Australian Institute of Criminology

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Justice matters: the world needs more Scorpions

74 Leichhardt Street, Griffith ACT, Professor Jan van Dijk
3:00 PM 24 November 2008 -

Professor Jan van Dijk
University of Tilburg, The Netherlands
Australian Institute of Criminology Visiting Research Fellow

Presentation overview

Many developing countries are caught in vicious circles of lawlessness and poverty. The only way out is better control of high-level corruption and organized crime. For this reason, the security and justice sector should have focus on evidence-based poverty reduction. In reality, both bilateral and multilateral development assistance continues to focus on "feel good" priorities such as education, health and gender equality. Much development aid is counterproductive because it empowers rather than weakens existing criminal elites. Sustainable development aid requires a priority focus on strengthening specialized anti-Maffia units, using financial investigations and victim-witness protection, independent prosecutors and incorruptible judges. The developing world needs more units like the soon to be abolished Scorpions in South Africa or the anti-corruption unit in Hong Kong. This is also true for Afghanistan and Iraq. To design and implement these new development aid policies, development aid agencies need more criminological expertise.

The presenter

Jan Van Dijk holds the Pieter van Vollenhoven Chair in Victimology and Human Security at the University of Tilburg, The Netherlands ( As officer in charge of the United Nations Centre for International Crime Prevention in Vienna from 1998, he gave secretarial support to the negotiations on the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organized Crime. He launched the journal FORUM on Crime and Society, published in the six UN languages.

Before joining the United Nations, Van Dijk was Professor of Criminology at the University of Leiden (1991- 2000). Earlier he acted for several years as director of the Research and Documentation Centre of the Dutch Ministry of Justice. He is generally regarded as one of the key architects of the Netherland's distinct policies on crime prevention, victim support and drugs.

Van Dijk co-initiated in 1987 the International Crime Victims Survey and supervised the ICVS's five rounds of implementation. He was president of the World Society of Victimology from 1997 to 2000. He has published widely on crime statistics, the prevention of crime, and victim rights. His latest book, based on his work for the United Nations, is The World of Crime; breaking the silence on issues of security, justice and development, published by SAGE Publications.

He received the Stephen Schafer Award from the National Organisation of Victims Assistance in the United States In 1995, the Hans von Hentig Award from the World Society of Victimology in 2003, and in 2008 the Sellin-Glueck Award of the American Society of Criminology.