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How Globalization Affects Transnational Crime

Interviewer: Stewart M. Patrick, Senior Fellow and Director of the International Institutions and Global Governance Program, Council on Foreign Relations
Interviewee: Phil Williams, Director of the Matthew B. Ridgway Center for International Security Studies, University of Pittsburgh
May 30, 2012

As world leaders increasingly debate drug legalization, CFR's Stewart Patrick and Phil Williams of the University of Pittsburgh discuss the explosion of transnational crime in a globalized world:

  • "Transnational criminals have been one of the biggest beneficiaries of globalization," Williams says. Globalization facilitates international trade but also increases the difficulty of regulating global trade, he says; traffickers and smugglers have exploited this. Williams adds that globalization has increased inequality around the globe, and that "its disruptive effect has actually caused people to have to go into organized crime and operate in illicit markets as coping mechanisms."
  • The global financial system has undergone widespread deregulation since the 1970s, allowing illicit actors to launder the proceeds of crime more easily, Williams says. "We've got some reregulation to try to deal with money laundering … but it's not particularly effective," he adds.
  • Terrorists, insurgents, and warlords all rely on illegal activities as a funding mechanism, says Williams. "Sometimes, when they engage in a criminal activity, they come into contact with criminal organizations, but for the most part, the direct group-to-group link is not that important. It's just a market activity or a supplier relationship," he notes, disputing the idea of a "crime-terror nexus."
  • "There's no single model of a criminal organization," Williams says. The conventional wisdom that criminal networks have abandoned their hierarchical structure, he says, obscures the fact that criminals adopt myriad distinct structures depending on their circumstances--and some of them remain hierarchical.
  • Illicit networks are challenging to states because states are militarily and diplomatically organized to deal with other states. Governments around the world "have found it very hard to adapt to non-state or sovereignty-free actors," Williams says.

This video is part of The Internationalist, a series dedicated to in-depth discussions about leveraging multilateral cooperation to meet today's transnational challenges.


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