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Service for Foreign Policy Instruments
News article19 May 2021

Strong contribution to crime prevention and tackling organised crime across the world: EU-funded projects delivering results

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The COVID-19 pandemic continues to exacerbate immediate and long-term crime risks around the world. Violent extremism, terrorism, arms and drug trafficking or, more generally, organised crime continue to affect all levels of societies, posing a serious threat to security and affecting the rule of law, as well as human rights.

These are some of the topics, which are discussed during this week’s 30th session of the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice. The EU will present some of the successes of projects funded through its Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace. Working together with a wide array of partners in addressing these global challenges, these EU actions on the ground are contributing to  justice and increased security around the world.

Saving Children Associated with Terrorist and Violent Extremism Groups - STRIVE JUVENILE

In recent years, the number of children recruited and exploited by terrorist and violent extremist groups has significantly increased. Reports indicate that there are thousands of children abducted, recruited, used, or otherwise associated with terrorist and violent extremist groups.  There is no single path to recruitment, but once associated with these groups, they are often victims of extreme violence and may be exploited to perpetrate acts of violence against civilians or in the context of military action. The EU-funded project STRIVE Juvenile: Preventing and Responding to Violence against Children by Terrorist and Violent Extremist Groups aims at disrupting terrorist groups’ recruitment of children, and promoting the rehabilitation and reintegration of children who have been associated with these groups into society, with a focus on Indonesia, Iraq and Nigeria. The project is implemented by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Inter-regional Criminal Justice Cooperation along the cocaine trafficking route: addressing integrity gaps in criminal justice institutions in West Africa and Latin America

Drug trafficking and related organised crime threaten security and public health in affected communities as well as undermine governance and the rule of law. Over time, criminal networks that operate at trans-regional levels across Latin America, the Caribbean and West Africa have increased their cooperation, expanding and diversifying their activities.

In order to tackle complex criminal networks operating across the Atlantic, the EU supports the CRIMJUST project to combat the flow of illicit drugs by enhancing law enforcement and criminal justice cooperation between these regions and the EU. The actions, implemented with the help of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, go beyond the drug-trafficking interdiction activities. They foster transnational responses, which help dismantle criminal networks, stop the illicit flow of drugs and restore security and justice in local communities along the so-called ‘cocaine routes’.

CRIMJUST has been facilitating Inter-regional Investigative Case Forums bringing together criminal justice practitioners from across Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa and Europe to advance cross-border post-seizure investigations along the cocaine trafficking routes. These forums brought a real impact: they built trust between investigative teams from different countries and continents; helped identify trends in the criminal activity and develop joint strategies. As a result of these forums, prosecutors and investigative authorities from different countries cooperated during investigations, exchanged evidence, which ultimately led to the arrest of members of the criminal networks responsible for large-scale drug trafficking. For example, in 2020, in operations Yalika and Bolivian Express, involving investigators and prosecutors from Spain and Bolivia, 23 people were arrested and 200 kg of cocaine were seized in Spain. In 2019, law enforcement officers seized close to 700 kg of cocaine trafficked from Bolivia to Belgium in container ships transporting timber. 22 suspects and 1 fugitive were arrested.

From take-off to landing: providing assistance to set up a passenger information unit in the framework of the United Nations Countering Terrorist Travel Programme

Members of terrorist groups, including returning and relocating foreign terrorist fighters, continue to take advantage of porous borders and limited detection capacity at airports, as well as increased global air travel. Processing passenger data is therefore essential to the identification, detection and interception of foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs) and other serious criminals, including those that are otherwise unknown to authorities. Most countries lack a full understanding of the use of passenger data to identify and detect FTFs and serious criminals. Additionally, legal systems differ on key issues pertaining to the collection, transmission, use, retention and sharing of passenger data. Processing this data also raises human rights concerns related to the right to privacy, data protection, as well as the risk of discriminatory profiling.

Through the EU-UN Countering Terrorist Travel project, the EU aims to increase the capacity of partner countries to prevent, detect, investigate and prosecute terrorist offences and other serious crimes, including their related travel. The project helps collecting and analysing passenger data in accordance with the UN Security Council resolution 2396 (2017), the International Civil Aviation Organisation standards, as well as other EU and international legal obligations. The project is implemented in partnership with the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT), the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED), International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the UN Office of Information and Communication Technology (OICT) and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Addressing child trafficking in Central and West Africa

Child trafficking is part of wider and complex organised criminal networks that are operating across Africa. The EU-funded project ENACT  aims at enhancing Africa’s capacity to respond more effectively to transnational organised crime, including human trafficking and in particular child trafficking.

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One of the major contributions of the project is the set-up of four Regional Organised Crime Observatories across Africa, as well as four Criminal Analysis Units embedded in local law enforcement in Uganda, Malawi, Niger and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The criminal intelligence analysis unit based in Congo has successfully disrupted two criminal networks trafficking children and allowed the safe return of five children to their respective families. The Congolese unit helped the investigators to retrace the children’s journey, identify, localize and arrest the offenders. The victims, children from Mali and the Democratic Republic of Congo, were either compelled to forced-labor or to commit theft and burglary. Based on this operational success, the unit is now drafting a wider analytical report on the phenomenon of child trafficking in Congo, which will help prevent other cases.

Combating trafficking in firearms

The trafficking of small arms and light weapons is a core business activity for organised crime groups and terrorist organisations. Terrorist networks access weapons through organised crime networks and the illicit market. Armed violence poses a serious security threat, aggravates poverty, inhibits access to social services, and diverts energy and resources away from efforts to improve development and peace.

The EU Countering Firearms Trafficking project supports partner countries across the world in tackling firearms trafficking with targeted actions at national, regional and global level. A series of successful results have been registered to date thanks to the EU’s support:  

  • Bolivia acceded to the UNTOC Firearms Protocol;
  • firearms control officers and criminal justice authorities in partner countries were trained;
  • virtual training tools were put in place, particularly useful during the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • partner countries received support in harmonising their national legislations with global and regional instruments on firearms trafficking to help stop this phenomenon.

Three of the above EU-funded projects are part of the EU’s Global Illicit Flows Programme, which aims to increase the effectiveness of the global fight against organised crime by bringing partners together and assisting countries globally in their efforts to disrupt transnational illicit flows.

More information: Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace



Publication date
19 May 2021