The Development objective of the Institute is to promote harmonious socioeconomic development in the countries of the region through the incorporation, in national planning, of suitable policies and program for crime prevention and criminal justice as a means of reducing the potentially negative side-effects of dysfunctional growth and attendant change, and their human and material costs. The Institute endeavors to: promote collaborative activities and joint action on priority problems bearing on crime prevention and control in the development context; upgrade personnel and standards of performance in criminal justice, as well as impart new skills; provide an empirical basis for decision-making through policy-oriented research; encourage the pooling and exchange of expertise, experience and information; assist in the promotion of indigenous approaches and innovative solutions, drawing on African traditions and orientations, as well as on new developments in the field; direct assistance to Governments at their request; and promote the regional integration of efforts against trans-border and trans-national criminality whose methods and scope pose a particular threat to development and social stability.
Pursuant to various resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly, the Organization of African Unity, the Conference of Ministers of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), between 1980 and 1989 and the supportive decisions by the United Nations Congresses on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, the idea of founding the United Nations African Institute for the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders (UNAFRI) was realized. The Statute for its establishment was adopted in April, 1989 by the Conference of Ministers of ECA. The establishment of UNAFRI with specified statutory objectives arose out of the recognized urgent need to start servicing, on continuous basis the increasing crime prevention and control problem in the African region.