsed for crime prevention decades before they were applied to terrorism. In particular, the recommendation of multi-agency partnerships in crime prevention (endorsed at the 1990 Havana UN Crime Prevention Congress) was not applied to the UN's counterterrorism work (under the rubric of radicalisation prevention or Countering Violent Extremism) until after the Global Counterterrorism Forum emerged in 2011. This demonstrates that, for many years, terrorism was not understood in the same way as 'ordinary crime'. The GCTF served to redirect UN counterterrorism towards anticipatory crime prevention, as practiced in states of the Global North.

Historically, the timeline also shows the importance of the UN's turn to 'transnational crime' as a gateway towards its increased dealings with terrorism and counterterrorism. 'Transnational crime' - particularly drug and human trafficking - became the focus of UN Crime Prevention throughout the 1990s, enabling the subsequent move to treating terrorism as a form of crime (and not as state-sponsored activities aimed at destabilising other nations). Finally, on an international criminological note, the timeline also demonstrates the ideological shifts in the UN's crime prevention activity throughout the twentieth century (from the 'modernisation thesis', through to a leftist focus on economic and social inequality as the source of crime in the late 1970s and 80s, through to the contemporary focus on crime as a transnational threat to development (largely disconnected from questions of economic and social inequality).

🟤 Transnational Crime: Signifies the framing of terrorism through a turn towards organised transnational crime as the object of UN activity

🟢 A Multiagency partnership theme and/or radicalisation discourse

🟣 Modernisation thesis of structural causes

🔵 Social materialist thesis on economic inequality as the cause of crime