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JusTRAC+ Virtual Symposium Series: Transnational Organized Crime, Rule of Law, and Corruption

Corruption and transnational organized crime are inextricably linked worldwide. Both undermine licit economies, accountable governing, and democratic norms.  They enable and reinforce one another, sustaining and expanding criminal and extremist networks. Together, they impose massive economic, political, social, and human costs and impede development goals across every aspect of human endeavor. The dynamics, causes, and impacts of corruption and organized crime are many and too often poorly understood.

Both organized criminal activity and corruption corrode the rule of law as a democratic norm and the functioning of the institutions that support it. The harms caused by corruption and organized crime are transnational, enduring, and profound. Yet, as both seek to exist and transact away from scrutiny, deliberately hidden in remote borderlands, dark corners of the worldwide web, or proudly secretive jurisdictions, they are threats too readily overlooked.  

To aid the USG Justice Reform workforce to better meet these self-obscuring, mutually reinforcing threats, the JUSTRAC+ program organized a Symposium Series focused on new tools, practices, and programs at the intersection of rule of law, anticorruption, and transnational organized crime. The Symposium Series on Transnational Organized Crime, Rule of Law, and Corruption included at least three separate events.

Event #1

United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime - New Analytical Framework

Thursday, January 28, 2021
9:15 - 10:45 AM (US Eastern)

The first event featured work by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) on its new analytical framework to disaggregate organized criminal activity.  UNDOC unpacks the “who” and the “what” of organized crime, dividing the concept into five dimensions: state response, enablers, OC activities, organized criminal groups (OCGs), and economic value of illicit markets of organized crime.

Event #2

United States Agency for International Development - Strengthening Rule of Law Approaches to Address Transnational Organized Crime

Thursday, March 4, 2021
9:15 AM - 11:00 AM (US Eastern)

The event featured a presentation by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) on the results of a two-and-a-half-year analytical effort to strengthen rule of law approaches to address organized crime. USAID will introduce and discuss its Technical Guidance on the Development Response to Organized Crime. This guidance document is the culmination of a comprehensive effort that started with five roundtable discussions involving interagency partners, external experts, civil society organizations, and the private sector. The roundtables examined the following topics: 

  • Rule of law capacity issues, consequences of criminal justice responses to organized crime, and complicity of criminal justice actors and senior leaders 

  • Government complicity in organized crime, including criminal justice actors and senior leaders 

  • The role social norms play in compliance with the law, organized crime, and corruption 

  • The phenomenon of convergence in criminal markets and its relevance for USG programmatic responses; and 

  • The role of the private sector in countering organized crime by promoting crime-free supply chains, crime-sensitive business, practices, and alternative livelihoods in crime-affected areas; also covered were the forces shaping private sector engagement, including rule-of-law approaches such as legislation and enforcement

Building on the roundtables, the USAID team reviewed work in three missions: the Asia Regional Development, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Guatemala Missions. Drawing on the roundtables and corresponding white papers, the case studies, a catalog of USAID programming and corresponding documents, key informant interviews, and a broader literature review, USAID identified lessons learned from programming addressing various forms of organized crime (e.g., illicit trafficking in people, wildlife and minerals) and/or addressing the overall operating environment in contexts with organized crime (e.g., anti-corruption; rule of law; elections; peace and security.  It also considered whether lessons from one programmatic area might be relevant to other types of programming and the extent to which different programming to address organized crime and/or the enabling environment are/could be coordinated.

Event #3

American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative - A Toolkit for Countering Corruption-Enabled Transnational Organized Crime

Tuesday, March 23, 2021
9:30 AM - 11:00 AM (US Eastern)

This event introduced an interactive Toolkit developed by the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI). The Toolkit focuses on transnational organized crime enabled by corruption, and it includes an introductory video, a Practice Note, and accompanying Annexes. The Practice Note explores the multifaceted challenge of corruption-enabled transnational organized crime by exploring Foundational Knowledge; Diagnosis and Assessment; Program Design and Implementation; and Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning. The Practice Note also includes practical guidance for practitioners and USG program officers seeking to combat corruption-enabled transnational crime with a focus on associated illicit financial flows.

Featured speakers and presenters included:

  • Greg Gisvold, Senior Fellow, Rule of Law Collaborative, University of South Carolina  
  • Shawna Wilson, Division Chief – Continuing Education and Training, Office of Knowledge Management, Department of State, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs 
  • Scott Carlson, Senior Director for Programs and Strategic Initiatives, American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative  
  • Mary Greer, Senior Criminal Law Advisor, American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative 
  • Matthew Murray, Consultant, American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative 
  • Peter Ritchie, Consultant, American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative