Corruption emerging as a Facilitator of Organised Crime

A research study conducted by the Anti-Corruption Trust of Southern Africa (ACT-SA), with support from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), titled Civil Society Contributions and Linkages between Corruption and Transnational Organised Crime in Southern Africasheds light on the critical role that corruption plays in enabling and facilitating the proliferation of transnational organized crime (TOC) in Southern Africa.

The international community has prioritized combating transnational organized crime (TOC) through the implementation of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) and its respective protocols. These protocols focus on addressing human trafficking, migrant smuggling, and the trafficking of firearms. The UNTOC and its protocols serve as a foundational framework for a comprehensive, unified approach to combating TOC at a global level.

Article 3 (2) of the UNTOC clarifies the characteristics of a transnational crime as a crime that is: (a) committed in more than one State; (b) committed in one State but a substantial part of its preparation, planning, direction or control takes place in another State; (c) committed in one State but involves an organized criminal group that engages in criminal activities in more than one State; or (d) committed in one State but has substantial effects in another State.

The UNTOC further illuminates the fact that transnational organized crimes are committed by transnational organized groups. A transnational group is defined under Article 2 (a) as “..a structured group of three or more persons, existing for a period of time and acting in concert with the aim of committing one or more serious crimes or offences established in accordance with this Convention, in order to obtain, directly or indirectly, a financial or other material benefit”

The Study shows that transnational organized crime syndicates leverage corruption as a means to facilitate their operations and evade detection by authorities, which is particularly advantageous when their activities transcend national borders. Corruption provides criminals with an avenue to exploit loopholes in legal systems, gain access to sensitive information, and evade detection by bribing officials. This allows them to operate in multiple jurisdictions while maintaining their anonymity, which is particularly important when conducting complex criminal operations that often require a network of collaborators in different countries. For instance, corruption can be used to enable human trafficking by bribing officials at border crossings, ports, or airports to turn a blind eye to illegal trafficking of individuals.

In this challenging climate, civil society organizations play a crucial role in combating transnational organized crime in several ways. These include raising awareness about the dangers and prevalence of TOC, working with governments to ensure that existing laws are enforced, providing capacity-building support for relevant institutions, advocating for victim-focused initiatives, sharing best practices, and conducting research on TOC.

The combination of these efforts has the potential to significantly impact the proliferation of TOC, by not only targeting the activities of criminal organizations but also addressing the underlying societal issues and loopholes that make communities vulnerable to TOC.

In view of the above findings, several recommendations were made that include:

a) Considering the linkages between corruption and TOC, there is need to mainstream anti-corruption in all TOC related programmes and projects.

b) CSOs should be adequately resourced to be able to contribute effectively to the implementation of the UNTOC

c) Development partners such as UNODC and others should consider supporting CSOs in the following areas

  • Capacity development and/or enhancement.
  • Facilitating information exchange, especially best practices on fighting TOC.
  • Human and financial resources, and
  • Development of advocacy materials, including Tool kits

d) CSOs capacity development/building programmes should target the following areas:

  • Training on the Entire UNTOC and its supplementing Protocols.
  • Training on detection and reporting of TOC.
  • Training on new concepts related to the UNTOC and its Protocols.
  • Training on the Linkages between organized crime and peace/security.
  • Training on using Tools for advocacy and engagement.
  • Training on UNTOC Implementation and domestication.
  • Training on how CSOs participate in the UNTOC Implementation Review Mechanism (IRM).
  • Training on Research, documentation of TOC, CSOs Contributions and Best Practices

 Further Reading:

  • Civil Society Contributions and Linkages between Corruption and Transnational Organised Crime in Southern Africa. Download
  • United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC) and its protocols on human trafficking, migrant smuggling and trafficking of firearms. Download
  • United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC). Download