Responding to serious organised crime

International Alert recently published a report entitled Tell it like it is on the potential role of civil society in tackling organised crime in west Africa.

The challenges posed by serious organised crime in the region are significant and wide ranging, with the array of consequences threatening to reverse decades’ worth of democratic and development gains.

Our assessment is offered in preparation for a potential increase in support mechanisms, which it is hoped will rebalance the breadth of international and regional responses to organised crime towards more inclusive and strategic approaches that embrace citizens’ involvement.

The report presents a rapid assessment of initiatives and recommendations in Abuja (Nigeria), Accra (Ghana) and Bamako (Mali). In these areas, we identify a range of primarily nascent types of civil society activity that reflect four globally recognised essential functions of civil society: as an advocate representing the interests of its constituencies; in service delivery in education, health and other sectors; as a partner with government in development planning; and as a watchdog over government.

A key recommendation from the report is that citizens need to be proactively engaged in a broad range of responses, including not only the socio-economic environment, but also in relation to good governance, criminal justice and crime disruption.

It suggests that partner support to civil society facing high levels of, or the threat of deepening, organised crime may wish to adopt a two-tier approach: firstly, identifying explicit initiatives to tackle different forms of organised crime at different levels; and, secondly, expanding commitments across the wider spectrum of relevant sectors.

Earlier this month, the author Jessica Banfield presented the report at a two-day conference entitled ‘Development responses to organised crime: New agendas, new opportunities’, organised by the UK Department for International Development and The Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime in London from 14–15 October 2015.

The main objectives of the meeting were to assess how organised crime can be addressed through development interventions and identify remaining gaps in how to advance conversations about measuring the impact organised crime has on development. The report therefore offered an important basis for further discussion among the participants.

You can read the full report here.