The Global Initiative Network

Expert, GI-TOC staff member

Virginia Comolli

Head of Pacific Programme, Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime

As  of January 2023 Virginia is responsible for  GI-TOC’s new portfolio in the Pacific (Oceania) which consists of research and analytical outputs (including as part of the Global Organized Crime Index), as well as on-the-ground engagement with local and international stakeholders. A key focus of this work is the mapping of foreign criminal actors active in Pacific island countries.

She had joined the GI-TOC in 2020, initially as the Research Manager for the ‘Anticipating and Disrupting Environmental Crime in the Globalized Economy’ programme,  conducting, commissioning and managing original research on environmental crime and illicit financial flows relating to environmental commodities in Africa and Asia. She was then appointed Senior Expert within the Asia Pacific Observatory conducting research on, among others, child sexual exploitation and abuse in Mekong countries, and spearheading GI-TOC’s expansion into the South Pacific.

Prior to GI-TOC, she had spent 14 years with The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in London, most recently as head of the Conflict, Security and Development programme. During her time there she has worked on organized crime, violent extremism, conflict, insurgency and how these phenomena intersect. She maintained a special focus on West Africa and the Sahel and, to a lesser extent, Latin America and parts of South Asia– all regions in which she conducted field research.

Additional experience includes a secondment to the UK Ministry of Justice and working for the intelligence unit of a private security firm and with a strategic intelligence company. She is also a former Special Police Constable.

Virginia sits on the advisory board of Independent Conflict Research & Analysis (ICRA),  she is a steering committee member of the charity Football for Peace,  and is a Participant of the International Military Council on Climate and Security (IMCCS).

Virginia has spoken at conferences internationally and briefed senior politicians and corporate clients as well as law enforcement, military and academic audiences, and the media. She holds a First Class Honours degree in War Studies and American Studies from the University of Wolverhampton (UK) and a Master’s degree in Intelligence and Strategic Studies from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth (UK).

  • Virginia Comolli,  Strengthening law enforcement networks in the South Pacific (GI-TOC,  October 2022)
  • Virginia Comolli and Alastair MacBeath, ‘Special Section Introduction: Exploring the Nexus between Human Vulnerabilities and Environmental Crime’, Journal of Illicit Economies and Development, 4(1) 2022, pp.1–7. DOI: Comolli, An end to plastic pollution? (GI-TOC, March 2022)
  • Virginia Comolli, ‘Organized crime during and after the pandemic’ in Caroline Varin (eds.), Global Security in Times of Covid-19. Brave New World? (Palgrave Macmillan, 2021)
  • Virginia Comolli, Plastic for profit: Tracing illicit plastic waste flows, supply chains and actors (GI-TOC, November 2021),
  • Virginia Comolli and Natasha Rose, China’s New silk Road: Navigating the organized crime risk (GI-TOC, May 2021),
  • Virginia Comolli and Francesca Grandi (eds.), The Armed Conflict Survey 2020 (Oxon: Routledge, 2020)
  • Virginia Comolli, ‘Niger: Curtailing migration has unintended consequences’, The Africa Report, 1 November 2019
  • Virginia Comolli, ‘Urban Warfare: Stabilisation of Cities’ in Victor Gervais and Saskia van Genugten (eds.), Stabilising the Contemporary Middle East and North Africa (London: Palgrave 2019)
  • Virginia Comolli, ‘West Africa and the Sahel’ in ASPI, Counter Terrorism Yearbook 2019 (Australian Strategic Policy Institute, 2019)
  • Virginia Comolli, ‘Boko Haram: Indigeneity, Internationalism, and Insurgency’ in A. Carl LeVan and Patrick Ukata (eds.), Oxford Handbook of Nigerian Politics (Oxford University Press, 2018)
  • Virginia Comolli (ed.) Organized Crime and Illicit Trade: How to Respond to This Strategic Challenge in Old and New Domains (London: Palgrave, 2018)
  • Virginia Comolli, Assessing the Impact of Illegal Trafficking on Violent Conflict, Background Paper for UN-WB Flagship Study Pathways for Peace: Inclusive Approaches to Preventing Violent Conflict (2017)
  • Virginia Comolli, Boko Haram: Nigeria’s Islamist Insurgency(London: Hurst Publishers, 2015)
  • Virginia Comolli and Claudia Hofmann, ‘Drug Markets, Security and Foreign Aid’, Modernising Drug Law Enforcement, Report 6, (London: IDPC, Chatham House, IISS, 2013)
  • Nigel Inkster and Virginia Comolli, Drugs, insecurity and failed states: The problems of prohibition(Oxon: Routledge, 2012)

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