Crime Is One of World’s Top 20 Economies: UN


A senior United Nations official has said that criminality is one of the biggest economies in the world. According to estimations, the crime industry generates 3.6 percent of world GDP, or about $2.1 trillion a year – equivalent to the size of Brazil’s GDP.

Marking the start of a week-long meeting of the International Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) warned that criminal business is one of the largest economies of the world, and the problem may be growing.

In a message from the President of the General Assembly, Dr. Mutlaq Al-Qahtani, noted that drugs and crime are an impediment to the social and economic development of countries.

He said:

When combined, these crimes generate enormous profits every year: not in the millions, not in the billions, but in the trillions of dollars.

According to calculations by the UNODC and the World Bank, crime generates 3.6 percent of the world’s gross domestic product, or $2.1 trillion annually – equivalent to the size of Brazil’s economy – making it one of the top 20 economies in the world.

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A senior U.S official told the meeting in Vienna that criminal grounds have shown “impressive adaptability” to law enforcement actions and to new profit opportunities.

The United States delegate, Brian Nichols, said:

Today, most criminal organizations bear no resemblance to the hierarchical organized crime family groups of the past. Instead, they consist of loose and informal networks that often converge when it is convenient and engage in a diverse array of criminal activities.

Nichols added that in some instances, “terrorists are evolving into criminal entrepreneurs in their own right”, and turning to crime to fund their operations.

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During his own speech to the commission, Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of UNODC stated that, as the international community moved closer towards 2015 and took stock of the Millennium Development Goals, there was a growing recognition that transnational threats are a major hindrance to their achievement.

Weak and fragile countries were particularly vulnerable to the effects of transnational organized crime he said. These countries, devastated by war or making the transition to democracy, were often preyed upon by crime.

"As a result, organized crime flourishes, successes in development are reversed, opportunities for social and economic advancement are lost," said Fedotov.

To change this situation, Fedotov said anti-crime activities had to be integrated into the sustainable development agenda, as well as programmes of action for the rule of law, which formed the foundation for human rights.

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