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Areas of Research

The Project’s researchers focus on a range of issues related to crime, conflict and security, including narco-trafficking, the illicit trade in natural resources, criminal-insurgent linkages, piracy, the criminalisation of politics, and the challenge of assessing criminality in stabilisation operations. These issues deserve greater attention in evaluating the dynamics of modern conflicts and in constructing effective strategies and programmes within stabilisation and development missions.

The project examines these activities within the context of four broad issue areas:

1.The Impact of Criminal Activity on Intrastate Conflict

What role does organised criminal activity play in prolonging and/or escalating conflict? How does criminal activity impact the implementation and effectiveness of peacekeeping missions, and how does the presence of international forces affect domestic criminal dynamics? Under what circumstances are criminal actors mobilised for positive effects, and what are the longer-term consequences of this? How does the criminalisation of domestic politics interfere with conflict resolution and stabilisation efforts?

2. The Criminal-Militant Nexus

How do militant forces interact with criminal groups, or utilise criminal activity themselves to support their activities and agendas? What are the tensions between criminal and militant groups? To what extent do militant groups ‘learn’ from criminal groups, and vice versa? How distinct are the divisions between criminal and militant groups across various conflicts?

3. Criminal Incentives and Government Counter-Strategies

What are the incentives for criminal activity and criminal-militant cooperation, and do counter-strategies target these incentives sufficiently? Is there a disconnect between government counter-strategies and local-level incentives, strategies and effects? How might counter-strategies targeting criminal activity have negative effects on stability? How does the involvement of specialised international organisations improve or disrupt government efforts? What are the capability requirements for practitioners, and what are the capability gaps?

4. Current and Future Trends

What are the current trends in organised criminal activity? Do they mirror/reinforce trends in conflicts? Is it possible to discern contradictory trends (i.e., conditions that facilitate militancy but discourage crime, and vice versa)? What future trends can be extrapolated from current conditions and forward-looking analysis?

This project places a strong emphasis on the use of empirical case studies, based on a broad range of conflicts and regions. Project researchers currently focus on Central and South Asia, the Middle East, West and Central Africa, and the Balkans.

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