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On February 11th in Geneva, we will be continuing our seminar series “Understanding the Impacts of Militarised Responses to Organised Crime” with the Royal United Services Institute.

Militarised responses continue to be dominant in the response to crimes as diverse as human smuggling, wildlife trafficking and maritime piracy. Often employed as a ‘quick fix’ or a dominant show of force, they have produced mixed results. While they generate the perception that governments are actively engaged on issues of concern to the public, and in some cases have resulted in notable successes, on the downside they have frequently also increased the loss of life, exacerbated the humanitarian consequences of a particular crime and entrenched divides between security and state institutions and the criminal proponents, narrowing the possibilities for future negotiated solutions. It has increasingly been recognised that a comprehensive approach is required to address organised crime effectively and sustainably, including long-term engagement and developmental approaches to address the issues that foster criminality.

Via two expert panels, this workshop series will examine the use of militarised responses to two diverse forms of organised crime: human smuggling and drug trafficking.  The discussions will explore the outcomes and unintended consequences of such responses, and allow for a broad debate on the issues and their potentially broader application.

9.30 – 12.30: Militarised Responses to Illicit Migration and Smuggling of Migrants

Although migration is a multi-faceted problem with a wide range of push and pull factors, responses to the current migration crisis in the Mediterranean have relied heavily on military strategies include increased naval patrols and the interdiction of boats. The result is the criminalisation of migrants rather than the criminal actors facilitating their transit, with implications for human rights. These strategies also respond to the final stage of the supply chain, with little impact on migration flows.

The purpose of this session is to explain the role of smugglers, the consequences of a militarised response for their business model, and will also analyse the different policies and solutions presented so far as a response to migrant smuggling.

  • Tuesday Reitano, Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime (GIaTOC): Smugglers Inc.: the illicit industry in human migration.
  • Brian Erickson, New Mexico Regional Center for Border Rights: The militarisation of the US border.
  • Peter Roberts, The Royal United Services Institute (RUSI): From Triton to Sofia: assessing the credibility of the EU’s naval interventions against migrant smuggling in the Mediterranean.
  • Sumbul Rizvi, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR): The protection implications on ‘getting tough’ on smugglers at sea.

14.00 – 17.00: Militarized Responses to Drug Trafficking and The War on Drugs

The ‘war on drugs’ has been widely discredited for its focus on lower level operatives and the consequential result in more clandestine trafficking methods, overburdened criminal justice systems and spiralling levels of violence and corruption. Yet, many governments continue to turn to military strategies to respond to the drugs trade, in particular in times of crisis. In 2014, Bolivia and Honduras implemented legislation that allowed planes suspected of drug trafficking to be shot down by the military. In contrast, some governments are beginning to engage with alternative strategies drawing on development, public health and rule of law.

The purpose of this session is to present an overview of the drug wars, its impacts on various spheres of societies in the world, and reflect on solutions which could contribute to a more effective, comprehensive response to drug trafficking.

  • Johns Collins, London School of Economics (LSE) Ideas International Drug Policy Project: Governing the Drug Wars.
  • Ivan Briscoe, Clingendael: The Violence of Drug Trafficking.
  • Camino Kavanagh, West Africa Commission on Drugs (WACD): Military assets in weak states with porous borders.
  • Sarah Edwards, Health Poverty Action: Health and Development Consequences of Militarised Approaches.

The meeting will take place on Thursday, 11th February 2016, at the Global Initiative premises at WMO Building, 2nd Floor, Geneva.  A buffet lunch is included from 12.30 to 14.00.

To register to participate in the meeting, please email Iris Oustinoff: iris.oustinoff@globalinitiative.net.  For security reasons, registration is mandatory.

Download the full agenda here: Militarized Responses to Organized Crime – Agenda – 11 February 2016