Organised crime, in its many and varied forms, has been shown to threaten political, economic and social development: it can foster violence and corruption, undermine the rule of law, good governance and the democratic process; it can jeapordise economic growth and poverty reduction, and pose significant risks to public health and environmental sustainability.

There are a number of significant policy processes advancing that are changing the way that development actors will engage with organised crime programming. 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 a 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. This reinforces the central message of the World Development Report 2011, which found that protracted violence and conflict, for which organised crime was recognised to be a leading cause, resulted in a 20 percent reduction in development performance.

A combination of the extent of the impact of organised crime, but also the acknowledgement that many of its causes relate to a wider set of governance, social, developmental and other factors, has highlighted incontrovertibly that a narrow security approach will not be effective in countering the problem. If an effective and sustainable solution to organised crime is to be found, it is imperative that the weight of the development response is brought to bear.

Despite the fact that organised crime is increasingly being recognised as a spoiler to development, development actors remain challenged on how, where, when and even if this has implications for how they should be delivering programming.

Debates within the development community have raised longstanding concerns about the “securitisation of development” and questioned whether development funding could be applied to the challenges that are typically conceptualised as being security threats. Pressure from law enforcement agencies seeking more funding from development budgets has further exacerbated this concern, as development actors remained unconvinced that traditional development instruments had a role to play.

The shifts in the rules for recording development assistance contributions under the revised Financing for Development framework and the clarification of the ODA rules will make it easier for development actors to engage in programming directly related to tackling organised crime, mitigating its impact and building the resilience of communities to criminal flows. Thus, understanding how to deploy development actors most effectively, as part of a comprehensive, integrated response, is a question that ever more urgently requires an answer.

Through a range of projects and initiatives, the Global Initiative is working with key development institutions such as the OECD, the UN and World Bank, regional Development Banks and bilateral development agencies such as DfiD, GIZ and USAID, to develop a common understanding, shared approaches and evidenced-based policy and programme tools to underpin a development response to organised crime.

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