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Policy Papers - March 22, 2012

Spotting the Spoilers: A Guide to Analyzing Organized Crime

Mark Shaw and Walter Kemp



Rarely considered a serious challenge until recently, organized crime and related serious crime have become a critical issue in many fragile states. Experience shows that organized crime must be addressed during the course of any peace operation or political mission, since in many cases it is the biggest impediment to peace.

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Given weak institutions, few economic opportunities, and serious security threats, the activities of organized crime can have a disproportionate and devastating impact in fragile states, particularly when a political transition to peace or democracy is underway.

This guide is designed for people in multilateral organizations who want to analyze the nature of organized crime in a fragile state, and should be particularly useful for field staff of peacekeeping, peacebuilding, or political missions engaged in mission planning and post-conflict needs-assessment.

The objective of this guide is to hopefully allow the production of what is generally called an Organized Crime Threat Assessment (OCTA). The OCTA is a tool for generating a strategic picture of organized crime that can lead to an evidence-based response, both in terms of policy and operations.

The guide seeks to provide an overview of what steps can be taken to analyze and understand organized and serious crime in a particular country. It is not a guide for conducting a criminal investigation; rather, it is a way to gather together information on things that have not been focused on before and that impact the peace or political process.

It is divided into three sections, each beginning with a basic question:

1) What are we talking about?
2) What’s going on?
3) What is the impact?

Each section then drills down deeper into additional questions to ask and detailed steps to take towards gathering the relevant information for a proper analysis of organized crime in a particular country.

This is the latest publication in IPI Vienna’s Peace Without Crime project.

Read the publication in Arabic

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