Evidence gaps and questions for future research

The evidence presented in this Topic Guide shows (1) that organised crime is a highly complex and dynamic economic, political and social phenomenon that comes in many different guises and is spreading across the globe; and (2) that organised crime affects a number of both low- and middle-income countries and fragile states in particularly serious ways. Public awareness of the challenges and threats posed by organised crime for the security of citizens and states and inclusive and sustainable development is growing, including among the international development community. This is reflected in the inclusion of organised crime on the SDG agenda and the work conducted by new global expert and practitioner networks, such as the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime. Our knowledge about organised crime, including in low- and middle-income countries, is today quite advanced, and the body of research on different aspects of organised crime is growing. Further, the networking capacity in the organised crime research community across the globe has increased in recent years.

However, a number of areas need more research attention to strengthen our capacity to reduce the negative impacts of organised crime on development. Here, it is important to reiterate the point made earlier that research on organised crime is inherently challenging. Access to reliable data is limited and we lack robust evaluations of the impact of counter-crime programmes. This is the case for conventional law enforcement action and for crime-sensitive interventions by development actors in the fields of strengthening governance, the rule of law and human rights in crime-permeated settings and fragile states.

The following list of questions for consideration in future research is therefore not exhaustive. It focuses on issues crucial for the design and implementation of integrated approaches to countering and mitigating the impact of organised crime on development processes.

  • How can we evaluate the impact of conventional, law enforcement-focused counter-crime interventions in low- and middle-income countries and in fragile states?
  • How can we measure organised crime’s multiple impacts on development in both low- and middle-income countries?
  • When integrated development interventions aim to reduce the harm caused by organised crime, and to tackle the problem’s transnational and international dimensions, what should they prioritise? How can such interventions be linked to other, more conventional, governance, rule of law and development programmes? How can trade-offs between law enforcement/security imperatives and human development goals be minimised?
  • How can we strengthen attention to gender issues in the analysis of organised crime and in the design of programmes to reduce its negative effects on development?
  • What issues should be prioritised to strengthen the knowledge base on the relationship between organised crime and state fragility?
  • How can we systematically link the emerging research agenda on political settlements and development with that of protection economies and the wider political economy of organised crime?