Good Practices on the Nexus between Transnational Organized Crime and Terrorism

The final GCTF guideline document that we will discuss suggests ways for states to counteract the links between transnational organized crime and terrorism. Access the full reading here: https://www.thegctf.org/Portals/1/Documents/Framework%20Documents/2018/GCTF-Good-Practices-on-the-Nexus_ENG.pdf?ver=2018-09-21-122246-363

Introduction The nexus between transnational organized crime and terrorism comes in many forms and manifestations, exacerbating the threat to international peace and security. Understanding the ways in which transnational organized crime and terrorism are linked is becoming a priority concern for many States. In this regard, United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2195 (2014), on the interaction of terrorism and cross-border crime and its impact on international peace and security, called upon States to better understand and address the nexus between organized crime and terrorism as a threat to security and development. Unravelling the nexus poses a number of challenges, ranging from the absence of a universally agreed definition of organized crime and terrorism to obtaining and analyzing relevant information on the phenomenon. These challenges are exacerbated by local variations that shape how this nexus emerges, and how it evolves. Despite these obstacles, isolating the links between terrorism and transnational organized crime presents a unique opportunity in the fight against both threats. In particular, the nexus presents a point of organizational vulnerability to terrorist and transnational organized crime groups. As a result, knowledge of how, when and where the nexus emerges can be used as an effective policy tool. More recently, concerns on how to effectively address the nexus between transnational organized crime and terrorism have been expressed by UNSCRs, including 2322 (2016) which calls upon States to “enhance cooperation to prevent terrorists from benefiting from transnational organized crime, to investigate and to build the capacity to prosecute such terrorists and transnational organized criminals working with them” and UNSCR 2370 (2017), which urges Member States to “strengthen, where appropriate, their judicial, law enforcement and border-control capacities, and developing their investigation capabilities of arms trafficking networks to address the link between transnational organized crime and terrorism.” Further, it is vital that all counterterrorism and anti-crime efforts account for international human rights norms and the rule of law, including the UNSCRs on Women, Peace and Security. Although historical studies of transnational organized crime and terrorism have highlighted that these entities differ in their motivations, since 9/11 there has been a growing operational, organizational and conceptual convergence. In other words, terrorism and organized crime are known to have cooperated and coexisted; and, each has learned to use the tactics of the other. In some regions, terrorists are benefiting from the criminal experiences of the individuals they have recruited, who provide expertise in counterfeiting documents, and access to weapons and explosives; whilst in other regions, terrorist groups are financially benefitting from their direct involvement in the trafficking of arms, persons, drugs, and artefacts and from the illicit trade in natural resources, including gold and other precious metals and stones, minerals, wildlife, charcoal and oil; and from kidnapping for ransom and other crimes including extortion, and bank robbery. Finally, in other regions, organized crime has employed indiscriminate violence against civil populations as a way to secure territorial influence.


The nature of the nexus is, more often than not, defined by local context: the political environment, available resources, and existing policies of State response. Thus, for example, a terrorist group like Hezbollah - is known to operate like an organized crime group, motivated by profit, but also by honour and revenge – is said to cooperate with the Mexican drugs cartel Los Zetas to achieve mutual strategic and geographic objectives (i.e. a typical ‘alliance’). In Asia, it is the Taliban in Afghanistan that operates with similar motives in a comparable way. In Africa, groups like Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and Al-Shabaab have exploited weak state structures and corruption to directly engage in criminal activities, including drug trafficking and kidnapping for ransom (i.e. appropriation of tactics).

Finally, in Europe, there is an emerging trend of (petty) criminals evolving into terrorists; as was the case with Abdelhamid Abaaoud (Paris 2015 attacks), Mohammed Lahouaiej Bouhlel (Nice, Bastille Day attack 2016), and Anis Amri (Berlin 2016). This trend was initially exacerbated by ISIL/Da’esh promoting the recruitment of individuals in Europe to carry out low-cost attacks by self-financing through petty crime (i.e. ‘integration’ of one entity into another). Terrorist groups benefiting from transnational organized crime, and transnational organized crime benefitting from the use of terrorist tactics, may contribute to undermining affected States, specifically their security, stability, governance, as well as social and economic development. The present document comprises a set of non-binding good practices, which may guide countries as well as global, regional, national and local organizations as they develop policies and initiatives that target terrorism and transnational organized crime. This document is based on discussions held with government officials, international, national and regional organizations’ representatives, members of the academicians, experts, and other relevant stakeholders during four regional meetings. The regional meetings were held in Algiers, Tirana, Singapore (INTERPOL), and Nairobi, focusing respectively on the following regions: West Africa and the Sahel, the Balkans, Southeast and South Asia, and the Horn of Africa and East Africa. This Good Practices document is divided into four main sections, covering priority areas where urgent action could be taken. The sections are (a) legal considerations, (b) research and information sharing, (c) local engagement, and (d) capacity building and law enforcement.

The ‘legal considerations’ section outlines strategic good practices that can support States to develop an institutional framework. Good Practices listed under ‘research and information sharing’ primarily relate to facilitating the capacity of States to identify the nexus and monitor its development – both functions are needed to provide an evolving understanding of a threat that is not static. ‘Local engagement’ highlights the importance of local communities in fighting threats to security and development. As the nexus between transnational organized crime and terrorism plays out within local communities, local engagement invariably becomes part of the front-line efforts designed to address the nexus. Finally, the ‘capacity building and law enforcement’ Good Practices are focused on helping States elicit the greatest efficiency and effectiveness from their authorities by incorporating an understanding of how detailed knowledge of the nexus can be used as a tool to enhance anti-crime and counterterrorism strategies.


Join the discussion on this latest list of practices here: https://www.biedsociety.com/forum/_nato/international-counterterrorism-frameworks

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