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Over the past decade, there has been a growing realization that organized crime is a spoiler to development. This realization has been charted in a number of seminal reports: In 2005, the report of the Secretary General “In Larger Freedom” which identified the challenges preventing the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) highlighted organized crime as one of the principle threats to peace and security in the 21st Century. In the same year, a UNODC report underscored the linkage between underdevelopment and a crime prone environment. The 2010 “Keeping the Promise” report of the Secretary-General recognized that in order to achieve the MDGs there would need to be capacity to explicitly respond to organized crime. The World Development Report 2011, concluded that both conflict and organized crime have the same detrimental effect on development: resulting in 20% less development performance. The “Action Agenda” of the Secretary General in 2012 cited the need to respond better to organized crime as a priority to achieving a stable world.

The adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (ASD2030) by the General Assembly on the 25 September 2015 places the issue of organised crime firmly within the mandate of development actors. Not only is there a dedicated reference to organised crime in Goal 16.4, which seeks to “significantly reduce illicit financial and arms flows, strengthen recovery of stolen assets and combat all forms of organised crime,” but our study that examined this universal development agenda more holistically found that of the 169 targets put forward under the ASD2030, more than 13 per cent (23 targets in total) stand at risk if criminal markets are not addressed.

While the issue may have been recognized to be of importance, the policy debate as to what this means and how to apply effective development solutions is only now getting underway. Within a broader context of shifts in the development debate globally, there is now significant scope for further exploring the role of development actors in countering organized crime, and to identifying the toolbox of development interventions that could be brought to bear to address the challenge. Furthermore, new actors are required at the table, not only from the development community, but also from the private sector. New actors who have been mobilized, including from the traditional development sector, need the space to align and coordinate with what was typically viewed to be the purview of law enforcement and security agencies alone.

Central to the objective of the Global Initiative is to provide a bridge between security and development actors. However, in the first round of consultations of the Development Dialogue, our partners of this proposal, many development actors emphasized that what was required first was a discussion among development actors themselves, before a wider engagement with security and law enforcement actors took place. Development actors in essence need to dialogue around and clarify the way forward before engaging in a wider debate.

The Global Initiative against Transnational Organised Crime, along with selected development partners, has hosted a sequence of meetings over the last two years focussed on debating and determining how development actors can engage more effectively on responding to organised crime.

The Global Initiative’s “Development Dialogue” series seeks to strengthen and align policy and programmatic responses by the development community to the challenge of organized crime. The Global Initiative and this process aims to serve as an important resource in this regard by providing the strategic space for new and, importantly, multi-disciplinary thinking on how to best tackle them. In particular, the outcomes of this meeting aim to inform on-going debates around a number of global processes taking place: the post-2015 sustainable development agenda, Financing for Development, and the UN’s concurrent reviews of peace operations and the peacebuilding architecture.

The series has produced a number of publications, which document the progression of evidence, understanding and the development of policy in this area. We have also released our “Framework Tool“, a conceptual entry point to develop programmatic responses to organised crime from a development perspective.


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