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Global Organized Crime Index 2023 - A Fractured World

Contents – Global Organized Crime Index 2023 (ocindex.net)

Amid global developments and challenges, including the long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and the rapid advancement of technology, the world is now at a critical juncture. Following global vaccination campaigns, countries reopened as the urgency of tackling COVID-19 began to wane – cross-border trade and travel have gradually resumed to pre-pandemic levels, and social interactions are once again prioritized. Yet despite having collectively weathered the global health crisis, the world seems to have emerged more fractured than ever before.

While the pandemic exacerbated certain conditions, including growing inequality, food insecurity and a decline in livelihood opportunities, political-economic tensions and social grievances that had been sidelined to deal with the immediate health emergency have resurfaced with vigour. Conflict and instability, while often occurring in response to political moves, have had a knock-on effect on other aspects of the global ecosystem, from migration patterns to food supplies and extreme climate events. These developments have tested geopolitical alliances, highlighted the divide between democracy and autocracy, and accentuated the unequal distribution of resources and opportunities between developing and developed countries. Major political shifts and economic hardship have not only tangibly affected nearly all aspects of our daily lives, but have also fed directly into organized crime dynamics around the world as criminal interests take advantage of instability, vulnerability and commodity shortages.

In 2021, the Global Organized Crime Index was introduced to assess levels of organized crime and the strength of countries’ resilience to address the criminal threats they face. As the first tool of its kind, it offered a snapshot of these dynamics amid the circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Two years on, this second iteration of the Index has been expanded in scope and, for the first time, offers longitudinal data on criminality and resilience patterns for all 193 UN member states by comparing the results of the current Index with those of 2021. While the pandemic set the theme for the first iteration of the Index, this year’s results are presented against a backdrop of conflict and political divide, characterized by open wars in Europe, Africa and Asia, large-scale corruption scandals in Latin America and elsewhere, and strained relationships between global superpowers.

Drawing on a more comprehensive dataset and informed by the specialist knowledge of over 400 experts worldwide, the results of the 2023 Index offer a complex picture of the trajectory of organized crime, underscoring the intricacies in measuring this clandestine phenomenon.

Illicit economies adapt to their environment and take on different forms. To better capture these different manifestations of organized crime, additional criminality indicators have been incorporated into this latest version of the Index. Now assessing 15 criminal markets and five criminal actor types, the widened lens of the 2023 Index offers a more comprehensive picture of how organized crime operates globally. The broader scope yields some interesting insights. For instance, while human trafficking was identified as the most prevalent criminal market in 2021, with the addition of the new indicators, the results show financial crimes to be the most pervasive illicit economy in the world, highlighting the menacingly lucrative nature of organized crime. While the methodological and structural changes to the Index have certainly played into human trafficking taking second place among the criminal markets, qualitative data collected for this edition suggests that financial crimes have increased in scope over the past years.

Yet, in many ways, this year’s Index reaffirms certain dynamics. For example, state involvement in criminality remains the most pervasive force in driving organized crime. This is particularly the case in authoritarian states. The Index also highlights once again how the space for civil society is shrinking, not least for non-governmental organizations and human rights defenders trying to shine a light on organized crime and corruption. Heavy-handed crackdowns on civil society in many countries are heightening social discontent and distrust in governments, which, in some cases, are being exploited by criminal actors as opportunities to gain legitimacy. Criminal actors are also taking advantage of the disruption presented by conflict situations. This comes against the finding that all criminal actors covered under the previous iteration of the Index increased their potency. At the same time, data shows that regions that have previously come out as more resilient are showing increased vulnerability to organized crime, and especially financial and cyber-dependent criminality.

As the world becomes more divided along social, economic and political lines, organized crime levels are simultaneously rising. These rifts are partly a function of our increasingly interconnected world, where information and disinformation are widely disseminated and easily promoted. And, unfortunately, resilience efforts have failed to keep in pace with the challenges. Today, no less than 83% of the global population live in countries with high levels of criminality – up from 79% in 2021.

Despite the growing pervasiveness of organized crime on a global scale, there have been improvements in some regions. For example, overall criminality was shown to have declined in a number of regions, including Eastern and Central Asia, and West and Central Africa. The 2023 Index also highlights ‘international cooperation’ as having increased the most among resilience measures since the first version of the tool. How countries work with one another in tackling organized crime and whom they choose to cooperate with, however, seem to fall along existing geopolitical, social and economic fault lines. In that respect, addressing the rifts that set them apart would certainly go a long way in improving anti-organized crime responses.

As a first step in prioritizing a framework for future collaboration, this report sets out the results of the 2023 Global Organized Crime Index. The data for this Index covers 2022, a year in which major geopolitical and economic divisions were sewn into the world’s social fabric against the backdrop of critical health, security and environmental crises. The analysis in this report conclusively shows that, although there have been some steps taken towards improving resilience, the future holds significant challenges related to the wide-ranging impact of organized crime. Organized crime remains a major risk to human security, development and justice, and serves as a significant obstacle in addressing the challenges we collectively face.

Although there will inevitably continue to be knowledge gaps on organized crime, the Index lays the groundwork on which to build further analysis, supplementing current research endeavours so as to better equip policymakers and other stakeholders with the tools they need to implement tailored and effective responses to organized crime. While the Index is an informative tool, its true value lies beyond the data and in how it can contribute to a global discourse on the evolving nature of organized crime and ways of strengthening resilience.

Извор: WUNRN – 01.10.2023




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