Global Challenges Facing Humanity

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12. How can transnational organized crime networks be stopped from becoming more powerful and sophisticated global enterprises?

The world is slowly waking up to the enormity of the threat of transnational organized crime, but it has not adopted a global strategy to counter it. In the absence of a strategy, TOC continues to grow. INTERPOL will open a Global Complex in Singapore in 2014 to serve as a center for policy, research, and worldwide operations. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime has called on all states to develop national strategies to counter TOC as a whole, which can provide input to the development and implementation of global strategy and coordination. Yet UNODC notes that states are not seriously implementing the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, which is the main international instrument to counter organized crime. UNODC, with other agencies, has founded the International Anti-Corruption Academy, near Vienna; one of its goals is to tackle the connection of TOC and corruption. That combination, allowing government decisions to be bought and sold like heroin, makes democracy an illusion. estimates the total black market in 91 of 196 countries in the world to be valued at $1.93 trillion. There is some double accounting in some of these numbers, but to share the scope of Havocsope’s estimates: corruption and bribery $1.6 trillion; money laundering $1.4 trillion; counterfeiting and intellectual property piracy $654 billion; global drug trade $411 billion; financial crimes $194 billion, environmental crimes $138 billion, human trafficking and prostitution $240 billion. These figures do not include extortion and data from 105 countries; hence, the total organized crime income could be over $3 trillion—about twice as big as all the military budgets in the world.

The UN Global Commission on Drug Policy concluded that the law enforcement of the “War on Drugs” has failed and cost the U.S. $2.5 trillion over 40 years. It recommends a “paradigm shift” to public health over criminalization. Even though there are an estimated 272 million drug users worldwide with 250,000 deaths annually, some people in international meetings in Latin America have said it is time to legalize drugs, considering the cost/benefit. It has become clear that anti-TOC capabilities must be part of any country’s development plan and fed by an on-going threat assessment system.
There are more slaves today than at the peak of the African slave trade. Estimates range from 12 million to 27 million people being held in slavery today, with the vast majority in Asia. ILO estimates that 20.9 million people are victims of human trafficking worldwide; UNFPA estimates about 4 million people trafficked per year, while UNODC states that 79% of trafficked people are for sexual exploitation.

The transition of much of the world’s activities to the Internet and mobile phones has opened up a wealth of opportunities for TOC to profitably expand its activities from drugs and human trafficking to all aspects of personal and business life. The online market in illegally obtained data and tools for committing data theft and other cybercrimes continues to grow, and criminal organizations are offering online hosting of illegal applications. The financial crisis and the bankruptcy of financial institutions have opened new infiltration routes for TOC crime. Interpol has noted the experts’ warning that the cost of cyber crime is larger than the combined costs of cocaine, marijuana, and heroin trafficking. International financial transfers via computers of $2 trillion per day make tempting targets for international cyber criminals. The International Carder’s Alliance, a confederation of online criminals, is based mostly in Eastern Europe, the heart of cybercrime, which the FBI estimates costs U.S. businesses and consumers billions annually in lost revenue.

It is time for an international campaign by all sectors of society to develop a global consensus for action against TOC. OECD’s Financial Action Task Force has made 40 good recommendations to counter money laundering, but these crimes continue unabated. Two conventions help bring some coherence to addressing TOC: the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, which came into force in 2003, and the Council of Europe’s Convention on Laundering, which came into force in May 2008. Possibly through an addition to one of these conventions or the International Criminal Court a financial prosecution system could be established as a new body to complement the related organizations addressing various parts of TOC. In cooperation with these organizations, the new system would identify and establish priorities on top criminals (defined by the amount of money laundered) to be prosecuted one at a time. It would prepare legal cases, identify suspects’ assets that can be frozen, establish the current location of the suspect, assess the local authorities’ ability to make an arrest, and send the case to one of a number of preselected courts. Such courts, like UN peacekeeping forces, could be identified before being called into action and trained, and then be ready for instant duty. When all these conditions are met, then all the orders would be executed at the same time to apprehend the criminal, freeze access to the assets, open the court case, and then proceed to the next TOC leader on the priority list. Prosecution would be outside the accused’s country. Although extradition is accepted by the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, a new protocol would be necessary for courts to be deputized like military forces for UN peacekeeping, via a lottery system among volunteer countries. After initial government funding, the system would receive its financial support from frozen assets of convicted criminals rather than depending on government contributions.

Challenge 12 will be seriously addressed when money laundering and crime income sources drop by 75% from their peak.

Regional Considerations

Africa: INTERPOL reopened its Regional Bureau in new premises in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, in July 2012 to focus on arms and drug trafficking, terrorism, human trafficking, and maritime piracy. ECOWAS is beginning to foster regional partnerships among West African governments to improve coordinated implementation of counter-crime strategies. The drug traffic from Latin America through the West African coast to Africa and Europe has grown by a factor of four in recent years; more than a third of the $800 million annual flow is consumed there. UNODC is helping Guinea-Bissau improve its internal anti-smuggling capabilities. Piracy is increasing against vessels off East and West Africa; of the world’s 439 attacks in 2011, some 275 occurred off Somalia and in the Gulf of Guinea. There were 168 attacks worldwide in the first half of 2012. A multinational naval force is combating the problem, which is complicated by the lack of clear international legal structures for prosecution and punishment and the lack of a strategy to address the root causes that led to the escalation of piracy. Some 930,000 sailors have signed a petition to the IMO to stop piracy. The unsettled future of Somalia and Yemen could leave the oil shipping lanes of the Arabian Sea bordered by two failed states. There are reports of males being trafficked from Kenya to the Gulf states as sex slaves. The 15 million AIDS orphans in sub-Saharan Africa, with few legal means to make a living, constitute a gigantic pool of new talent for the future of organized crime. Corruption remains a serious impediment to economic development in many African countries.

Asia and Oceania: ILO reports that 59% of human trafficking happens in Asia and the Middle East. China has 13% of the value of global illegal markets, the second largest in the world at $261 billion. Drug use is rising in Iran, which is spending $1 billion per year on countermeasures. The amount of opium produced in Afghanistan increased by 61%, from 3,600 tons in 2010 to 5,800 tons in 2011. UNODC estimates that the annual income to all those involved in the Afghan drug trade totals close to $3 billion, with the largest share going to the traffickers. China is the main source for counterfeit goods sent to the EU. The relative scarcity of females in China is leading to their being trafficked in from adjoining countries for marriage. India is a major producer of counterfeit medicines. North Korea is perceived as an organized crime state backed up by nuclear weapons involved in illegal trade in weapons, counterfeit currency, sex slavery, drugs, and a range of counterfeit items. Myanmar is accused of deporting migrants to Thailand and Malaysia, where they are exploited, and has reportedly become a center for the ivory trade and elephant smuggling. Myanmar and China remain the primary sources of amphetamine-type stimulants in Asia; Myanmar rebels are exporting hundreds of millions of tablets to Thailand to raise money. The Tri-Border Initiative protects the vital seaways between Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines against piracy. A report says Australia has a multi-billion-dollar drug enterprise, and Australians are among the world’s highest per capita consumers of illicit stimulants. There is a thriving illegal international trade in human organs bought from very poor people and sold to very rich ones. Large tracts of land in Fiji are believed to have been bought up by the Russian Mafia.

Europe: Europol has published a 2011 TOC Threat Assessment at, indicating greater TOC mobility, operational diversity, and internal collaboration, and the EC adopted the EU Strategy towards the Eradication of Trafficking in Human Beings 2012–2016. While trafficking in human beings generates profits of tens of billions of euros each year, the number of cases prosecuted in the EU decreased from 1,534 in 2008 to 1,144 in 2010. The UK’s Serious Organized Crime Agency Annual Plan 2012/13 stressing flexibility in its first national integrated strategy, Local to Global, but did not stress anticipation; however, it will create the National Crime Agency. Organized crime costs the UK £20-40 billion a year, and has 38,000 known individuals as part of 6,000 gangs. The EU has strengthened controls on money transfers across its borders to address trafficking and money laundering, especially in Eastern Europe. Russian officials have declared the drug situation in that country “apocalyptic.” Operation Pangea, involving 79 countries, led to the seizure in the UK of more than £2 million worth of fake drugs and the closing down of 13,000 Web sites selling them. Use of coke in Europe has peaked, possibly due to the recession.

Latin America: About 50,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence in Mexico since 2006 and 12,900 in the first nine months of 2011. Mexico’s cartels receive more money (an estimated $25–40 billion) from smuggling drugs to the U.S. than Mexico earns from oil exports. Mexican drug cartels are rapidly moving south, into Central America, and are branching out, with La Familia exporting $42 million worth of stolen iron ore from Michoacán in a year. UNODC says crime is the single largest issue impeding Central American stability. Colombia’s government passed a bill for decriminalizing the cultivation of “drug plants,” while drugs’ processing and trafficking remain criminal. This is part of Latin America’s strategy for curbing drug trafficking. Brazil has instituted a $2.2 billion plan to combat crack trafficking and abuse nationwide. The drug gangs have largely replaced the paramilitaries. Ecuador has become an important drug route, with its drug trade being controlled by foreign organizations. The “war on drugs” in Latin America is hindered by the lack of joint strategy among the governments of North and Latin America. The Caribbean has 27% of the world’s murders, including gang-related killings, with only 8.5% of world’s population.

North America: The U.S. has a third of the world’s illegal market value at $620.63 billion.
The International Organized Crime Intelligence and Operations Center integrates U.S. efforts to combat international organized crime and coordinates investigations and prosecutions. The 22-month anti-cross-border-drug Project Deliverance ended successfully in June 2010 after the arrest of 2,200 individuals and the seizure of more than 69 tons of marijuana, 2.5 tons of cocaine, 1,410 pounds of heroin, and $154 million in currency. Drug criminal gangs have swelled in the U.S. to an estimated 1 million members, responsible for up to 80% of crimes in communities across the nation. Organized crime and its relationship to terrorism should be treated as a national security threat. Canada continues as a major producer and shipper of methamphetamines and ecstasy. A nationwide poll found that 66% of Canadians support decriminalization of marijuana possession in small amounts, an idea also endorsed by some main political parties.
Value of countries’ illegal markets; 10 highest ranked countries and the rest of the world (billions, USD)


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