The failure of state-based approaches to organised crime has become increasingly apparent, particularly in contexts where the state is either complicit or turns a blind eye to criminality. Increasing attention has been placed on the potential for citizens and civil society to push back against organised crime networks and undermine the enabling environment of crime. It is significant, for example, that the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime is launching a Civil Society Resilience Fund to support such action.
Yet research has been scarce to date on the role actually played by citizens and civil society. The few projects so far have focused on the efforts of national and international CSOs, such as Libera in Italy (Cayli). There has been some research on non-state policing, especially in Africa and Latin America (Baker, Hills), but other societal responses within the most affected regions, including those facing crime-related violence, have by contrast been little studied.
This will change in 2019 as several projects on societal responses come to completion, and others are launched. The panel will showcase the results of research from some of those projects. Themes to be considered will include citizen roles in policing organised crime, whether in coordination with state agencies or independent of them; the role of religious organizations and of cultural movements in denouncing crime and corruption and in mitigating their effects; citizens’ use of legal channels in contexts where institutions are weak; social denial in the face of widespread crime-related violence within the most affected regions; and how states and NGOs can help citizens who struggle to organise due to conditions in those regions. Across these themes, speakers will consider whether and how the centralization of security policy observed in much of the world (Terpstra) is compatible with supporting effective roles for citizens and civil society.
Beyond the aim of understanding the role of individuals and organizations in countering organised crime, the panel aims to rethink the relation between state, society and organised crime. For example, how useful are concepts like “citizen participation” and “civil society” for understanding societal responses in these contexts? What does it mean to advocate “rule of law” in these contexts, and how might organizations operationalize the concept? Further, how applicable is the literature on peace-building to crime-afflicted contexts, and what can we learn about the relation between crime-related violence and conventional conflict?
Panellists will also be invited to reflect on methodologies for research in crime-afflicted areas, as well as to consider the ethical issues posed by working in such contexts.