Success in addressing transnational organized crime hinges on multilateral cooperation. However, existing cooperation regimes are ineffective at countering the rapid changes in the organized crime landscape and countries increasingly tend to turn to national solutions. The diminishing support for multilateral cooperation means the international criminal justice system has become disjointed, insufficient and reactive.

This paper identifies five scenarios for the future of international criminal justice cooperation based on observed trends and raises thought-provoking questions about possible outcomes and impacts on transnational organized crime.

The five proposed scenarios are distinct but not necessarily incompatible:

  • TOGETHER: Perfecting the existing international cooperation regime

    ‘Together’ forecasts a situation where states forge the political will and willingness to refashion the existing cooperation mechanisms.
  • UNBOUND: Growing preference for bilateral and regional agreements

    ‘Unbound’ reflects a world in which states increasingly rely on bilateral or regional cooperation frameworks, possibly leading to new cooperation zones.
  • GOING ALONE: Growing unilateralism

    ‘Going alone’ anticipates states preferentially using unilateral actions to achieve their aim, bypassing existing cooperation mechanisms and agreements.
  • RETREAT: Increased reliance on informal arrangements and alternative methods.

    ‘Retreat’ sees the accelerated use of informal cooperation arrangements or alternatives – to the potential detriment of the rule of law and human rights.
  • RENEWAL: Radical review and renewal of existing multilateral regimes.

    ‘Renewal’ posits that states could be compelled to reimagine the international cooperation regime and undertake radical reform efforts, including establishing a binding arbitration mechanism to resolve bilateral disputes.

To be useful as planning tools, any scenario or vision of the future must be connectable to decisions in the present, and therefore the scenarios described here are presented in the framework of current challenges. It is hoped that civil society organizations will take the lead in formulating a comprehensive international criminal justice cooperation strategy, built on what works. Such a strategy should also be supplemented with new ideas to address shortcomings and to facilitate effective reforms of the multilateral institutions needed to implement such a strategy.