In the coming decades, a wide array of socioeconomic, environmental and technological changes will create new challenges for developing states. Climate change, the automation of work, cyber-threats, unsafe supply-chains and unregulated financial systems will create new risks and vulnerabilities. States may increasingly struggle to provide protection and services in new and emerging spaces – including cyberspace, emerging financial systems and unplanned urban spaces vulnerable to shocks from climate change. Without the protection of the state in these spaces, people will look elsewhere. In some cases, businesses, private actors or civil society will emerge to address risk and provide insurance against insecurity. But in others, criminal actors will step in - providing not just protection and services, but also dictating norms and offering meaning and identity to citizens. They may corrupt formal and legitimate institutions, businesses and markets, bending them away from their stated purpose. The result may be a significantly expanded role for organized crime in governance in the next three decades – and the rise of ‘crooked states’ and crooked governance more broadly. Drawing on a larger study on the future of organized crime and corruption out to 2050, this policy brief looks at how the changing nature of organized crime and corruption may impact state fragility, inequality and conflict in the coming decades. It examines three areas where tomorrow’s vulnerabilities may create opportunities for new forms of criminal governance, and considers how development and stabilization policies can encourage resilience in the face of these criminalizing tendencies – and prevent the rise of crooked states in the first place.
United Nations University, October 2017.