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Vulnerability classifications

Figure 5.1

Vulnerability classifications map

Vulnerability classifications map

Figure 5.2

Vulnerability classifications

Vulnerability classifications

The design of the Index allows not only for an assessment of the extent of criminal behaviour, but also an evaluation of where vulnerabilities lie. This way, stakeholders can work on mitigating the impact of organized crime.

The purpose of this section is to examine any notable movement of countries across the four quadrants of the vulnerability matrix (see Figure 5.2) since the 2021 Index and determine the underlying causes, be they related to criminality or resilience.

Low criminality–high resilience

Figure 5.3

Low criminality-high resilience

Low criminality-high resilience

The number of countries falling within the low criminality–high resilience quadrant, which constitutes the best position in terms of facing organized crime, has decreased by three since the 2021 Index, to 47. That means just under a quarter of the UN member states could arguably be classified as equipped to handle the organized crime threats they face. By no means, however, does it mean that countries in this quadrant do not have areas in which to improve their resilience. In many cases, shifts to another quadrant are likely, as several countries find themselves on the cusp of falling into the low resilience bracket if political will and efforts to enhance resilience are lacking.

Looking at the regional breakdowns, only three African countries are placed within the low criminality–high resilience quadrant: Cabo Verde, Mauritius and Rwanda. The latter two, meanwhile, are prime examples of why complacency could have negative impacts in terms of their resilience. Mauritius and Rwanda have resilience scores of 5.54, a hair’s breadth away from relegation to the low criminality–low resilience quadrant, which is a possibility, given that Mauritius’s overall resilience fell by 0.13 since 2021. Of the 14 countries in Oceania, six are positioned in this quadrant, which, on the one hand, is a function of the diminutive size of the majority of countries in the region and their remoteness, factors that suppress opportunities for sizeable criminal markets to take hold there. On the other hand, however, the high scores for resilience are a testament to the preventive efforts these countries have made. The Americas and Asia both have seven countries in this quadrant. More than half of the European countries – 24 – are classified as having low levels of criminality and being highly resilient to organized crime. Of these, however, almost all are in Western and Northern Europe, with the exceptions of Monaco,1 Portugal, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Poland, Romania and Slovenia.

The data shows that conditions worsened in seven countries, leading them to fall into another quadrant, while only four countries improved their anti-organized crime frameworks and boosted their resilience scores to climb into the low criminality–high resilience category. These were the Bahamas, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Monaco. For the most part, the changes came from the efforts made in the civil society and social protection sphere, as well as the ‘political leadership and governance’ and ‘government transparency and accountability’ indicators – all of which were assessed as problematic on a global scale.

Low criminality–low resilience

Figure 5.4

Low criminality–low resilience

Low criminality–low resilience

As was the case in the 2021 assessment, the low criminality–low resilience quadrant again features the most countries (71). At first glance, the organized crime threats countries in this quadrant are facing are not significant. Further examination, however, shows a clustering of countries towards the high criminality border of the quadrant. In other words, a number of countries would be endangered by rising levels of criminality, which their current resilience frameworks are not equipped to face. It is therefore crucial for countries within this quadrant to be forward-thinking and build up resilience capacities. On the bright side, there is also a clustering of countries at the margin between low and high resilience. Around a third of the countries in this quadrant are at this critical threshold, and little effort to strengthen resilience measures would be needed to elevate them to the low criminality–high resilience quadrant.

The regional breakdown shows that half of the countries in Oceania (7) are located in this quadrant, six of them in that near-high resilience cluster, within a 0.50 score range of the low criminality–high resilience quadrant. Only eight European countries are located in this quadrant, along with 11 American and 18 Asian countries. Interestingly enough, although Africa ranks second globally for criminality, half of the countries on the continent, or 27, are assessed as having low levels of criminality and low resilience. This to an extent underscores the magnitude of the criminality problem within the rest of the continent.

The data shows that seven countries have moved into the low criminality–low resilience quadrant. These are Albania, Bahrain, Botswana, Georgia, Qatar, Tajikistan and Zimbabwe. Of these, three countries saw their criminality scores drop in comparison to 2021, but that could to an extent be attributed to the newly added indicators lowering the criminality average. It is worth highlighting, though, that four countries saw their resilience scores drop below the 5.50 threshold, which resulted in these countries moving into this quadrant. This is another reminder that the only way to counter the ever-changing organized criminality dynamics is for states to take a holistic approach to resilience and, importantly, continuously build up their frameworks.

Box 14 Interpreting Albania

As a hub of organized crime both regionally and on a global scale, Albania is one of the countries the GI-TOC monitors closely. Since the last iteration of the Index, however, Albania’s ranking has improved, moving from the high criminality to low criminality band, something that appeared unexpected. Even though this change does indeed signal a decrease in criminality in the country, it should be viewed with some caution. While it is true that the country has combated certain criminal activities, the shift in the ranking is rather due to the change in the Index’s composition this year. A closer look at the scores for Albania shows that some of the original 10 criminal markets have changed by 0.50 points at most. That is to say, the drop into the low criminality band can be mainly attributed to the low pervasiveness in Albania of the newly added criminal markets, which bring down its overall criminality average.

Another nuance that has to be taken into consideration is the active involvement of Albanian criminal actors abroad in several transnational criminal markets, where they have gained notoriety. This phenomenon has been increasingly observed and well documented. The influence of Albanian groups has grown especially in Italy, France and the UK, in some cases to such an extent that they have become the most dominant foreign organized criminal groups in those countries.2 There are also indications of the existence of Albanian criminal actors in Latin American countries, exercising an increased influence over key parts of the cocaine pipeline, especially in Ecuador and Peru, also resulting in increased violence in these countries. The growing presence of Albanian groups in both Latin America and Europe showcases the expanded control exerted on transnational drug trafficking by these actors. Nevertheless, their impact is assessed on a geographic principle, which takes into account only where they operate from. Thus, despite their increased prominence across Europe and Latin America, the activities of Albanian groups abroad are not taken into consideration when assessing criminality for Albania. Instead, they are considered as foreign actors in the countries where they are active.

High criminality–low resilience

Figure 5.5

High criminality–low resilience

High criminality–low resilience

Although, again, there tend to be clusterings of countries towards the edges of the quadrant, the majority of the 63 states in the high criminality–low resilience quadrant are facing substantial challenges. These are present both in countries’ considerable levels of criminality and their apparent deficiencies to withstand and counter the threats they face. Compared to the first iteration of the Index, statistics show that the number of countries that fall under this quadrant has increased by six, to 63 in 2023.

An installation dedicated to Ukrainian prisoners of war outside Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv.

The geographical distribution of countries in the high criminality–low resilience category is slanted towards Africa, which has 21 – a significant proportion of the continent. In comparison, vulnerability to the impact of organized crime is significant, but the number of states that suffer its effects is smaller in Asia and the Americas, with 19 and 14 countries, respectively. Eight European countries also find themselves in this quadrant. Notably, all of them come from a single region: Central and Eastern Europe. Despite the transition to democracy in the late 1980s and early 1990s, all countries in the quadrant have experienced a democratic backslide and fragility, with two of them – Ukraine and Russia – engaged in a full-scale war. In fact, a large share of states in this quadrant have experienced some form of fracture – be it in the form of conflict, rebellion, outright war or fragility. Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, the DRC, Iraq, Libya, Ukraine and Yemen are the more stark examples of that. Fractures in the political stability of states is another driver behind rising criminality and an ensuing inability of countries to develop adequate measures to respond. There are a number of countries in this quadrant that have seen their democratic values and the rule of law imperilled, resulting in a deteriorating organized crime environment.

All of the countries that have moved into the high criminality–low resilience category saw a spike in criminality without their governments taking adequate measures to meet the new challenges. One of the best examples is Bulgaria, where rampant endemic corruption continued against the backdrop of political instability, which saw four parliamentary elections in just one and a half years. With the country being under the leadership of caretaker governments and no national assembly that could function continuously, resolving the political deadlock topped the agenda. This underlines how for many of the countries within this quadrant, addressing issues of political leadership and governance will be an essential foundation upon which to build broader resilience to organized crime.

High criminality–high resilience

Figure 5.6

High criminality–high resilience

High criminality–high resilience

As highlighted previously in this report, the high criminality–high resilience quadrant is perhaps the most counterintuitive category. But it is also the quadrant that has the fewest countries. Only 12 countries are featured here: China, Colombia, Costa Rica, France, Italy, Malaysia, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. It continues to be the case that most countries in the sample tend to be economically well developed. Arguably, the inclusion in this Index of indicators that disproportionately affect developed countries, especially financial and cyber-dependent crimes as well as private-sector criminal actors, has shone a spotlight on the vulnerability of such nations to these forms of crime. This was certainly the case for Costa Rica, Senegal and the United Kingdom, three of the four countries that moved into the quadrant in 2023 – and whose increased criminality scores were the reason for that shift. It would therefore be a challenge for nations in this situation to enhance their resilience frameworks to such an extent as to contain overall criminality within lower levels.

But despite the challenges, there is no place for complacency, otherwise countries risk being overwhelmed by the already heavy load of organized crime. Such was the case of Ecuador, which was the only country that fell out of the high criminality–high resilience quadrant, now struggling to respond to the much aggravated organized crime environment in the country.

Box 15 US and UK: The impact of financial crimes

Two of the most developed and largest economies in the world, the US and the UK, have seen their criminality averages increase, signalling a worrying trend that does not spare countries widely recognized as stable and wealthy. In the case of both these G7 countries, the upsurge in criminality levels has appeared to be driven by the inclusion of new indicators, some of them assessed to thrive in strong economies. The most glaring examples of such illicit economies are cyber-dependent crimes and financial crimes.

Many developed economies are more susceptible to financial crimes as a side effect of their ‘business friendly’ regulatory frameworks, their openness to foreign capital and investment, and their integration into the global financial system. All these factors, which make such countries attractive for legitimate financial activity, also leave them vulnerable to criminal exploitation. In the UK, for example, despite London being one of the biggest financial hubs in the world and a global epicentre for international payments, investments and banking, which certainly drives economic growth, the pervasiveness of financial crimes is a serious risk. Numerous reports over recent years have highlighted the scale of this crime and its impact on the country, and outlined possible responses to curb it.3 Nevertheless, in the face of increasing awareness of the phenomenon, institutions and stakeholders have reportedly failed to deal a decisive blow to this growing threat.

Official statistics indicate that fraud constitutes the largest stand-alone crime type in England and Wales, with one in 15 adults falling victim to fraud in 2022 (18% of them being victimized more than once), while 80% of all reported fraud was cyber-enabled. Digital fraud, in particular, rose substantially in the UK, with account takeovers and payment transfer frauds experiencing a spike in recent years, also as a consequence of the increased reliance on digital tools derived from the COVID-19 pandemic. However, fraudulent financial activities are still also linked to more traditional offences, including tax evasion, embezzlement and misuse of public resources. Similarly, according to the latest available statistics released by the US Federal Trade Commission, US citizens lost almost US$8.8 billion to various types of scams in 2022, following a surge of over 30% in fraud-related losses compared to the previous year. In 2021, an estimated 5% of US citizens fell victim to fraud, collectively losing US$5.8 billion – a 70% increase against 2020.4 Most US-based fraud takes the form of imposter scams, internet service scams and business opportunity scams. Companies and financial institutions are also frequently targeted in the country, with fraud rates and losses increasing for nearly all payment types from 2021 to 2022.5

Financial crimes are a significant threat to the security and prosperity of developed countries, as they endanger the soundness of financial systems and impact all sectors of society, from citizens to the private sector and government. Public anxiety has grown over the failure of states to mount an adequate response and the inability of mandated institutions to address systemic deficiencies, such as weak checks on information, transparency loopholes, ineffective supervision and enforcement. Although financial criminals are often well organized and persistent, governments and industry need to work together to take proactive steps to tackle fraud. This objective was flagged in the 2023 UK Fraud Strategy, which aims to reduce fraud by 10% on 2019 levels by December 2024, through increased cooperation and intelligence sharing, and increased law enforcement efforts, including better investigation and prosecution processes and enhanced systems for victims to report such crimes to the police.6

Figure 5.7

Criminality and resilience – country classifications

  1. The country falls within the Southern Europe region. 

  2. Gavin Mortimer, How Albania’s mafia took control of Europe’s trafficking network, The Spectator, 14 March 2023,

  3. See, for example, HM Government, Factsheet: economic crime in the UK, 20 June 2023,; PwC, Global Economic Crime Survey 2022: UK findings,; Oliver Bennett and Ali Shalchi, Economic crime in the UK: a multi-billion pound problem, House of Commons Library, 6 April 2022,

  4. Sergiu Gatlan, FTC: Americans lost $8.8 billion to fraud in 2022 after 30% surge, Bleeping Computer, 23 February 2023,

  5. Feature Space, The state of fraud and financial crime in the US: Volume, value and false positive benchmarks for financial institutions in America, 2021–2022,

  6. HM Government, Fraud strategy: stopping scams and protecting the public, 3 May 2023,