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Factors Leading Transnational Threats as State Concern

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🕐 2021-05-09 14:57:29

Factors Leading Transnational Threats as State Concern

General Aziz Ahmed


Unprecedented Advancement in Information Technology

The last decades have also seen unprecedented advancement of information technology. Nowadays, people and information are just at one click distance away from one another. Through the internet and smart communication gadgets, information can reach around the world in seconds. However, the advancement of technology has become double-edged, offering the scope of positive uses on one hand and facilitating the coordination, planning, and execution of criminals operations on the other.

As transnational threats are conducted across the borders along a long geographical stretch over a substantial time, continuous communication, coordination, monitoring, and supervision are of critical importance for such organized crime. Mobile phone and internet technologies through enhanced communication have enabled the conduct of such organized crime-related huge and continuous functions with speed, reliability, and safety through digital avenues.

The ascent of information technology not only offers quick and direct communication facilities to the Transnational Organized Crime groups but also offers advantages in many other dimensions. “First; Organized crime is familiar with the rapid spread of technological progress and normally gains faster and more efficient access to technological resources than others. With strong financial organizing power, they easily acquire and customize the IT facilities for their criminal purpose to conduct the crimes. Second; through virtual presence, IT allows the  organizations to be flexible, eliminating the need for an actual base, office, and physical presence of individuals throughout the channel of organized crime. It has greatly reduced the frequency of physical movements of criminals and their associates to avoid detection. Third; IT facilities allows paperless planning, conduct, and coordination through virtual link causing the reduction of accumulated paperwork. Hence, it eliminates incriminating documentary evidence causing security agencies further investigation and proves difficult. Fourth; identification and detection process of information and instructions passed to conduct the crimes through IT channels are high-technology depended” (Kristin 2010).

Many of the security and intelligence organizations of under-developed and developing countries are not equipped at par with the technological capability of Transnational Organized Crime Groups. Thus, IT has offered the transnational threats a hidden channel of communication that is less vulnerable to a breach of security. “Legislation used to control and curb some of these online activities may not be applicable when servers are based in other countries hindering effective pursuit and stamping out of such illicit activities” (Sangiovanni 2005). Thus, as IT developed in wider and faster space Transnational Organized Crime groups became less vulnerable to state repression that facilitated their faster and wider growth over the last decades.


Liberalization of Laws and Rules

Globalization and liberalization are interlinked and complementary to each other. Liberalization generally means abolishment of tighter state control on economic activities. It calls for the elimination and relaxation of economic policies, rules, and regulations for better economic integration amongst nations. For example, India adopted “New Industrial Policy (NIP) in 1991 to initiate liberalization that focused on the abolishment of licensing and documentation in business, liberalization of foreign investment, relaxation of locational restrictions, liberalization of foreign technology imports, phased manufacturing programs, public sector reforms, restructuring monopolies, and restrictive trade policies, etc.” (Jose 2016). 

One of the major aspects of liberalization in the economic sector is trade liberalization that reduces restrictions on imports or exports and facilitating free trade. Free trade allows the countries to trade goods, products, services, and technologies without the restriction of regulatory barriers or related costs. However, the lesser the regulatory control on the trade of goods and products, the easier it is for Transnational Organized Crime groups to conduct transnational crimes. With the liberalization in global trade and commerce, Transnational Organized Crime groups also find reduced barriers in carrying out their business, both legal and illegal, across the states.

Faster Mobility and Bulk Transportation

Revolutionary improvements in transportation and communication decreased the physical barriers around the world, making it easier for Transnational Organized Crime groups to operate across the border. With the emerging trend of globalization, the international transportation system came under constant pressure to support the globalization of production and consumption.

The development of the transportation system has many dimensions like infrastructure development, interlinking, volume, capacity, speed, efficiency, and safety. Standard containerization (20ft long, 8ft wide, and 8ft height) at a global level facilitated worldwide transportation of goods in freight, ship, road, or railway. This has opened the scope of the intermodal transportation network to be highly effective. Intermodal transportation is networked transportation of goods through a network comprising road transports, railways, ships and freight. Now a container can be air-lifted to port, shipped through the sea, and distributed in trucks to targeted markets.

Faster mobility and bulk transportation have also offered the transnational threat a wider scope to intrude into the global transportation system. As advancements in mobility and transportation, have facilitated the integration of domestic markets in a global platform, these same forces have also fueled the rise of transnational threat.


The spread of Internet Banking Facilities

With the rapid growth of world trade system, a parallel development in the financial networks has taken place in terms of ease, speed, and diversification. Unprecedented progress in internet facilities enabled banking sectors to diversify and develop new options and services with ease and speed. Riding on unprecedented advancement in IT, financial infrastructure has gone global. Today ‘bitcoin’ or ‘megabyte money’ can instantly move anywhere in the world.

The advancement and diversification of the global financial system have also facilitated organized crime groups to transfer profits gained from illicit activities rapidly, easily, and without being detected and punished. “Together with the huge amount of money in circulation within the system and the ease with which it can be transferred at high speed, have greatly favored a basic stage in any illegal business: money laundering” (James 2020). Money laundering is only one of the basic aspects, but internet banking has enabled transnational threats to transfer money, make and receive payments for their criminal activities across the globe, avoiding physical transactions. 

Complexity and lack of supervision on international financial activities also make it extremely difficult to enforce regulations. Such virtual global banking facilities through the internet have made criminal activities easier through electronic money transfers and transactions. Additionally, this has also paved the way for transnational cyber criminals to hack and attack financial institutions to illegally take away a large amount of money. The cyberattack against Bangladesh Bank in February 2016 showed how severely the cybercrime has spread over the global banking system. Cybercriminals managed to hack into the central bank’s security system and illegally transferred $101 million of funds from its account.  However, be it money laundering or hacking of accounts, in general, internet banking facilities of virtual financial transaction has facilitated the growth and function of transnational threat in the last decades.

Increased Migration and Ethnic Link

Post -Cold War era has also witnessed an increasing trend in migration. The rise of intra-state and regional conflicts caused forced displacement of people which was facilitated by available knowledge of well-being prevailing in other parts of the world through social networks and mass media and the progress made in transportation. Such factors resulted in two important global trends. Firstly; an increase in immigration flows and secondly; the gradual creation of ethnic networks throughout the globe. “Despite the vast majority of immigrants being respectful to the laws of the host countries, criminal organizations have taken advantage of this ethnic dispersal to develop their transnational networks within which they are in permanent contact through advanced communications systems” (Myers 1995).

Post-migration politico-socio-economic challenge of many immigrants facilitates their intrusion into black markets and chain of criminal worlds. “Ethnic links, with their systems of loyalty, solidarity, and sanctions often superimposed on the legislation of the countries where immigrants live, indirectly facilitates the implantation of organized crime” (Reinares & Resa 2005). Increased global migration is also exploited by organized criminal networks. Organized crimes like human trafficking and illegal migration can easily be submerged under the flow of migration.  “Human and commercial flows are too intense to easily distinguish the illicit from the licit” (Nelken 2008; Sangiovanni 2005).


Factors Leading Transnational Threats as State Concern


Gaining a Global Dimension

Earlier transnational threats were characterized by crimes that occur across the states. Decades ago, most of the Transnational Organized Crime networks had a regional dimension, but now it has grown into global ones. Amongst several factors, globalization, trade liberalization, unprecedented advancement in the IT sector, and faster communication and transportation facilities played the most contributing role in the dimensional expansion of transnational threats. Antonio Maria Costa, former Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, effectively summarized the change in transnational threat over the last quarter-century by saying, “as unprecedented openness in trade, finance, travel, and communication has created economic growth and well-being, it has also given rise to massive opportunities for criminals to make their business prosper”  (UNODC 2010).

Leveraging the scopes offered by globalization, IT, and faster communication and transportation networks, transnationals threats are spreading faster than before. IT-based communication facilities eliminated their need for actual contact. Now, they can successfully establish and spread their links to any part of the world without physical presence. Organizing and conducting the crimes in another country or region does not require criminal gangs to cross the boundary to be physically present there. They can organize and coordinate the conduct of criminal activities across the states and regions being present in one area or country.

Globalization requires speedy trade and transshipment of goods and individuals. Consequently, rules and restrictions on trans-border trade and commerce are liberalized.  Bulk, faster, and longer transportation networks are also developed to sustain the speed of globalization. Transnational threats are also exploiting such scopes and opportunities to spread the crime network across the states and regions.

As a whole, no transnational threat networks are isolated today. They are collaborating from one region to another forming global platforms. Drugs produced in South Asia today can easily reach the market of the USA, taking advantage of globalization and communication facilities. Such global stature of transnational threats is turning them beyond the capacity of states and regions to deal with. 

In recent years, that viewpoint has changed. The character of transnational threat has changed in three major ways since the war on drugs began. Drug trafficking has become more diversified, criminal networks have harnessed new methods of conducting business, and the structure of criminal networks has changed. Organized crime has gone global, giving way to the term transnational threat. Global governance has failed to keep pace with economic globalization. 


Penetration into State Mechanism and


One of the most serious negative effects of transnational threat is its penetration into the state mechanism and institutions. The effect is most pronounced in weak and developing countries with fragile socio-economic infrastructure and the weak rule of law. However, developed countries are not also immune to the negative effects of transnational threats. The reason being, transnational threats over the years can corrosively affect the state mechanism of developed countries too.  “Transnational threat penetration of states is deepening, leading to co-option in a few cases and further weakening of governance in many others. The apparent growing nexus in some states among Transnational Organized Crime groups and elements of government—includ­ing intelligence services—and high-level business figures represent a significant threat to economic growth and democratic institutions” (US NSC Report 2010).

Transnational threat lives and operates on the collaboration of state apparatus and mechanism where or through which it runs the crimes. Thus, forming nexus with the corrupt segment of a particular government and government institutions assumes primary importance in their network and activities. “Transnational threat networks insinuate themselves into the political process in a variety of ways. This is often accomplished through direct bribery; setting up shadow economies; infiltrating financial and security sectors through coercion or corruption; and positioning themselves as alternate providers of governance, security, services, and livelihoods” (US NSC Report 2010).

“Transnational threats systematically damage the economic, social, and political development of the subjected country or countries” (BIPSS 2010). Penetration of transnational threat in government machinery and institutions is done through a gradual process. Their initial target remains administrative organs, law enforcing and intelligence agencies, and the judiciary. Once they penetrate and gain a foothold in the above government system of any state, they gradually expand. Involving more and more institutions, individuals, and systems they tend to establish an alternative authority within the legitimate government machinery. Even over the years, they intrude into the political system of states, turning them to be kingmakers. This way, in the long term, they corrosively damage the democratic institutions and governance system of a country. Bureau of International Narcotics Matters (BINM) in a report says, “it is difficult to have a functioning democratic system when drug cartels have the means to buy protection, political support or votes at every level of government and society” (BINM 1994). Events in Somalia, Afghanistan, or few South American countries can be cited as an example of this trend.


Growth of Corruption and Corrupt Infrastructure

“Corruption is considered the most powerful promoter of Transnational Organized Crime where organized crime groups are involved in corrupting certain government officials such as the security forces, as well as the judiciary” (Ahmed 2017). Transnational Organized Crime networks promote a culture of crime and corruption in the government and society. Organized criminal interests possess a universal tendency to corrupt political institutions and undermine democratic accountability in states in which they operate. Many researchers have shown a strong correlation between transnational threat and corruption. As both transnational threat and corruption are secretive in norms, their convergence is phenomenal. The poor economic stature of the government officials in the least developed or developing countries further accelerate the breeding of corruption by transnational threat cartels. Mond Tullis in his research stated, “In systems where a member of the legislature or judiciary, earning only a modest income, can easily gain the equivalent of some 20 months’ salary from a trafficker by making one “favorable” decision, the dangers of corruption are obvious” (Tullis 1995).

In fact, without corruption, Transnational Organized Crime groups cannot sustain their criminal business or crimes. Planning, conduct, and running of such a pervasive and huge network of criminal activities are not possible without intimidating a segment of government and society into corruption. “It is difficult to keep a continuing criminal enterprise profitable and survive over the long term unless there is a means to protect it from law enforcement, which ultimately learns of its existence. For example, border crossings need to be ensured, locations of illicit activity ‘protected’, police or customs officials paid off, illicit funds delivered and deposited, court cases “fixed,” stolen property bought and sold, and politicians persuaded not to interfere” (UNODC, Doha Declaration 2018). These are examples of the kinds of corrupt activity needed by organized criminal groups to remain in illicit business and engage in ongoing criminal activity without interruption. Therefore, initially, transnational threat recruits individuals from the corrupt segment through bribing. They face no difficulty to do so due to their huge illegal financial power. At the initial stage, they mostly penetrate amongst the low-level employees, although the opportunity for top brasses is not missed if available.

On recruitment of individuals from various segments of the government and the society, they gradually form a nexus involving them. Top officials, political and business figures are also integrated at this stage. Communication and collaborative network amongst these corrupt individuals and a corrupt segment of the government institutions are also patronized and organized by Transnational Organized Crime Groups. This nexus overtime is extended across the states to foster a regional or global network. Thus, a corrupt infrastructure is developed within and between the states. “With the development of corrupted infrastructure, they gradually accumulate authority in various organs and institutions. At this stage, they adopt coercion and power game besides bribing to bring any individual or segment on corrupted terms. Corruption supports the ongoing existence of organized crime because corrupt public officials protect organized criminal groups from law enforcement and disruption” (Rose & Palikfa 2016).

And in this manner corruption gets institutionalized in various organs and institutions of a country where transnational threat operates. Once institutionalized, corruption does not remain confined within the domain of transnational threat only. It multiplies and proliferates in other sectors and departments. Corruption becomes a cultural phenomenon in society and country in the long run.


The threat to National Economy

“Transnational crime ring activities weaken economies and financial systems and undermine democracy” (Voronin 2000). It deprives a state of its legitimate revenues and duties through smuggling. Human trafficking drains a substantial amount of foreign remittance a country is due to its human resources. Through money laundering, bulk money goes out of the country damaging the national economic strength.

Transnational threat tends to damage financial systems through subversion, exploitation, and distortion of legitimate markets and economic activities. The legal business of a country is challenged multi-dimensionally by the illegal and criminal business networks of transnational threats. “Business firms and systems are being put at a competitive disadvantage by transnational threat and corruption, particularly in emerging markets where many perceive that rule of law is less reliable. The World Bank estimates about $1 trillion is spent each year to bribe public officials, causing an array of economic distortions and damage to legitimate economic activity” (US NSC Report 2010).

Transnational threat creates economic disparity amongst the segment of the population. It injects illegal money through the corrupt and involved segment of society. Availability of illegal money increases commodity process and living costs pushing the non-involved segments into poverty and poor living standard.  “Reports from Afghanistan and Bolivia suggest that the cost of foodstuff has increased as a result of greater drug cultivation, with people who are unwilling or unable to integrate into the coca or opium poppy economy facing further impoverishment” (Tullis 1995).

Transnational threat accompanied by corruption discourages foreign investment as investors face difficulties in doing business due to corrupt culture and environment. The cost of doing business also rises due to corruption and additional budgets for security purposes. “Transnational (transnational) threat activities can lead to disruption of the global supply chain, which in turn dimin­ishes economic competitiveness and impacts the ability of industry and transportation sectors to be resilient in the face of such disruption. Further, transnational criminal organizations, leveraging their relationships with state-owned entities, industries or state-allied actors, could gain influence over key commodities markets such as gas, oil, aluminum, and precious metals, along with potential exploitation of the transportation sector” (US NSC Report 2010).


Cultural and Social Disorder 

One of the significant long term negative impacts of transnational threat is cultural and social disorder. The most common accompanying facets of transnational threat are drug abuse, crime, corruption, and the spread of illegal money in society. All these accumulate in causing serious social and cultural disorders in the long run.        

Illicit drugs have a considerable impact at each step along the chain of production, distribution, and consumption. The illicit drug creates an a-pronged detrimental impact on society. On one hand, it spreads the trends of drug abuse amongst the youths and involves a segment of the society in drug smuggling and business on the other. Of these menaces, most mentioning it damages the strength of the youth segment of the population. It derails them from the enlightened values of life; dis-integrates them from the family and societies. “The country study on Thailand attributes increasing use of heroin and psychotropic substances to urbanization, rapid cultural change and a breakdown in family cohesion” (Renard & Singhanetra 1993).

In a country or society where transnational threat penetrates deeply in various organs, crime, corruption, illegal money etc., become the norm of that society in the long run. Drug abuse is also interlinked with other crimes. “A review of the relevant literature indicates a strong probability that drug addicts tend to be deeply involved in criminal activities, with daily users of drugs showing a significantly higher rate of criminality than non-drug users” (Tullis 1991). Human trafficking puts women, unemployed youths, and children to be vulnerable to exploitation. Corruption, illegal money, competition for control of criminal business lead to anarchy and social disorder. 

As a whole, transnational threats and their related criminal facets and trends damage the societal and cultural values and ways of life.  Crime, corruption, and illegal means override the positive trends of life. In the long run, such trends destabilize the social and cultural equilibrium of a country or region. Peru, Chili, Venezuela of South America or for that matter Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, and Afghanistan of Asia can be cited as examples of such socio-cultural decay caused by transnational threat mainly drug cartels.    

Crime-Terror-Insurgency Nexus 

One of the most dangerous trends accompanying transnational threat is the growth of a crime-terror-insurgency nexus. Terrorists and insurgents are increasingly turning to the transnational threats to gener­ate funding and acquire logistical support to carry out their violent acts. Terrorists and insurgents have substantial armed power but lack a regular and pervasive system of financial support. On the contrary, Transnational Organized Crime groups have a large financial power of permanent nature but lack armed power in comparison to terrorists and insurgents. Thus, in most of the world, they forged a strong nexus in a complementary role to compensate for each-others lacking and shortfalls.

Examples of such nexus and collaboration are many. “Hezbollah has been active in Latin America since the 1980s when it began working with drug cartels to raise funds for operations and the purchase of arms” (Levitt 2016). “The government of Burma over 30 years has been engaged in a struggle with irredentist (rebel) groups that are financed substantially by the drug trade” (National Research Council 1999). Involvement in the drug trade by the Taliban and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) is a well-established fact. “90 percent of opium produced in the Triangle comes from territory controlled by the Shan State Army – an insurgent group ostensibly waging war to secure rights for the Shan minority from the Burmese majority” (Behera 2017).

Many say the crime-terror-insurgent nexus is opportunistic but bears the potential to gain permanency. Whatever its may nature be, this nexus and collaboration have greater implications for any state. One of the principal means of counter-insurgency or counter-terrorism is starving them of financial support.  Financial support provided to insurgency or terrorists by the transnational threat cartels adds to their protraction and survivability for a long time. Thus transnational threat acts as a catalyst to the solvability of both insurgents and terrorists, both of which are a grave threat to states. 

A Threat to National Security

The transnational threat was in vogue from time immemorial. However, “within the last decade, these crimes have gone from being considered a problem limited to certain countries or regions to become one of the basic factors when defining threats to the national security in general and democratic governance in particular” (Godson & Olson 1995). Nevertheless, before we ascertain how transnational threat assumes to be a threat to national security, we need to take a relook at the changing perception of security in the post-cold war era. The demise of the cold war and events in its aftermath brought about a paradigm change in the security perception. The collapse of the Soviet Union has shown the world that a powerful nation can be dissolved from ideological and political bankruptcy without fighting any war.  The disintegration of Yugoslavia and events in the Balkans proved that an internal fraction of the population could cause the breakup of a modern state. Turning of Somalia and Afghanistan into failed states, for example, has projected that fragile politico-socio-economic condition can risk the existence of a state itself. Such events and many others established the fact that the security of a state cannot be restricted to the threats from across the border. Rather a state’s existence can be dissolved due to the corrosive effect of ideological or political failure, intra-state conflicts, and fragile politico-socio-economic infrastructure, and so on. Thus, a threat to national security cannot be confined within the scope of external aggression only. Instead, any tension, conflict, or precarious politico-socio-economic fault lines can turn into a grave threat to national security.

Under such context, growing trends of transnational threat in recent era have turned to be a major threat for national security as it has long term and deeply damaging effect on the politico-socio-economic infrastructure of a nation. “Transnational threats systematically damage the economic, social, and political development of the subjected country or countries” (BIPSS 2010). With the expansion of their network and nexus, transnational threats build alliances with corrupt segments in all important national spheres. This may include political leaders, financial institutions, law enforcement organizations, foreign intelligence, security agen­cies and segment of a vulnerable population, ethnic groups and many more. “transnational threat penetration of governments exacerbates corruption and undermining governance, the rule of law, judicial systems, free press, democratic institution-building, and transparency” (NSC Reports to White House 2010). Nexus forged, mostly in underdeveloped and developed countries, amongst TOC groups and elements of government pose serious threats to economic growth and democratic institutions. Through evasion of legal taxes, money laundering, accumulation of black money transnational threats can destabilize the economy of the small and weak countries. They can destabilize the social equilibrium through the spreading of drug abuse and drug business as drugs accompany crime, corruption, and social disorder.  Transnational threats can antagonize the people in border areas with financial bribing to acquire support for their illegal business. They may foster a strong complementary unity with insurgents, non-state actors, and terrorist groups providing them financial and logistic support. And when the question of state sovereignty and national security is in question, the transnational threat will undoubtedly be in the insurgent’s or terrorist’s side. The reason being their motivation for financial gain is much stronger than the stake of the state they belong to. This way, over the time, the transnational threat can corrosively damage a country to turn into a failed state destroying its politico-socio-economic infrastructure. Thus it assumes to be a serious threat to national security.  


The Threat to International Security

Transnational threats threaten international security in many ways, both directly and indirectly. Trafficking of arms and ammunition is the most serious crime that ensures the availability of arms to insurgents, terrorists, and in conflict-prone areas of the world. Availability of arms in the conflict-prone areas of the world escalates conflict and violence.  In today’s globalized and interconnected world, escalation of any conflict bears the potentials to destabilize regional and global security. The reason being in many cases, escalation of conflict tends to draw down the regional or global geostrategic factors and actors in the affair to threaten the peace and security at regional or global levels.

Global terrorism is the most common global threat in this era. Today state armies are more involved in fighting terrorism and non-state actors than in fighting another state army. The growing nexus of cooperation between terrorism and transnational threats are a major global security concern. Such nexus and collaboration help the terrorist organizations to survive and protract with the financial and logistic support from transnational threat networks that include arms and ammunition too. One of the principal tools of counter-terrorism is isolating them from financial and logistic back up. While states are taking strict measures to starve the terrorists from financial support, transnational threats are offering them alternative sources of funding, thereby, the ability to survive and operate. Thus, given that global terrorism is the prime threat to international security today, transnational threats are the principal contributors the growth and survivability of such a global threat. 

One of the serious negative impacts caused by transnational threat is the damage of the politico-socio-economic infrastructure and democratic system of a state where it penetrates. Through penetration in the government and democratic institutions, it corrosively ruins the state mechanism. In the long run, it can turn a country into a failed state. Such failed states are of serious concern for international security as these states serve as the hub of global terrorism and radicalism. Terrorists and non-state actors use this failed state’s sponsorship to grow and proliferate. The world has seen such state-sponsorship for Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan or for that matter in many countries of Africa. The world has also seen how state-sponsored terrorism can destabilize the peace and security of the entire world following the attack on the US Twin Tower on 9/11.


Challenges Posed by Transnational Threat on Traditional Border Management System


The Complexity of Law Enforcement

Bringing transnational threats on legal terms is a critical and complex task. Complexity arises as transnational threats are borderless threats and their networks prevail in several countries. This multi-national dimension of transnational threats invites multi-pronged challenges for law enforcement against them. Offenders frequently commit crimes in territories of more than one state and try to evade law enforcement by moving between states. The traditional border management system of most countries relies on traditional state laws for law enforcement against transnational threats that often prove to be ineffective due to a lack of compatible legal platforms amongst the states. “Transnational threats are difficult to be dealt with decisively due to varied national-level legislation and lack of transnational collaborative mechanisms” (BIPSS 2010).

“The challenges in dealing with transnational crime arise from the national orientations of laws and law enforcement. Every country has its laws and law enforcement system to deal with a crime” (Finckenauer 2000). Jurisdiction and legal procedures vary from country to country. Transnational threats, therefore, expand their network and activities across the states in such a way as to broaden their reach and make it critical for law enforcement to counter them. Because more countries they involve in conducting the crimes, more mutual consent, agreement, coordination, and cooperation are needed amongst concerned agencies of different stakeholder countries. In most cases, investigation and prosecution procedures differ across the countries, causing complexities in legal enforcement.

There are problems with standardization too. Some countries have specialized jurisdiction units for legal procedures against organized crimes, whereas others follow common legal procedures. Jurisdiction on high-level seas also differs from country to country. Some countries exercise similar legal jurisdictions on both land and sea while some exclude flagged ships from the jurisdiction of state law. “Many countries have multiple agencies with enforcement authority (e.g., national police agency, customs services, local police agencies, specialized organized crime agencies), so jurisdictional issues and communication are crucial considerations” (UNODC, Doha Declaration 2018).

However, despite differences, there are working relations amongst the law enforcing agencies across the states too. The network of professional law enforcers often tends to cooperate on information and intelligence sharing, but cooperation is frequently undermined by competing national agendas and interests.  

Technological Inferiority

One of the significant edges that transnational threats enjoy over traditional border management systems is their technological superiority mainly in the IT sector. Unprecedented development has occurred in the IT sectors throughout the last decades.  People and information are just one click away from each other today. Transnational threats were very quick and prompt to adopt these IT facilities. With their huge illegal financial power, they were faster to integrate IT facilities in their network with sophisticated modern gadgets and experts. They can now plan, coordinate, and conduct the crimes without crossing the border or physical presence.

On the contrary, traditional state border management systems were not as quick as transnational threats to adopt IT in their system. Lukewarm response of government machinery, bureaucratic process, constitutional norms, lack of resources and infrastructures in border areas, etc. led the traditional border management system in most of the countries particularly in the least and underdeveloped ones to be technologically inferior in comparison to transnational threats. Therefore, transnational threats could virtually outsmart the traditional border management system and agencies in conducting criminal activities.

IT has also offered other advantages to transnational threats where law enforcement against them has difficulty. Through virtual presence and coordination, they could evade the need for physical activities. Virtual transfer of information, instructions, and documents also made it easy for them to delete evidence. Both have made it difficult for a traditional border management system to apprehend criminals, acquire witnesses and evidence to enforce legal procedure. 

Multi-Agency Tasks

Fighting transnational crimes is not a single agency task; rather, it is a multi-agency enterprise. Different border management agencies have different stakes in this regard. Border security force, Customs, Passports, and Immigration, Drug and Narcotics Control Department, Police all perform their respective roles in enforcing effective border management.  Thus, a well-coordinated scheme is an essential element of strong border management.

In many cases, smooth coordination amongst different agencies and organs are absent. In most of underdeveloped countries, the lack of an all-encompassing coordinating platform or framework acts as a debacle in fostering effective border management systems. Sometimes frameworks are available on pen and paper but lack harmony at the functional level.

Lack of coordination amongst various concerned agencies allows the transnational threats to exploit the opportunities. Taking advantage of cooperation and coordination lapses, they spread their criminal networks and activities.

Lack of well-knitted cooperation and coordination amongst all concerned border management agencies appears to be a more pronounced drawback of traditional border management system in recent times. As transnational threats are spreading and diversifying taking advantage of globalization and technological ascendancy, a coordinated border management system integrating all relevant agencies under central direction and platform assumed greater importance. Traditional border management in most of the countries is still trailing behind. Thus, effective border management against diversified transnational threats has been efficient successful.

Nexus Power of Transnational Threat

One of the basic characteristics of transnational threats is that they penetrate in and form nexus with the corrupt segment of the government and society. They form such nexus over the years and integrate members from various segments of the societies. This nexus includes important personalities and institutions of the state. Judiciary, law enforcing and intelligence organizations, administration, and even the corrupt political figures are also integrated with their nexus gradually.  The huge financial power of transnational threat cartels enables them to form such nexus in countries having fragile politico-socio-economic infrastructure.

This way, they form an alternative authority within the state that works secretly or openly in favor of transnational threats. Thus, transnational threats enjoy immunity from legal enforcement and consequences with the patronization of this nexus and alternative authority. This corrupt segment remains blind to the criminal network and activities of the transnational Organized Crime  Groups.

Therefore, it becomes difficult for governments in many states to enforce strict measures again the growth and conduct of transnational threats Even if governments launch campaigns to eradicate organized crime, information, and pattern of government campaigns reach the organized criminal gangs well ahead of time. They change and adopt alternative means. Even on apprehension, they can influence the law and judiciary in their favor by their nexus power. This nexus power of transnational threats can be so strong that they can even change the administration and government set up if some government is stubborn and adamant about eradicating them.

This nexus power of transnational threats is one of the principal factors that enable them to live and survive in many targeted countries and even against the government. Due to this strength and collaboration of the corrupt nexus, many countries remain hostage to transnational threat in taking successful countermeasures against them.

Global Threat vis-a-vis Local Effort

Having networks across countries, the transnational threat is more of a regional and global threat in nature. It is very difficult for a state alone to fight and curb the transnational threats. Like global terrorism, the stakes of transnational threats are so huge and large that it’s not a one-state affair to fight the transnational threat. Transnational threats are mostly planned in one country, routed through different countries, and conducted in another country. Their network prevails in several countries and regions.

Notwithstanding the fact, most of the countries lack regional and global initiatives and forums to fight the transnational threat. Geo-political rivalry and interests most of the times, hinder the regional or global effort. Many a time narrow national interests also prevent the fostering of such collectivity. Examples are also there where the state itself sponsors the transnational threat due to informal economic benefits. 

However, there are few regional and global initiatives to counter transnational threats, but those are mainly focused on developed parts of the world. Countries with fragile socio-economic infrastructure often fail to cope up with the standard and requirements of regional cooperation. For example, many of the US efforts to organize regional cooperation to counter transnational threats remained hostage to the inability of the Latin and Central American states due to weak socio-economic and cultural infrastructure there. ASEAN countries have their Collaborative Border Management system but could hardly be very effective against prevailing organized crimes due to poor domestic infrastructure and regional differences.

Thus, not only lack of regional and global initiatives, fostering a strong regional collectivity and connectivity among nations due to socio-economic and cultural differences and interests is also a substantial challenge. This non-availability and difficulty of fostering effective collectivity amongst nations is a critical challenge that states face in countering transnational threats.


General Aziz Ahmed, BSP, BGBM, PBGM, BGBMS, psc, G, Ph.D, Chief of Army Staff, Bangladesh Army.