Research on transnational organized crime


The United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime defines organized crime groups broadly, encompassing most forms of profit-motivated crime.  Aside from its work on specific markets (drugs, trafficked persons, smuggled migrants, firearms, and wildlife), UNODC has conducted a number of regional studies on the full spectrum of organized criminal activities. Starting with Crime and Development in Africa (2005), many of these studies have taken the form of Transnational Organized Crime Threat Assessments (TOCTAs).  In addition to providing a description of the mechanics of illicit trade, the TOCTAs explore the reasons why a region is vulnerable to organized crime and the impact that this crime is having on social, economic, and political development.  The political impact of organized crime can include corruption, loss of democratic participation, instability, and conflict. Regional studies have included those in West, Central, and East Africa; East Asia and the Pacific, Central America and the Caribbean, and South-eastern Europe.  In 2021, UNODC is conducting its first national TOCTA, in Nigeria.


An important step to strengthening policies against organized crime is to improve the understanding of its scope and of the ways it operates. While progress has been made in identifying promising approaches to investigate OC on the basis of quantitative and qualitative evidence, it is clear that further work is needed to make the statistical and analytical profile of OC less blurred. The project Measuring and Assessing Organized Crime in the Western Balkans (MACRO), which the Crime Research Section implemented from 2017-2020, served to further strengthen and enhance existing measurement and assessment of organized crime in the region and provided a complementary evidence base.

In order to better understand the nature and dynamics of organized crime in the region, MACRO activities included developing a statistical and conceptual framework for measuring and monitoring organized crime, establishing a mechanism to collect available data and to develop a consolidated methodology to produce regular analytical reports on OC in the region, focusing on trends and patterns of illegal activities by OC, including on their economic value, on the modus operandi of organized criminal groups and on the response of criminal justice systems to OC.

Transnational organized crime threat assessments