Twenty years ago, organized crime was largely a regional problem. Today, organized criminals behave more like global businesses. They think globally, and act globally. Criminal organizations of today are often fluid and transnational, ever expanding and evolving. According to a December 2014 Global Financial Integrity report, there was an illicit financial flow of $6.6 trillion over the past ten year period. To put that in perspective, only the United States and China had GDPs larger than $6.6 trillion per year.
To counter global crime, we need global solutions. Here at the State Department, one solution has been to bring together law enforcement officials from around the world to better understand how to work together and share best practices. This week, 70 such officials convened at the State Department. They met with their U.S. counterparts, including experts from the State Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Homeland Security, and Interpol.
In today’s world, working together matters. Following the day-long plenary, the international officials came out energized, and many commented about the ideas discussed during the session. Often we think about solving problems internally -- and we often don’t look outside of our own organizations. The panelists and speakers repeatedly praised the value of cooperation to solve the toughest issues they face: border security, child pornography, extremist efforts to recruit youth, trafficking in persons, among many others. The morning panelists emphasized how law enforcement agencies in the United States have worked much more closely with one other since September 11, 2001. Afterward, many of the participants said the conference helped them realize that the issues they face, even in some of the world’s poorer countries, are often similar to those faced here in the United States.
These participants will now branch out to cities across America where they will look at another issue so important to global crime: community involvement. Strengthening partnerships between community-based organizations and law enforcement officials at all levels is yet another way to fight this shared challenge. Finally, before heading home, the group will reconvene in New York for the Eighth Annual Combating International Crime: Global Cooperation Conference, which aside from the plenary and panel style discussions, will also feature site visits to various New York City landmarks to discuss security procedures. The conference, organized in concert with the New York regional headquarters of the FBI, will cover a wide spectrum of relevant topics, such as countering violent extremism, money laundering, cybercrime, and law enforcement training.
This program, part of a new diplomatic initiative called “Towards a More Safe and Secure World,” will now be an annual affair. The Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement affairs will continue leading Department efforts to assist and work with international local law enforcement. With our diplomatic reach and our broad foreign assistance authorities, the State Department is uniquely positioned to help law enforcement agencies become just as agile and coordinated as illicit networks without sacrificing our integrity, laws, or respect for sovereignty.