Sandro Calvani

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The other side of the coin of illicit trade: dealing with the dark side of globalization.
For decades the major focus of the fight against illicit trade has been targeting its illegality. The focus has been on the first key word of the illicit trade problem. Fight it, because it is illicit. Police, prosecutors, academia and governments have created a consensus and implemented plans to fight transnational organized crime. In that way much less than one per thousand of the world’s people was involved in the fight. The results of such one-way law enforcement approach has been limited. Illicit trade has tripled in the last decade by exploiting opportunities of globalization and other facilitating factors, such as corruption, failing states, cybercrimes, etc. The global criminal product has grown beyond US$ 1 trillion. Rarely different sectors of the counter-illicit trade community talked each other or even knew what was being done in another industry sector.

It is now time to give an equal attention to the second key word of the problem: the trade. Like it or not, illicit trade is a trade. As such, illicit trade has all characteristics of the free trade in the global market: it has demand, offer, producers, consumers, traders, profit, incentives, and competition.

Much more could be achieved to reduce demand of goods from illicit trade if consumers and licit trade would become aware of their side of the coin, of the shared responsibility to curtail illicit trade. In the next decades, protagonists of the anti-illicit trade movement must become a more aware and more responsible business and consumers’ community.

Some good practices already exist. They should be better known and tested for further expansion and possible inter-sectoral implementation.

Decades ago it was unconceivable to buy a South African wine because it was considered a way to support apartheid. The world’s consumers’ condemnation of apartheid so became a strong message beyond the impact of the economic embargoes. In the past decade awareness grew on the environmental impact of consumers’ and producers’ choices. It is self evident that a similar consumers’ and producers strong responsibility could significantly reduce also the demand and the profits of illicit trade.

The WEF global agenda council on illicit trade has published a short report and a few proposals on what could be rethought, redesigned and rebuilt in this area of global governance.

A proposal for the Global Redesign Initiative is being drafted; the contribution of all concerned communities and experts is welcome.


Sandro Calvani, Chairman of the WEF Global Agenda Council on illicit trade, 4 Feb 2010
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