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Feature 091712 ISN

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Rising Threat of Organized Crime to States and Citizens

International Relations and Security Network

The challenges that organized crime poses to a state and its citizens are hardly new. Nor are the concerted efforts to eradicate or ameliorate them. What has changed, at least since the early 1990s, is the perception that organized crime poses a globalized threat to national and international security.

In the preface to the first Transnational Organized Crime Threat Assessment, the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) states that since the end of the Cold War global governance has failed to keep pace with economic globalization. And while globalization has stimulated economic growth and development, it has also provided new opportunities for criminals to prosper. Specifically, the Executive Director goes on to state, organized crime "has diversified, gone global and reached macro-economic proportions."

Like so many other like-minded institutions, the UNODC is unambiguous about the impact that transnational organized crime is having on governance and the rule of law. As criminal networks have become increasingly global, they have infiltrated governments and big business, created conditions for greater corruption, and endangered the social and economic wellbeing of many developing countries. Transnational organized crime has, in short, undermined governance by empowering drugs cartels, assorted types of traffickers, money launderers and others who live beyond the law.

A host of scholars and senior politicians have unsurprisingly echoed and elaborated upon the above sentiments. Moises Naim, for example, sees the collision of states and criminal networks as a "new war of globalization." Organized crime, he continues, has reconfigured power in international politics and economics in highly negative ways. One possible response to this problem, at least in the eyes of the well-versed U.S. Senator, John Kerry, is to further globalize law and law enforcement.

Regardless of how one defines the problem and its possible solutions, it is only appropriate that we begin the week [Sep. 10] by tracing the increasingly global nature of transnational organized crime, its growing portfolio of illicit activities in the world's economy, and its dubious impact on security. However, given that illicit activities do bring some economic benefits to impoverished states and communities, or so its defenders claim, we devote our attention on Tuesday to determining whether a criminalized state or culture is by definition bad for those under its sway.

On Wednesday, we mull over yet another contrarian view point - i.e., whether it is entirely appropriate to define organized crime as a major security issue at all. In doing so, we investigate criminal networks across Southern and Eastern Europe to determine whether they pose the security threats ascribed to them, both at the local and international levels. We then follow this analysis by trying to determine how and why transnational organized crime has become increasingly linked with terrorist activities. Finally, we close the week by examining the success, or not, that law enforcement agencies have had in combatting globalized and networked organized crime.

The World's Not-So-Hidden Criminal Economy

10 Sep 2012 / Special Feature

Globalization has enabled transnational criminal networks to expand and diversify their activities. Today, we cast a light on the growth of transnational organized crime, its illicit multibillion dollar activities and its increasing global reach and influence. More

Family Incorporated: Organized Crime and the Nation-State

11 Sep 2012 / Special Feature

Both transnational and national-level organized crime have been on the rise since the end of the Cold War, even if their significance has differed from region to region. Fears about the rise of so-called ‘mafia-states,' however, are harder to substantiate, or so argues Prem Mahadevan. More

Beyond Mafia Stereotypes: Organized Crime's Impact on Security

12 Sep 2012 / Special Feature

The potential for organized criminal networks to foment intra-state violence and terrorism represents a major challenge to security establishments. Yet, as Philip Gounev points out, these networks do not necessarily need to safeguard their activities and maintain their influence by relying on such violence. More

The Crime-Terrorism Nexus

13 Sep 2012 / Special Feature

The connection between organized crime and terrorism may seem obvious but the nexus remains blurred, both conceptually and in reality. Therefore, if we want peace operations and stabilization missions to perform more anti-crime and terrorism functions in the future, argues Wibke Hansen, then establishing greater clarity about the nexus is critical. More

Thwarting Crime and Terrorism

14 Sep 2012 / Podcast

Arguments that formalized business relationships exist between terrorist and transnational criminal organizations currently lack substance, argues Michel Hess. However, hybrid partnerships might eventually emerge if criminals decide to support terrorist group causes. More

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"The Securitization of Organized Crime," International Relations and Security Network (ISN), Sep. 10, 2012, Zurich, Switzerland; reprinted with permission

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