Topics: Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, Opium, Morphine Pages: 23 (6195 words) Published: April 9, 2014
International drug trafficking – Threats, challenges and responses

Policing Across Borders Project
John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York
December 2008

Brian Taylor – former Chief, Anti-Trafficking Section,
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)


Globalisation has brought many benefits. Business and commence has gained. We have cheaper, more accessible goods from all regions of the world. We live in a world of instant communications – of mobile phones, lap tops, blackberries. We have access to relatively low cost and much easier travel.

A dark side of globalisation has been the growth of transnational organized crime and terrorism. As more people take advantage of the freedom of movement and of widely available and less costly travel opportunities, as more goods and tens of thousands of containers cross international borders, it is harder for the authorities to detect the illicit consignment, the criminal and the terrorist.

Criminal organizations are becoming stronger and more diverse, engaging more frequently in systematic forms of cooperation designed to further their criminal activities. They use their enhanced mobility and capacity to exploit legal commerce for concealment of illicit drugs and other forms of contraband. They use the global banking system for accumulating, moving and laundering the proceeds of their crimes. They are ever more resourceful in their smuggling methods and they take full advantage of the range of criminal opportunities presented. These include the trafficking in drugs, particularly cocaine and heroin. Consistently high consumer demand and appetite for these drugs ensures an attractive and extremely lucrative market for the criminal to exploit.

The international financial crisis has had repercussions throughout the world resulting in many senior politicians describing this as ‘a global problem which requires a global solution’. Great efforts are being made to bring the international community together in the pursuit of a more united approach to solving the crisis. Transnational organized crime and particularly that of drug trafficking is also on a global scale. But in addition to thinking globally it is crucial to act nationally and locally. Action and solutions are required at international, national and local levels. Ensuring that effective international measures are in place to counter organized crime and terrorism has never been so essential.


The degree to which the problem of transnational organized crime has become a truly global phenomenon during the past two decades is remarkable. International drug trafficking is perhaps the most well known of these crimes. It has negative consequences on many countries. But the drug problem cannot be considered in isolation. Criminals are often involved in a range of activities. Their objective is to make money.

Well developed routes used for the trafficking of drugs are also used to smuggle people, firearms, counterfeit goods and other forms of contraband. Trafficking in human beings, the smuggling of migrants, trafficking in small arms and light weapons, counterfeiting, kidnapping and money laundering are amongst the many serious challenges that confront the international community. Cyber crime and identity theft, crimes that require specialist expertise and innovative responses are relatively new challenges. The problem of corruption is often a factor in many crimes.

Porous borders and weak border controls in many countries contribute to the problem. But it is important to recognise other factors that create an environment where crime can flourish such as poverty, lack of economic opportunities, inadequate legal structures, limited state capacities and lack of cooperation between law enforcement agencies.

To enable effective action to be taken to counter the...

References: The majority of the statistics quoted in this paper are from the UNODC publication World Drug Report 2008. The report contains extensive information and can be found at:
Other UNODC publications used:
World Drug Report 2007
Afghan Annual Opium survey 2007
Afghan Annual Opium survey 2008
Andean Survey 2007
These reports can be found on the UNODC website http://www.unodc.org
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