Linkages between Organized Crime and Terrorism (Module 16, UNODC University Module series: Counter-Terrorism)

The series of Modules on Counter-Terrorism Education, developed within the Education for Justice (E4J) initiative, aim to provide a relevant and valuable resource for lecturers teaching courses on counter-terrorism in universities and academic institutions across the world. The Modules seek to enhance students’ understanding of terrorism, its implications and related issues by providing foundational knowledge on relevant international, regional and national instruments and approaches. To increase their effectiveness, the Modules aim to connect theory to practice, encourage critical thinking, and use innovative interactive teaching approaches such as experiential learning, case studies and group-based work. The Modules are multi-disciplinary and can be integrated in a series of courses ranging from law to international relations, sociology, anthropology, criminology and many other disciplines. Whilst the primary focus is on the United Nations instruments, the Modules leave room for diverse perspectives and lecturers can easily adapt them to different local and cultural contexts.

Counter-Terrorism_module_overview_imageModule 16. Linkages between Organized Crime and Terrorism

In recent years, the international community has increasingly focused on the existence of linkages between organized crime and terrorism and, reflecting this trend, the United Nations Security Council has adopted various resolutions on this issue (e.g. resolutions 1373 (2001) and 2195 (2014); also see the Presidential Statement S/PRST/2018/9 of 8 May 2018).In doing so, the United Nations acknowledges that any intersection of terrorism and organized crime would represent a significant threat to international security.

While this area is the subject of a growing body of literature from governmental and non-governmental organizations, and is attracting increased academic interest, there is very little agreement on the existence, nature and extent of any linkages between organized crime and terrorism. Nor is there yet any authoritative consensus on which empirically based methodologies should be adopted for the collection, analysis and evaluation of data to identify the nature and extent of any linkages in different regions. These debates and gaps in available information and knowledge are noted in a number of international fora, including discussions held at the United Nations (e.g. see Security Council Statement 13325 of 8 May 2018, in which the Council “encourages Member States and international, regional and subregional organizations and fora to enhance knowledge of and support initiatives to address […] the linkages between terrorism and transnational organized crime […]”).

This Module aims to provide lecturers with an overview on the linkages between organized crime and terrorism, as well as available tools to complement further research on this issue at the tertiary level. It is intended, therefore, as a technical assistance tool to help build the knowledge base on this thematic area of growing concern to the international community.

Learning outcomes

Understand different approaches to defining terrorism, organized crime and transnational organized crime and the linkages between them.

Improve knowledge of international legal frameworks relating to organized crime and terrorism.

Understand existing key theoretical frameworks that have been used to explain the linkages between organized crime and terrorism.

Understand and identify ways in which the linkages between organized crime and terrorism can be located in different typologies of criminal activity.

Have an improved knowledge of different regional variations of interactions between organized crime and terrorism.

The full module is avaliable at UNODC website

TopicOrganized crime, Radicalization


Themes: Organized crime, Radicalization