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The Institute carries out action-oriented research and training, provides information and advisory services, and implements its activities, at the request of governments, at the interregional and national levels.

The Institute operates in specialised niches and selected fields of crime, justice, security and risks mitigation providing added value to crime prevention, the advancement of justice and the enhancement of human rights.  The Institute also serves as a platform for consultation and cooperation on priority issues acting as an honest broker in bringing together different partners such as Member States, research institutions, international organizations and civil society, in forging a common approach in addressing shared challenges.

UNICRI contributes to building a global knowledge base on organized crime and threat convergences.  It aims to strengthen criminal justice institutions and increase professional capacities of practitioners in fighting organized crime and promoting the rule of law.

UNICRI targets, in particular, regions and countries that for various reasons, including the comparative lack of intervention from other potential assisting entities, are more in need of support in the field of crime prevention and criminal justice. Co-operation projects often take a holistic approach, which tackles legislative, enforcement and social aspects, and may include services provided by UNICRI, such as documentation, action-oriented research and training.