States of Fragility: Organized crime as a driver of fragility

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I was pleased to serve as a respondent for the launch of the OECD’s 2015 “States of Fragility Report 2015” this month in Paris.  This was the latest iteration of the Fragile States Reports that the OECD has been publishing for the last ten years, and which provided the interesting but controversial “Fragile States List,” which ranked countries and economies in fragility and conflict.

This year, the OECD had made a significant departure from their usual methodology, which, instead of putting forward one unified list, has moved towards a more multi-dimensional framework for fragility, over five metrics: violence, justice, institutions, economic foundations, and resilience.  Countries are thus classified on how they rank depending on two or more of these metrics, which has brought a number of new players into the fragility debate.Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 14.02.30

The Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime was asked to serve as the civil society respondent on the launch panel, as it was recognised that the new framework has made the analysis much more sensitive to the detrimental impact of organised crime on government and development.

What the States of Fragility Report 2015 has made clear, is that income is no predictor of fragility.  Transnational threats such as organized crime and terrorism have served as a leveller across states, affecting high income, middle income and lower income states equally.  Transnational organized crime also ties states together, demanding shared responses and shared responsibility to control the flows and mitigate the impact.

The report clearly demarcate the shift of issues like organized crime and terrorism from a “hard security” space, into the domain of development.  As the Global Initiative input report to the post-2015 agenda, “Organized Crime as Cross-Cutting Threat to Sustainable Development,” concluded, organized crime is increasingly being recognised as both having development roots, and requiring development solutions.

Despite being called the “States of Fragility” report, in fact this publication also highlights the need to take a less state-centric approach and instead to ensure analysis is developed both on a regional level, but also at a community level.  Poverty, inequality and fragility are not experienced equally across a state, and marginalisation of certain groups creates the foundation for criminal networks, insurgent and terrorist movements to take root and flourish.  Localised instability spreads both national and regionally, and has significant corrosive effects.

The Niger Delta conflict is a pertinent example: the conflict arose out of resource diversion by corrupt state institutions, and widespread oil theft was a result.  The entrenchment of criminal networks to facilitate bunkering, and sophisticated corruption and protection networks have developed around the trade.  These networks have solidified into entrenched and protracted criminality, both on land, but also at sea.  The rising incidences of armed robbery and piracy in the Gulf of Guinea is largely attributed to the failure to regulate the illicit oil economy.

All of these observations suggest that it is time to rethink the way that official development assistance (ODA) is being delivered.  Again, the case of Nigeria is striking: despite having a GDP of $522 billion, the populous nation has been on the OECD fragile states list every year since its inception, and some key development indicators are moving in the wrong direction.  The country is the highest recipient of ODA globally, yet aid represents less than 0.5% of GDP, and pales in comparison to the estimated $2-3 billion that the country loses each year due to oil theft and there has been little apparent political will to address the problem.  Are OECD countries using their development investments well to leverage gains in development, institutional capacity building, community resilience, human rights and the rule of law?

One area where ODA could potentially be better leveraged, and an area which the States of Fragility notes is under-resourced, are those initiatives which help build state legitimacy, strengthening bonds between citizens and the state.  Regime changes – both constitutional and unconstitutional – have proven themselves both a point of opportunity and of vulnerability.  Funding electoral processes makes political integrity susceptible to the influence of illicit funding and the penetration of criminal networks.  But elections also offer an opportunity to create new compacts between government and the population.  Studies have shown this is less about social service delivery, but particularly in highly fragile contexts, the provision of livelihoods and security are key to communities.

As an identified multi-dimensional driver of fragility across all of the categories featured in the new analytical framework for the States of Fragility, could organized crime be the theme of next year’s report?


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