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Understanding the Implications of Militarised Responses to Organized Crime

RUSI – Global Initiative Seminar Series 2015

Militarized responses – deploying national or multilateral armies, navies, airforces, or using military equipment – continues to be highly prevalent 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. 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.

This workshop series, co-hosted between RUSI and the Global Initiative, will examine the use of militarised responses to different forms of criminal activity, discussing the outcomes and unintended consequences, and will provide conclusions and recommendations on how military responses can be maximised as part of an integrated approach.

Each workshop will bring together a panel of speakers with different perspectives on approaches, and allow for a broad debate on the issues and their potentially broader application.

Recordings of the discussions will be available after the event, and an edited book will be produced summarising the substantive presentations, key findings and recommendations.

Workshop Themes

1.  International Wildlife Trade:  12 October, 2015, London

As violent criminal networks have become increasingly involved in the trafficking of wildlife, pushing iconic species to the brink of extinction, the argument for militarised responses has become increasingly vocal, both to protect the remaining key wildlife species, and to counter the poachers. This is increasingly resulting in an arms race between poachers and rangers, with a consequential rising death toll.

This discussion will focus on the framework for the effective use of military or security based strategies to counter wildlife, within the context of other strategies being employed from criminal justice responses and community development.

A flyer for the event is available for download below:

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2.  Piracy: 12 November 2015, London

The naval response to Somali piracy has been seen as one of the key success stories for the militarised approach, and is now being proposed in other theatres, as well as for other crimes. Understanding the spectrum of responses, from the deployment of navies and armed contractors to protect shipping lanes, and the impact that these had on the responses of pirates is critical for understanding where best practices lie, and the scope for possible replication.

A flyer for the event is available for download below:

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3.  Illicit Migration and Human Smuggling, 23 November 2015, 14:00, Brussels

Although illicit 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. On land, within the Europe itself, overwhelmed transit states have deployed armies to police borders, control crowds, distribute aid.

The result appears to have become 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.  This discussion will focus on where and how military, including naval, action might be best delivered in the framework of a response to illicit migration and a exponential growth in human smuggling.

4.  Drug Trafficking and the War on Drugs, 14 January 2016, 14:00, Geneva

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.

For more information, or to register for any of the discussion sessions, please contact:

Tuesday Reitano, Global Initiative: tuesday.reitano@globalinitiative.net

Sasha Jespersen, RUSI: sashaj@rusi.org