Conflict, organized crime, extremism and terror, and corruption

Within most of our peace operations, we face security and justice institutions being incapacitated by conflict. Achieving peace and security requires establishing sustainable governance in a community, nation, and State. 

Whilst we do base our mandate implementation on the understanding of a specific local context and regional dimensions, we also acknowledge that every local or regional conflict is tied into a global context. It is important to better understand the global drivers of conflict, interconnected to each and any peace operation, a knowledge with which we can establish better foundations for achieving progress on the road towards sustainable peace and security. This includes an in-depth understanding of the level of collaboration of transnational organised crime with extremists and terrorists, on a fertile soil of corruption, including global, regional, and local, schemes of their operations.

Within the UN Secretary General’s key priorities, promoting a safer and more secure world features prominently. Ban Ki Moon calls on enhancing coherence and scale up counter-terrorism efforts, and addressing the heightened threat of organised crime, piracy and drug trafficking. The collaboration between transnational organised crime and extremism and terrorism is undermining legitimacy of governance in the interest of some, and against fundamental and inalienable human and individual rights of all. The collaboration between organised crime and forms of extremism and terror is more than a local or regional phenomenon, and it needs to be much better understood, on all levels, global, regional, and local.

New dimensions of violence, such as seen within horrible and seemingly senseless actions of “Islamic State IS”, “Boko Haram”, and others, have rekindled international outrage. Within organised crime however, organised crime groups such as, for example, “Los Zetas” in Mexico, or Central America’s criminal groups named “Maras”, are by no means different. All are united in their ideology and politics of establishing power and total influence. These organisations are unified in applying the sheerest form of evil: The utter absence of any respect for humanity. Behind horrible and seemingly senseless violence there is an emerging business model which connects all of them: The establishment of power including through a threat of horror. Homicide ratios per capita in some States affected by transnational organised crime go far beyond a ratio threshold that would indicate the existence a war-, conflict- or post-conflict-zone, such as the places where our peace operations are deployed.

Contemporary scholars and experts discuss which side, organised crime or terror, has adopted this strategy of reigning through massive violence from the other. Or, may be, there is just coincidence in its (re)emergence. However, we should consider that others might adopt similar strategies, and we shall not make a mistake by believing there is only similarity in the strategic application of evil: The business model of both transnational organised crime and terror is the same, in radically attacking all forms of governance that go counter to their own goal. The message is: If you are not with us, we will kill you, torture your loved ones, and we will do it without a blink of the eye.

Secondly, there is indication for a global collaboration between transnational organised crime and terror. Global interests of, for example, the South-American narco-cartels; regional African interests of groups facilitating trafficking in narcotics, weapons and human beings and illegal immigration; and interests of any form of violent extremism and terrorism meet where we deploy peacekeepers. The interests of such groups run counter to any governance, and our assistance to establishing it. We inflict on their goals. More recently, peacekeepers have come increasingly under direct attack because of our mandate to assist in restoring governance, peace, and security. In Mali alone, we have lost twenty-three peacekeepers since the end of June by the time of this writing. In short, looking at the reasons for this, we should not limit ourselves to looking at extremism and terror, alone.

It is important to take into account that the systematic application of seemingly senseless violence is one strategy, a very effective one, for creating antagonism and hatred, beyond fear. Newly emerging violent patterns of organised crime and terror do not only aim to mute, or to retaliate. Rather, violence is a tool supporting the feeding ground on which they thrive, and grow. 

Enforcement action needs to be embedded into a profound and comprehensive strategy on a higher level: (1) To understand better the context of complex collaboration between organised crime and terror; (2) To be placed into an overarching strategy, within and beyond individual peace operations, so to avoid the antagonisation which is intended by the other side, and which will include a significant risk of us getting weaker and them getting stronger. (3) We need to find innovative ways to return to the sentence with which I began: We face security and justice institutions being incapacitated by conflict. Understanding the drivers of conflict better will allow us to calibrate what needs to be done to reduce the threats these institutions face from organised crime and terror.

One thought on “Conflict, organized crime, extremism and terror, and corruption

  1. Pingback: UN Police, International Crime and Terrorism | Stefan Feller

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