A global x-ray of organized crime

In 2021, the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime (henceforth GI-TOC) launched the first-ever Global Organized Crime Index. That first edition was several years in the making, and its development was marked by the COVID-19 pandemic. Although there have been some suggestions about how the methodology might be further improved and constructive debate around some of the results, the reaction to the Global Index has been overwhelmingly positive. Furthermore, the Index has generated considerable attention in government, among practitioners, civil society, academia and the media. Its results have been analyzed in hundreds of media articles, allowing us as an organization to connect with many interest groups and concerned actors. Indeed, the Global Index has become the GI-TOC’s flagship product and an internationally used toolkit of evidence.

Thanks to generous backing from many supporters, experts and partners, we have been able to produce a second version of the Global Index, now improved and expanded. While the first edition analyzed 10 criminal markets, this second edition looks at 15, now including the fast-growing sectors of financial crime and cyber-dependent crime in its ambit. This edition also adds the private sector to the list of other criminal actors analyzed here. As a result, we have a more detailed x-ray image of the global illicit economy.

Building on the baseline of data compiled for the first edition and taking advantage of a more comprehensive body of information, this second edition is able to make a comparative analysis of changes in illicit economies and developments in resilience over the past two years. Looking ahead to the GI-TOC’s second decade of activity, our intention is to update the Index every two years to allow longitudinal measurement by tracking the changing trajectories of criminality and resilience.

This index is not only an analytical exercise: it is designed to enrich the base of evidence to enable more effective policy responses. An x-ray may reveal the problem, but it does not tell you the remedy. Therefore, we encourage all those with an interest in reducing the harm caused by organized crime to use the evidence presented in this report as a tool to effect change.

This year’s assessment, provided in this report, demonstrates that organized crime remains a profound challenge all over the world, posing a threat to both developed and developing countries, and an obstacle to much-needed international cooperation amid growing political, social and economic global disparities. We cannot let organized crime continue to grow between the cracks of our seemingly fractured world by taking advantage of gaps in governance, economic inequalities and political frictions. Politicians may want to paint over the cracks; populists may want to deepen them. The findings of this report give a clear signal, however, that tangible efforts are necessary to bridge the divide. It is evident more needs to be done to address the relationship between organized crime and global trends, and the impact that illicit economies exert on governance and well-being.

I would like to thank the hundreds of experts and civil society activists around the world who have contributed to this report. It is a testament to the power of civil society to carry out important research and analysis that can drive change. I also salute the courage and dedication of those who are on the front line of dealing with organized crime – those who work to strengthen resilience in their communities, carry out law enforcement operations, or track and disrupt illicit transnational flows.

It is time to take firm, strategic action against organized crime. Based on the x-ray provided by this report, we need to:

  • have a more strategic approach to dealing with organized crime at the global level;
  • treat financial crime as a high priority, focusing on the links between organized crime and corruption;
  • pay closer attention to the nexus between organized crime and conflict;
  • redouble efforts to strengthen resilience in vulnerable communities;
  • defend, and expand the space for, civil society in dialogue and policymaking on organized crime; and
  • more closely analyze and engage the private sector to reduce its potential facilitation of illicit activities.

Mark Shaw
Director, Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime