Event Details

30 Aug


30 Aug 2021
3 PM

Add to Google Calendar


Virtual event

The ‘Landscapes’ project will launch on 30 August with a live streamed event available to view at landscapes.globalinitiative.net and on the Global Initiative’s YouTube and social media channels.

El Proyecto «Paisajes» se lanzará el 30 de agosto con la transmisión de un evento en vivo disponible en landscapes.globalinitiative.net,  en el canal de YouTube y en las redes sociales de the Global Initiative .

Click here to register

Read the story > landscapes.globalinitiative.net

The worldwide phenomenon of enforced disappearances is often framed as a problem associated with contexts of political conflict or guerrilla warfare. It is understood, erroneously, mainly as a human rights issue in the narrower realm of totalitarian governments or military dictatorships. The reality is that it is a mainstream, pervasive, global issue, and it is now increasingly urgent that we understand and address disappearances as part of the normalized political economy of transnational organized crime and as a global phenomenon that can affect anyone, anywhere.

The state of Sinaloa in north-eastern Mexico features front and centre on a world map of criminal groups. In the 1980s, the infamous Sinaloa Cartel emerged there and, today, drug-related organized crime has become so widespread and endemic in government spheres and daily life in the region that it has sparked a whole ‘narco culture’ that has spread to music, fashion and even religious beliefs.

But we should look beyond Sinaloa’s popularized Hollywood imagery of narcos and the binary narrative of police and military pitted against cartels. On the ground there are also numerous civil society organizations that bravely and resolutely counteract – in different ways and to differing degrees – the effects of organized crime in Sinaloa. One of them is a group of mothers who call themselves the Rastreadoras del Fuerte (the El Fuerte Trackers, named after the town where they originated). The group is led by Mirna Medina, who began searching for children of the group’s families in 2014 who had disappeared in the midst of a wave of kidnappings in Sinaloa perpetrated by members of the local police at the service of criminal groups.

The work of the ‘trackers’ was documented by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime in 2016 as an example of community resilience in the context of criminal governance. The issue of disappearances has only intensified since then. To date, more than 80 000 cases of ‘disappeared’ persons have been recorded in Mexico alone, and dozens of groups like the Rastreadoras have sprung up all over the country. Medina eventually managed to find the remains of her son, but she hasn’t stopped searching for others because new people disappear in Mexico every day.

This horrific phenomenon is by no means confined to Mexico. In countries all over the world, from Colombia to the Philippines, children, parents, partners and siblings disappear, leaving behind unspeakable pain and tearing apart the social fabric of their communities. The immense work and resilience of those who have come together and organized themselves in response to these violent crimes have reshaped the conversation around disappearances related to organized crime and the so-called war on drugs on an international level.

Landscapes and disappearances

Mexico’s landscapes are scarred by the emotional wounds left behind by people who have disappeared in the war on drugs. And in other parts of the world, migrants also disappear continually, drowned in seas, or abandoned and lost in deserts. Children disappear in illegal adoptions; women who go to another country to seek work vanish without a trace; journalists, activists and whistle-blowers who dare to speak the truth about political, economic and criminal elites also ‘disappear’, forced into silence. The problem is accentuated when there are high-stakes interests and big capital at risk, and when organized crime actors are involved.

In light of this situation, in 2020 the GI-TOC Resilience Fund launched a fellowship focused on disappearances related to organized crime with the aim of broadening the discussion about the role of criminal actors in disappearances and to support individuals from affected communities whose work involves resilience and advocacy. The Resilience Fellowship is designed to support people who are innovating and responding to the various effects of organized crime on a local level, and to create a global, multidisciplinary network of resilient activists.

With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 10 selected fellows assumed vital supportive roles in their communities. Fighting for the lives and dignity of those around them, they brought the issue of disappearances to the attention of relevant institutions and accompanied victims in their quest for justice. They have helped to create spaces for civil society voices in international forums and have shown that the concept of resilience is more than mere rhetoric: it is alive in the work of the activists, journalists and leaders who respond to organized crime in their communities.

On 30 August, the GI-TOC will launch ‘Disappeared is a place: The landscapes and stories of those who are #StillMissing’. This project is a collaboration between the Resilience Fund Fellows and Mexican journalist Daniela Rea, winner of the Breach-Valdez Prize for Journalism and Human Rights. The ‘landscapes’ project therefore represents a collaborative approach to disappearances linked to organized crime across the world, drawing from the perspectives of a group of people from different cultures, who speak different languages and who seek to bring greater visibility and local insights to the issue of disappearances.

This collective programme forms part of a global multimedia campaign produced in English and Spanish that aims to raise awareness about how disappearances are increasingly linked to organized crime in local communities everywhere, reinforcing that this is not a problem to be left solely to multilateral forums or human rights agendas.


The hope is that the project will be a starting point and catalyst for the establishment of a Global Monitor on Disappearances related to organized crime, as well as a dialogue and platform for creating and sharing new tools. It draws attention particularly to local voices and shows the impact they can have in their communities, amplifying participation by encouraging others to respond.

The campaign also enables the Resilience Fund fellows to issue their own calls to action for justice, and invites us all to be part of an initiative that may help bring about peace and an end to suffering for so many families around the world.

The ‘Landscapes’ project will launch on 30 August with a live streamed event available to view at landscapes.globalinitiative.net and on the Global Initiative’s YouTube and social media channels.

Join the dedicated mailing list