Extortion is a pervasive global problem that threatens developing and developed countries alike. Defined as the process of extracting monetary or other forms of payments by means of violence or the threat of violence, extortion now permeates all levels and facets of commerce and reaches into all echelons of society around the world. From large corporations, to small-scale and informal businesses – few are spared its clutches.

Extortion has taken hold in a myriad of contexts, from public-transport networks and informal vendors to public services and utilities, such as education and water distribution, as well as affecting the lives of individuals. The countries where extortion has taken hold vary enormously. The fragile, violence-plagued countries of the Central American Northern Triangle (Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador) have been crippled by this criminal activity. But they are by no means alone in this global permeating problem: urban powerhouses in Africa and Asia – such as Cape Town, Karachi, Lagos and Hong Kong – as well as significant parts of the US and Europe are also having to deal with serious extortion problems.

The dynamics that allow extortion to embed itself in a particular context or geography may vary, but its impacts tend to be similar. Extortion attacks the order and systems of governance and erodes social confidence in the state. It ultimately reduces the quality of human life, people’s productivity and their right to be free.

The purpose of this handbook is to provide a clear understanding of what extortion is and how it manifests itself in different regions and communities around the world. It identifies successful community– based practices designed to prevent extortion, and proposes recommendations, action plans and guidelines to counter extortion.