International criminal justice cooperation is an indispensable part of the international community’s agenda to counter organized crime and corruption. In fact, cooperation is the primary objective of the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC), yet the legacy mechanisms and processes for international cooperation are largely inefficient. As UN Member States review their implementation of UNTOC and with the start of the negotiations towards a new UN cybercrime treaty, we are at a pivotal moment to carefully and intentionally reconsider how the global community can work together to suppress transnational crime. Today, there is a pressing need for not only imaginative thinking on alternative possibilities for improved international cooperation, but also for strategic planning for how interventions can be better designed to ensure a desirable future outcome.

In their new report published by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, ICCLR Senior Associates Yvon Dandurand and Jessica Jahn respond to the need to identify alternative possibilities by using the foresight method of scenario-planning to forecast five visions for the future of international criminal justice cooperation.

The report, entitled The Future of International Cooperation Against Transnational Organized Crime: The Undoing of UNTOC?, explains why a multilateral cooperative framework is needed and poses a cluster of questions to spark thinking around how reform may occur and how to build on what currently works.

For instance, one may wonder about the sustainability of the current cooperation regime, its architecture and the mechanisms and institutions that support it. What is worth saving from the current regime? What are its crucial missing elements? What is stopping us from imagining a better path forward? What would it take for states to invest or reinvest in more effective multilateral mechanisms of international cooperation in criminal matters?

Building on those questions, the report outlines the following distinct but not necessarily incompatible scenarios:

  1. Together forecasts a situation where states forge the political will and willingness to refashion the existing cooperation mechanisms.
  2. Unbound reflects a world in which states increasingly rely on bilateral or regional cooperation frameworks, possibly leading to new cooperation zones.
  3. Going alone anticipates states preferentially using unilateral actions to achieve their aim, bypassing existing cooperation mechanisms and agreements.
  4. Retreat sees the accelerated use of informal cooperation arrangements or alternatives – to the potential detriment of the rule of law and human rights.
  5. Renewal posits that states could be compelled to reimagine the international cooperation regime and undertake radical reform efforts, including establishing a binding arbitration mechanism to resolve bilateral disputes.

The five scenarios may require further exploration, but they point to the need for concerted action towards the development of more effective tools to combat transnational crime, prevent corruption, and control illicit markets at the global level.

The report aims to launch a renewed dialogue within civil society on the path forward for multilateral cooperation. It is high time for civil society to come together and lead the formulation of a comprehensive strategy for international cooperation. And scenario-planning is only the start.

Photo by Vladislav Klapin on Unsplash.

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