The rising threat of organised crime on social media / Robert Muggah

Even as the digital revolution kicks into gear, there are signs everywhere of governments using new technologies to monitor and repress citizens. The revelations of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) sprawling spying programme are just the start. And it is not just Western governments that are spying on citizens in faraway places – surveillance has become a common practice around the world.

But governments don´t have a monopoly on the use of big data to monitor and anticipate threats. Private investment banks have extensive experience in this space, as have a growing cadre of digital humanitarians who are harnessing satellite and telecommunications data to help disaster victims. And now it seems crime syndicates, cartels and gangs are getting into the game. Some of them are quintessential early adopters; they canvass social media to identify and neutralize competitors, but also to manage public relations.

Crime in the spotlight

The involvement of drug-trafficking organizations online might strike the reader as odd, even counter-intuitive. After all, organized crime traditionally thrives in the shadows, far from the public gaze. Historically, crime groups invest in minimizing their public profile, not amplifying it. The internet is changing all that. Organizations as diverse as the ISIS and the Zeta Cartel are using cyberspace to shape opinion and elicit respect, fear and terror. SEE  MORE…


Perú: Narcovuelos en Vraem, “un problema serio” para Naciones Unidas

El funcionario de la ONU dedicado a la lucha contra las drogas visita el Perú, primer productor mundial de hoja de coca. Yury Fedotov se mostró preocupado por las dificultades en el control del tráfico aéreo en el valle de los ríos Apurímac, Ene y Mantaro (Vraem).

Coincidentemente, la misma semana en que el Gobierno de Estados Unidos declaró a Sendero Luminoso una “organización criminal narcoterrorista responsable por traficar cocaína a toda Sudamérica” y lo incluyó en la lista Kingpin (que incluye a los criminales más buscados), el ruso Yury Fedotov, director ejecutivo de la Oficina de las Naciones Unidas contra la Droga y el Delito (Onudd), visitó el Perú para conocer los avances de la lucha contra la producción y tráfico de drogas en el país y, en particular, para monitorear el avance de los cultivos alternativos en el Alto Huallaga. VER MÁS…

Global: It´s time for humanitarian agencies to work in fragile cities / Robert Muggah

Humanitarian agencies are questioning when and how to engage with violent urban settings. Some of them are developing new and innovative approaches to protection and aid delivery. Others are more hesitant. Building on his TED talk, Robert Muggah describes four ways they are thinking about fragile cities.

The breakneck pace and scale of urbanization is precipitating an unprecedented demographic transition. Not surprising, violence is also migrating to the metropole. Overlapping forms of violence are emerging in fast growing lower-income neighborhoods and informal settlements of the South. Some war-torn cities – Aleppo, Gaza, and Mosul – are especially badly affected, with entire neighborhoods in smoldering ruins. In other municipalities – Caracas, Cape Town, Maceio and San Pedro Sula – violence is reaching epidemic levels even if the buildings are still standing. SEE MORE…

Brazil: Mapping Arms Data / Robert Muggah

What is it?
Drawing from existing data sources, the projectMAD website tracks the global trade in small arms, light weapons, and ammunition. Small arms are responsible for the vast majority of conflict deaths and homicidal violence across the globe yet the trade is poorly regulated and penetrated by illicit networks.

The MAD project increases transparency and promotes accountability in the global trade of small arms and ammunition in order to understand how they threaten security and development throughout the world.

How does it work?
The underlying data draws from over 37 publicly available sources documenting the authorized trade of arms and ammunition, covering 262 states and territories and aggregating over a million data points. Users can explore the interface to map weapons flows by country and year between 1992-2012.

The visualization displays the volume and composition of each country’s small arms transfers, differentiating between military and civilian weapons and ammunition. It also shows the direction of exports and imports and how much they are worth. SEE MORE…

Global: Preventing Fragile Cities From Becoming Failed Cities /Robert Muggah

The sheer pace and scale of urbanization is precipitating one of the most dramatic demographic shifts in human history. More than half of the world’s population now resides in cities. At least 500 cities have populations greater than one million, including over 28 megacities with ten million or more inhabitants.

In 1950 there were just 83 cities with over one million people and only three megacities.

Alongside fast growing global cities is another category of urban settlement that is falling behind. While some cities like Bogota and São Paulo are serving as national growth poles, others like Caracas and San Salvador are sinking into decay. Many are emerging in fast urbanizing parts of the Americas as well as Africa and Asia.

These urban nodes of instability have implications for poverty and inequality reduction. Some security experts believe that so-called ‘feral cities’ and their sprawling slums will serve as future landscapes of national unrest, civil conflict and urban insurgency. SEE MORE…

Global: “Fragile cities” plagued by violence, unemployment, lack of education

Unemployed youth. Lack of education. Social tension. Violence. These are among the characteristics of “fragile cities” overrun with crime and gangs, making them difficult to govern, Robert Muggah writes in Foreign Affairs.

Muggah cites a variety of factors for the trend. “Turbo-urbanization” — meteoric population surge over a short period — is a contributor. An example is Karachi, which grew from a half million people in 1947 to 21 million today. While the port city plays a key economic role for Pakistan, it’s also among the world’s most violent metropolises. Other fragile cities include Acapulco, Mexico; Maceió, Brazil; San Pedro Sula, Honduras; Dhaka, Bangladesh; Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo; and Lagos, Nigeria. SEE MORE…

Brazil: Stray Bullets Are No Accident / Robert Muggah

Thirty-two bullets. That’s all it took to shatter the lives of just as many innocent men, women and children in metropolitan Rio de Janeiro last month. It is an unspeakable tragedy. The victims consist of toddlers and senior citizens — all of them going about their own business. Most of them are residents of low-income neighborhoods, especially the city’s sprawling north zone.

The blame game is in full swing. The state’s Secretary for Public Security has condemned drug trafficking groups, alluding to a “nation of criminals” with brazen disregard for human life. Meanwhile, human rights activists say that the military police are also to blame. Caught in the crossfire, locals are throwing up their hands in resignation. Yet there is nothing accidental about these incidents — they are indicative of a failure of public policy. SEE MORE…