Unlike much of the existing literature on organised crime, this book is less focused on the problem per se as it is on understanding its implications. The latter, especially in fragile and conflict regions, amount to strategic challenges for the state. Whereas most commentators would agree that criminal activities are harmful, this volume addresses the questions of ‘how?’, ‘for whom?’ and, controversially, ‘are they always harmful?’

In a collaboration by five Global Initiative Network Members, this Palgrave book edited by Virginia Comolli examines contemporary organised crime threats, and how they need to be handled by policymakers keen to limit the harm of illicit markets.

In the opening chapter, Vanda Felbab-Brown, The threat of illicit economies and the complex relations with state and society, introduces the multifaceted threat posed by illicit economies and repercussions in the political, economic, environmental and security spheres.  It discusses the relationship between the state and criminal entities, highlighting the ways in which this relationship can be far from antagonistic.  It explores the relationship between society and crime, suggesting that large populations around the world in areas with inadequate or problematic state presence, great poverty, and social and political marginalisation are dependent on illicit economies for economic survival and the satisfaction of other socio-economic needs.  In this context criminal and belligerent actors become providers of public goods.

The second chapter, by Tuesday ReitanoOrganized crime as a threat to sustainable development: understanding the evidence, highlights the main arguments for a development response to organised crime, to mitigating its impact on vulnerable communities and the integrity of the state, and to building long-term resilience to counter organised crime in the future.  Specifically, it discussed the evidence base of organised crime’s impact vis-a-vis four core development areas: health and wellbeing; violence and conflict; governance and the rule of law; livelihoods and the environment.

The third chapter, by Camino Kavanagh, IT and cyber-capabilities as a force multiplier for transnational crime, provides an historical overview of the evolution of criminal use of IT capabilities as a force multiplier, highlighting a number of emblematic cases.  It then assesses the more recent uses of IT and cyber capabilities, while the third asses the strategic and policy implications of transnational crime’s use of these capabilities.

The fourth chapter, by Karl LallerstedtMeasuring illicit trade and its wider impact, reviews the broad and varied collection of phenomena requiring a broad palette of coordinated policy responses.  But unlike the threat of terrorism, which produces highly visible incidents, most of the times illicit trade remains below the surface, impeding the mobilisation of the pre-requisite political will to address the threat.  These challenges underline the need for better data to quantify and assess the impact of illicit trade, in order to empower policymakers to respond more effectively.

In the final two chapters, Tuesday and Vanda explore the practical implications for the response.  It challenges the doctrinaire law enforcement approaches and the traditional thinking of crime solely as an aberrant social activity to be suppressed.  Instead it proposes the way that development initiatives should be considered in response to transnational organised crime, including the means in which they should be measured, and how an integrated approach should be conceived and implemented.

The book is available in hardback and electronic versions, with individual chapters available for purchase from Palgrave.

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Virginia Comolli

Virginia Comolli is a Research Fellow at The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in London. Here she runs the Security and Development programme analysing complex forms of insecurity afflicting the developing world and paying special attention to the role of non-state armed groups. She had joined the Institute in 2006 as part of the Military Balance team conducting research on Sub-Saharan Africa. She then spent seven years with the Transnational Threats and Political Risk programme working on a variety of security issues including transnational organized crime, international terrorism, radicalization and violent extremism, and conflict. In this capacity she was seconded to the UK Ministry of Justice as an expert analyst in the International Directorate. Virginia is currently a Project Associate for the International Drug Policy Project at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and a Technical Advisor to the Global Drug Policy Observatory at Swansea University. In addition, she is a Member of the European Expert Network on Terrorism Issues (EENeT) and is on the international advisory board of the African Centre for Peace Building (AFCOPB), Accra. Previously she had worked for the intelligence units of a private security company and a strategic intelligence firm. Virginia regularly speaks at conferences internationally and briefs senior politicians and corporate clients as well as military and academic audiences. 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 at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth (UK).

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Vanda Felbab-Brown

Vanda Felbab-Brown is a senior fellow in the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence in the Foreign Policy program at Brookings. She is an expert on international and internal conflicts and nontraditional security threats, including insurgency, organized crime, urban violence and illicit economies. Her fieldwork and research have covered, among others, Afghanistan, South Asia, Burma, Indonesia, the Andean region, Mexico, Morocco, Somalia, and eastern Africa. Felbab-Brown is the author of “Aspiration and Ambivalence: Strategies and Realities of Counterinsurgency and State-Building in Afghanistan” (Brookings Institution Press, 2012) and “Shooting Up: Counterinsurgency and the War on Drugs” (Brookings Institution Press, 2010) which examines military conflict and illegal economies in Colombia, Peru, Afghanistan, Burma, Northern Ireland, India, and Turkey. She is also the author of numerous policy reports, academic articles, and opinion pieces. A frequent commentator in U.S. and international media, Felbab-Brown regularly provides congressional testimony on these issues.

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Karl Lallerstedt

Karl Lallerstedt is senior advisor for security policy at the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise. He is also the co-founder of Black Market Watch and member of the OECD Task Force on Countering Illicit Trade. Formerly Karl was the anti-illicit trade strategy director at a leading multinational corporation, steering committee member of the International Chamber of Commerce’s Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy (BASCAP), and a political and economic analyst for the Department of State, Oxford Analytica and the Economist Intelligence Unit.

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Tuesday Reitano

Tuesday Reitano is Deputy Director at the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime and a senior research advisor at the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria, where she leads the ENACT programme on behalf of the GI. Tuesday was formerly the director of CT MORSE, an independent policy and monitoring unit for the EU’s programmes in counter-terrorism, and for 12 years was a policy specialist in the UN System, including with the UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Development Group (UNDG) and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). In this time, she has amassed a wealth of experience in fragile states and development working both with states, civil society and at the community level to strengthen resilience to transnational threats, promote sustainable development and the rule of law. Tuesday has authored a number of policy orientated and academic reports with leading institutions such as the UN, World Bank and OECD on topics ranging from organized crime’s evolution and impact in Africa, on human smuggling, illicit financial flows, and the nexus between crime, terrorism, security and development. Tuesday is the lead author of a forthcoming OECD flagship publication: Illicit Financial Flows: Criminal Economies in West Africa, co-author of Migrant, Refugee; Smuggler, Saviour, a book published in 2016 by Hurst on the role of smugglers in Europe’s migration crisis, and the editor of Militarised Responses to Organised Crime: War on Crime, published by Palgrave in 2017. She holds three Masters Degrees in Business Administration (MBA), Public Administration (MPA) and an MSc in Security, Conflict and International Development (MSc). Tuesday is based in Geneva, Switzerland, with her family.

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