Justice for all - Decisive action to reform laws that criminalise poverty and status


Justice for all - Decisive action to reform laws that criminalise poverty and status

5 May 2022

Side event to the 31st session of the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice

Co-organised by Ghana, Mexico, South Africa, the United States, Campaign to Decriminalize Poverty and Status, International Drug Policy Consortium, International Legal Foundation, Penal Reform International, Open Society Foundations, African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum, Community Advice Offices South Africa, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and UNODC Justice Section.

When? 20 May 2022 at 13h10-14h00 CEST

Where? Online - Register at https://bit.ly/justice-decisive-action

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights sets forth that “all are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law.” Criminal systems and incarceration, however, continue to disproportionately affect segments of society that are living in poverty and/or are marginalised. A typical example of bias and active targeting by decision-makers seen across the world can be found within Black and marginalised ethnic communities who continue to be overrepresented in criminal justice systems. Moves have accelerated in countries across the world to reform national laws that criminalise people for who they are, rather than what they have done, through court action and legislative reform. This side event will provide an opportunity for Member States, UN bodies, and civil society actors to set out clear goals and decisive action needed to decriminalise poverty and status, linked to the work of the UN Crime Commission and other international mechanisms and initiatives.

Opening remarks: Rachel Rossi, Deputy Associate Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice


  • Judge Motsamai Makume, Chairperson of the Board of Directors, Legal Aid South Africa and Judge of the High Court of South Africa, South Gauteng Division
  • Olivier De Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights
  • Dominique Day, Chair of the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent
  • Nathalia Oliveira, Co-founder, Black Initiative for a New Drug Policy, Brazil
  • Dr. Janeille Matthews, Lecturer in Law, University of the West Indies


  • Moderated by Jennifer Smith, Executive Director, The International Legal Foundation
Date19 May 2022


Related Profiles

  • International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC)
  • Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
  • Open Society Foundations (OSF)
  • Penal Reform International
  • United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)