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Democracy, Conflict
and Security

Understanding and acting upon the effects that violent conflict and the state management and mitigation of violence have over electoral processes, constitutional making processes, political parties and representation is fundamental when engaging in policy debates or programming in democratization processes in contexts of state fragility, and in countries with protracted conflict or post-conflict.

Organized crime and threats to democratic politics

Over the last decades transnational organized crime has increasingly been identified as an important international threat to democracy. Criminal networks form symbiotic alliances with politicians, political parties and state officials in order to safeguard their interests. At the same time, politicians have been keen to exploit the resources and power at the disposal of organized crime. This nexus between illicit networks and political institutions and actors affects the state’s capacity to provide basic public services, and it undermines the legitimacy of the state and democratic politics itself. Furthermore, the unprecedented openness in trade, finance, travel and communication has also given organized crime business opportunities, making this a truly transnational phenomenon.

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International IDEA's research

International IDEA has been conducting research and policy support on the nexus between illicit networks and democratic politics since 2009. In 2012, International IDEA initiated the Protecting Politics project. This project draws on fieldwork supported by International IDEA’s partnerships with local and international organisations, and local experts. It aims at increasing the comparative understanding of how illicit networks are affecting democratic processes. Publications that have so far been produced have focused on three key regions, i.e. the Baltic States (2013), West Africa (2013), and Latin America (2014). In 2016 International IDEA aims to publish four reports on organized crime that focus on the nexus of organized crime with elections; political parties; local democracy; and service delivery and accountability; also using comparative case studies to exemplify prevention and mitigation strategies in different regions of the world.

International IDEA’s threat assessment tool

As part of the Protecting Politics Project, International IDEA is currently developing and piloting a threat assessment tool – a software that practitioners (such as electoral management bodies, civil society organisations, and ombudsmen) can use to assess the threats of organized crime distorting politics, and identify targeted prevention and mitigation strategies. 

In order to assist users to identify and prioritise prevention and mitigation strategies, the tool is built around three interactive modules integrated into a software application, drawing on the structure of International IDEA’s Electoral Risk Management Tool (ERMTool). These modules include: 

1. Knowledge Resources: a virtual library of customizable threat factors posed by organized crime and democratic vulnerabilities, stemming from the assessment framework of International IDEA's State of Democracy (SoD)

2. Analytical Instruments: a software application allowing users to build a country-specific model to present and map democratic vulnerabilities and organized crime activities

Democratic vulnerabilities

Organized crime

  • Foundational
    • Socio-economic conditions
    • Political transition processes
    • Geostrategic conditions
  • Institutional
    • Rule of Law and Access to Justice
    • Political parties
    • Legislature
    • Public administration
    • Electoral system
  • Procedural
    • Media and civil society watchdogs
    • Financial system
  • Drug trafficking
  • Firearms trafficking
  • Human Trafficking
  • Contraband smuggling and trafficking in counterfeit goods
  • Illicit trafficking in wildlife
  • Illegal mining
  • Systematic abuse of state resources
  • Illegal Waste Dumping
  • Cybercrime
  • Protection rackets
  • Money and asset laundering
Example of mapping exercise
Example of mapping exercise
Example of colour coding and trend charts
Example of colour coding and trend charts

3. Prevention and Mitigation: a framework of global good practices and lessons learned in the prevention and mitigation of organized crime distorting democratic politics, which can be used to design context-specific strategies