Over the past 30 years, the process of globalization has revolutionized international affairs. The amount of trade has tripled, and the ease with which goods, money, services and people now circulate globally has resulted in soaring economic growth and development that has benefitted almost all countries. Perhaps the most significant change has taken place in the Global South. Developing countries’ share of world trade has risen from around 10 percent in the mid-1990s to around 20 percent today. Even amid the recent global economic downturn, developing countries have still managed to significantly increase their share of global trade (.pdf). Partly as a result of this development, we currently see the greatest decline in global rates of poverty in human history: In 1981, half of the developing world was living on less than $1.25 per day, whereas today that proportion is less than one-sixth.
While there is much to celebrate, obstacles to fulfilling the potential benefits of our increasingly interconnected world remain. To that end, we must address the undercurrents of globalization, which include the emergence of highly organized and sophisticated transnational crime groups; increased levels of drug, arms and human trafficking; and an expanded market for counterfeit goods and smuggling that, among other things, helps finance terrorist activities. The illicit global drug trade alone is estimated by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime to be worth well more than $300 billion annually (.pdf). This criminal commerce, in turn, fuels other transnational criminal activities, such as small arms trafficking, armed violence and money laundering. For example, Russian gangsters have boasted that their Afghan narcotics suppliers “never sell the drugs for money,” but instead “exchange them for ammunition and Kalashnikovs” delivered to the Taliban insurgency. These interconnected illicit networks, which also include piracy, human trafficking and other criminal activities, threaten to spoil the fruits of globalization and weaken societies’ ability to prosper economically, generate jobs and educate the next generation of citizens.
If we want to continue to build on the progress made in the past few decades, we must combat these challenges on the national, regional and international levels. A crucial part of any such strategy is the expansion and improvement of data- and information-sharing among government agencies, states and private-sector actors in the international arena.