The rise of transnational organized crime in conflict-affected and fragile states poses a serious threat to peace and development. And the pressure transnational organized crime is placing on the international system is stretching the collective ability to respond.

While the correlation between conflict and state fragility is well established, this policy paper explains the links between transnational organized crime, conflict, and fragility, showing that the three fit together in an uneasy and potentially deadly triumvirate.

The report finds that organized crime does not merely undermine the strength of the state in conflict-affected and fragile contexts, it further impacts the critical and often contested relationship between the state and society. Given this complex context, the author makes a number of recommendations for governments and international actors:

  • Law-and-order interventions that focus on eliminating cartel leadership remain insufficient and can even reinvigorate long-standing divisions in society.
  • These status quo interventions must therefore be part of a larger strategy that takes into account the political, economic, and social realities in each context.
  • In the long run, building and reinforcing the connections between state and society in fragile and conflict-affected contexts will be essential to undermining transnational criminal networks and ensuring lasting peace and development.