The Serious Organised Crime & Anti-Corruption Evidence (SOC ACE) Research Programme

 

SOC-ACE
Person holding a load of money in their hands

The Serious Organised Crime & Anti-Corruption Evidence (SOC ACE) research programme aims to help unlock the black box of political will for tackling organised crime, transnational corruption, kleptocracy and illicit finance through research that informs politically feasible, technically sound interventions and strategies.

Funded by the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), SOC ACE is a new component in the Anti-Corruption Evidence (ACE) research programme, alongside Global Integrity ACE and SOAS ACE. Initial funding is for an urgent scoping phase from 1 June 2021 to 31 March 2022. 

There is strong demand for a shared framework for how to better understand the threats that serious organised crime (SOC), illicit finance and transnational corruption pose for key global challenges, underpinned by robust research and evidence. SOC ACE addresses this demand for research that informs politically feasible, technically sound interventions to tackle SOC, transnational corruption, kleptocracy and illicit finance in a range of topics and geographies, working in collaboration with world-leading research organisations and through consultation and engagement with key stakeholders.

About SOC ACE

Serious organised crime (SOC), transnational corruption and illicit finance threaten national and global security and create vulnerabilities that undermine efforts to build resilient states, societies and economies – in the UK and around the world.

As the UK’s Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy explains, ‘Overseas, SOC is a threat to international security and prosperity: it extends and exacerbates conflicts; undermines allies and partners’ stability; and inflicts the highest economic cost on the lowest-income countries'. Data from the UNODC shows how SOC kills as many people globally as all armed conflicts combined, far surpassing the numbers killed by terrorist violence. SOC acts as an enabler of state threats and terrorism, nationally and cross-border, and is itself fuelled by transnational corruption and illicit financial flows (IFFs).  IFFs and economic crime act as enablers for organised crime groups (OCGs), terrorist and extremist groups, transnational corruption and kleptocracy and other malicious actors.

Lack of political will has been shown to be a key factor undermining counter-SOC, anti-corruption and anti-money laundering strategy and operations, and the UK’s Serious and Organised Crime Strategy sets out the intention to ‘drive up political will to address vulnerabilities in jurisdictions of risk, enhancing resilience and strengthening operational cooperation’.

SOC ACE uses a problem-led, politically informed approach, building on findings from the Anti-Corruption Evidence (ACE) research programme, funded by the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), and the University of Birmingham’s high impact research and global policy/practitioner engagement on Thinking and Working Politically (TWP)

The programme benefits from linkages with the university’s Institute for Global Innovation’s research cluster on 21st century transnational crime as well as the Centre for Crime, Justice and Policing.

The approach takes as its starting point – and adapts - the ACE framing principles:

  • anti-SOC and Anti-Corruption, not just admiring the problem;
  • problem-led, not starting with preconceived ideas about the ‘right’ solutions;
  • real world priorities in sectors and geographies in which SOC, illicit finance and transnational corruption are part of, but rarely all of, the problem;
  • Taking politics seriously, developing politically viable reforms and approaches in ways that are context-sensitive and avoid unintended consequences;
  • thinking differently about prevention through better understanding the ways in which SOC and corruption provide solutions to the everyday problems people face that often have deep social, structural, economic and political roots, particularly in resource-scare environments;
  • innovative approaches to testing and measuring the effects of anti-SOC, illicit finance and transnational corruption interventions;
  • ‘nose to tail’ engagement with policy makers and practitioners – from research design through to implementation, delivery, communication and engagement.

SOC ACE has commissioned a number of research projects in this phase, details of which can be found in the drop-down menu below. In the coming months, please bookmark this website for news, events and publications. You can also follow us on Twitter: @SOCACE_Research

Management team and contact details

Professor Heather Marquette (Director)

Heather is Professor of Development Politics and is currently seconded part-time to FCDO’s Research and Evidence Directorate as Senior Research Fellow (Governance and Conflict). She is an Expert Member of the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime’s expert network, a Fellow with the University’s Institute of Global Innovation’s research cluster on 21st century transnational crime and a member of the Centre for Crime, Justice and Policing. Heather’s research, which has been funded by the British Academy/Global Challenges Research Fund, DFID/FCDO, DFAT and the EU, focuses on corruption and anti-corruption interventions, development politics, aid and foreign policy and transnational organised crime. She is the SOC ACE director. 

Read her full profile

 

Heather Marquette

Neringa Collier (Manager)

Neringa Collier is the Project Manager for the SOC ACE programme and the Manager of GSDRC. She is responsible for the overall management of the programme including funder engagement, financial and progress reporting. Neringa is also responsible for managing the rapid response helpdesk service delivered through the K4D programme, overseeing delivery of GSDRC’s research projects, engagement with funders and partners, managing research and support staff and business development activities. While at the University of Birmingham she also worked as a Research Development Officer and as University Liaison Manager for the Alan Turing Institute. Prior to joining the University of Birmingham she worked for Ecorys, a private research and consultancy company, where she gained significant experience of managing evaluations for European Commission programmes.  

Read her full profile

 

neringa collier

Dr Zenobia Ismail (Deputy Manager & Research Fellow)

Zenobia Ismail is a Research Fellow in the GSDRC where she has written extensively on youth employment and many other areas of international development. Before this she was a researcher at the Centre for Social Development in Africa at the University of Johannesburg. She also worked with the Afrobarometer research programme for three years based at Idasa, South Africa where she was responsible for managing survey data collection in southern Africa and outreach co-ordination across all the countries in study.

Before moving into social research she was a market researcher working in the private sector. In 2018 she graduated with a doctorate in Politics and International Studies from the University of Cambridge. She is leading research on the SOC ACE project on the South African Revenue Service and its role in deterring serious, organised crime. She also does partner engagement and general project management for the programme. 

Read her full profile

 

zenobia-ismail

Dr Iffat Idris (Research Fellow)

Iffat Idris has extensive experience of working in the international development sector, notably with the UN System and World Bank.  Her areas of focus include governance, conflict analysis, disaster management, capacity development and social protection. 

She has written evidence reviews on cross-border trafficking for the Xcept (Building Evidence on Cross Border Conflict) Programme. Iffat will be producing evidence reviews on SOC.

Read her full profile

 

indris-iffat

 


Bernardo Russo (Research Associate)

Bernardo Russo is a Research Associate at the International Development Department, University of Birmingham. His research interests include the provision of extra-legal governance in the UK and factors that enhance the emergence of mafia groups in new territories. In SOC ACE, he is working on seaports and serious and organised crime, with a specific focus on the Black Sea region. Bernardo holds a BA in Psychology from the University of Turin, an MSc in Sociology from the University of Oxford and is on his way to acquire a second MA in Public Policies and Administrations from the University of Milan.

 

Bernando Russo

Research Projects

Publications

Output Type/Number/Year*  Author/s (Visit project webpage) Title (Download publication as PDF)
ERP1/2022  Idris, Iffat  Political will and combatting serious organised crime 
ERP2/2022  Idris, Iffat  Corruption, crime and conflict in Ukraine 
BN1/2022  Marquette, Heather  Moving ‘from political won’t to political will’ for more feasible interventions to tackle serious organised crime and corruption 
RP1/2022  Haenlein, Cathy; Erskine, Sasha; Gantz, Elijah; Keatinge, Tom  Targeted sanctions and organised crime: impact and lessons for future use 
BN2/2022   Haenlein, Cathy; Erskine, Sasha; Gantz, Elijah; Keatinge, Tom  Targeted sanctions and organised crime: impact and lessons for future use 
BN3/2022  Blattman, Christopher; Lessing, Benjamin; Mesa-Mejía, Juan Pablo; Tobón, Santiago  Measuring organised crime: challenges and solutions for collecting data on armed illicit groups 
BN4/2022  Blattman, Christopher; Lessing, Benjamin; Tobón, Santiago  The terrible trade off: how the hidden cost of organised crime harms cities, and what can be done about it 
RP2/2022   Cheeseman, Nic; Peiffer, Caryn  Can messaging help us to fight serious organised crime and corruption in Albania?  
BN5/2022  Cheeseman, Nic; Peiffer, Caryn  How do Albanians feel about corruption and serious organised crime in 2022?  
BN6/2022  Cheeseman, Nic; Peiffer, Caryn  Can messaging help us to fight serious organised crime and corruption in Albania?  
RP3/2022   Owen, Catherine; Mayne, Thomas; Prelec, Tena  The illicit financialisation of Russian foreign policy 
BN7/2022  Owen, Catherine  Mapping Russian illicit finance in Africa: the cases of Sudan and Madagascar 
BN8/2022  Prelec, Tena  Russian illicit financial flows and political influence in South Eastern Europe: how financial flows and politics intersect in Montenegro and Serbia 
BN9/2022  Mayne, Thomas  Russian illicit financial flows and influence on Western European politics 
RP4/2022  Ucko, David; Marks, Thomas A  Organised crime as irregular warfare: strategic lessons for assessment and response 
BN10/2022  Ucko, David; Marks, Thomas A  Organised crime as irregular warfare: a call for strategic competence 
RP5/2022  Bensassi, Sami; Fariza, Arisya  Combating anti-money laundering: does implementing the Financial Action Task Force recommendations bite?   
BN11/2022  Bensassi, Sami; Fariza, Arisya  Combating anti-money laundering: does implementing the Financial Action Task Force recommendations bite?   
RP6/2022  Collins, John; Tennant, Ian  Evaluating Afghanistan’s past, present and future engagement with multilateral drug control  
BN12/2022  Collins, John; Tennant, Ian  Future engagement with the Taliban on drug control and organized crime: mapping the Taliban’s views, international options and alternative approaches 
RP7/2022  Botoeva, Gulzat; Marat, Erica  Drug trafficking, violence and corruption in Central Asia 
BN13/2022  Marat, Erica; Botoeva, Gulzat  Drug trafficking, violence and corruption in Central Asia 
RP8/2022  David-Barrett, Liz; Tomic, Slobodan  Transnational governance networks against grand corruption: Cross-border cooperation among law enforcement
BN14/2022  David-Barrett, Liz; Tomic, Slobodan  News never sleeps: When and how transnational investigative journalism complements law enforcement in the fight against global corruption
RP9/2022 Fazli, Shehryar Narcotics Smugglingin Afghanistan: Links between Afghanistan and Pakistan
BN15/2022 Fazli, Shehryar Narcotics smuggling in a new Afghanistan, and the Afghanistan-Pakistan nexus
RP10/2022  Hoang, Thi  Human trafficking in the Afghan context: Caught between a rock and a hard place?  
BN16/2022  Hoang, Thi  Human trafficking in the Afghan context: Caught between a rock and a hard place? 
RP11/2022  Davis, Jessica  Illicit financing in Afghanistan: methods, mechanisms and threat-agnostic disruption opportunities 
BN17/2022  Davis, Jessica  Illicit financing in Afghanistan: methods, mechanisms and threat-agnostic disruption opportunities 
RP13/2022  Oliveira, Ana Paula  Illicit markets and violence in Afghanistan
BN19/2022  Oliveira, Ana Paula  Illicit markets and violence in Afghanistan
RP14/2022 Reitano, Tuesday Political won’t? Understanding thechallenges ofcountering IFFs: A global evidence review
BN20/2022 Reitano, Tuesday The challenges of responding toIFFs where political will is absent: a synthesis evidence review
BN21/22 Rocha Menocal, Alina Incorporating organised crime into analysis of elite bargains and political settlements: Why it matters to understanding prospects for more peaceful, open and inclusive politics
BN22/2022 Barber, Chris; Howes, Andrew; Knight, James and Marquette, Heather Politics, uncertainty and interoperability challenges: the potential for sensemaking to improve multi-agency approaches
RP15/2022 Rocha Menocal, Alina Why incorporating organised crime intoanalysis of elite bargains and political settlements matters: Understanding prospects for morepeaceful, open and inclusive politics

*(ERP=Evidence Review Paper); (RP=Research Paper); (BN=Briefing Note)

News and Events

To be updated