Towards integrated approaches?

Accepting that conventional law enforcement and security approaches to tackling organised crime are insufficient (and at times also unrealistic and counterproductive) and recognising that the evidence shows that such approaches can have unintended consequences, such as promoting violence and deepening poverty, a question arises as to the alternative. Some development actors are moving towards integrated approaches, which address organised crime as a complex matter and aim to combine law enforcement and security with diplomatic and development actions. The basic idea is that law enforcement, justice and security interventions are used as discrete tools in a broader effort to limit the harm caused by organised criminal activities in developing countries. This point is driven home by Ellis and Shaw, who argue with respect to contemporary Africa (though this also applies to some countries in Asia and Latin America), that ‘understanding the meaning in African contexts of the type of large-scale, political-criminal entrepreneurship that we have evoked will increasingly drive both internal and external policy discussions […]. What is clear […] is that law enforcement interventions alone will do little to make a difference’ (Ellis & Shaw, 2015, p. 528).

While the development of alternative approaches remains a work in progress, three key issues are pertinent.

First, we need to determine whether development programming in crime-permeated settings should be geared towards supporting law enforcement/security efforts to contain and/or prevent the emergence and spread of organised crime; or whether programming should prioritise protecting development processes from the negative effects of organised crime.

Second, what types of development programmes should be prioritised as part of an integrated approach? The big challenge here is that organised crime is today such a far-reaching, encompassing and multifaceted phenomenon. It transcends the boundaries of national jurisdictions, is globally networked and has economic, political, social and (human) security implications. In all likelihood, international development actors would need to review basic operating procedures, tools and mandates to acquire the capability to design and implement effective programmes in organised crime-permeated development settings. In this regard, Ellis and Shaw suggest that the ‘key function of development interventions must be to change the incentive structures’ that underpin the illegal-criminal protection economies in developing countries. ‘Indeed’, the authors conclude, ‘this may be all that development interventions are able to do’ (Ellis & Shaw, 2015, p. 528).

Third, there are strategic trade-offs involved in an integrated development response to organised crime. Perhaps the most obvious one is the diverging aims and interests of development and law enforcement/security actors, as witnessed in armed/post-conflict settings like Afghanistan, Haiti and Iraq. There is no reason to believe that these tensions would not also boil up in the context of integrated interventions in organised crime-permeated settings (which are often also affected by armed conflict or locked into complex and uncertain war-to-peace transitions). Moreover, introducing a strategic focus on organised crime, while certainly important in many developing countries, would not be entirely congruent with the SDGs. Crime-sensitive development actors would have to increase their efforts significantly to build a strong coalition of international development agencies to pursue this cause. Yet, it is not clear who would be the developing country counterparts who would cooperate with international development agencies on organised crime issues. Neither is it clear whether high-income countries would be prepared to reform their banking and foreign trade sectors, as well as global governance mechanisms such as the UN-administered international drug control regime, which are inadvertently boosting organised crime around the globe (see, for instance, Bewley-Taylor, 2005).