Serious and Organised Crime and Livelihoods Programmes

8th October 2018
Author: Markus Schultze-Kraft

This Helpdesk report discusses the following: What types of alternative livelihoods/development programmes that address serious and organised crime exist in developing countries, what interventions do they use and what outcomes do they seek to achieve? What does the evidence say about how effective these programmes are? Tackling the effects of serious and organised crime (SOC) on development is not an area that traditionally has received much attention from the international aid community. Arguably, the issue only moved onto the mainstream development agenda with the publication of the World Development Report 2011, facilitating its cross-cutting inclusion in the Sustainable Development Goals. This notwithstanding, development work in relation to SOC remains incipient and the field is still being scouted. Among the reasons for this is that the phenomenon of SOC defies clear definition and categorisation. For the most part, SOC has been framed as a security problem for states, not a development issue. Consequently, policy responses – mostly by governments and multilateral organisations, but sometimes also by civic groups taking justice and armed defence against SOC into their own hands – have focused on law enforcement against, and criminal prosecution and incarceration of, members of crime structures and networks. The evidence on the relationship between SOC and alternative development or livelihoods programmes, and the effect of such programmes, is very limited. The literature search conducted for this Helpdesk report identified four principal areas of intervention pertaining to (a) alternative development and/or rural livelihoods/development promotion for drug crop producing communities, such as poppy farmers in Afghanistan, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, coca farmers in Colombia and cannabis growers in Morocco; (b) alternative livelihoods promotion for rural populations engaged in wildlife crime, such illegal hunting and poaching in Uganda and other sub-Saharan African countries; (c) alternative livelihoods promotion for populations at risk of engaging in piracy, particularly in coastal areas in Somalia; and (d) gang violence reduction and citizen security enhancement, such as the socalled ‘second-generation’ violence prevention and reduction interventions in several Central American states, as well as in Liberia and Afghanistan.

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Suggested Citation

Schultze-Kraft, M. (2018). Serious and organised crime and livelihoods programmes. K4D Helpdesk Report. Brighton, UK: Institute of Development Studies


8th October 2018


Continent: Africa, Asia, South America

Country: Afghanistan, Laos, Somalia, Vietnam