Making Crime a Development Issue: UNODC and the SDG

Jarrett Blaustein1, Tom Chodor1, Nathan Pino2
1Monash University, Clayton, Australia, 2Texas State University, San Marcos, USA

This article examines the history of United Nations (UN) crime policy as a way of unravelling the historical origins of a ‘crime-development nexus’ that has become institutionalized within the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Using documentary analysis and elite interviews conducted with active and retired senior managers from the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC), we trace the institutional origins of this nexus back to the UN’s formative interest in the criminogenic consequences of rapid modernization following the Second World War. We then consider how the discursive framing of the relationship between crime and development evolved in response to critiques of modernization and the internationalization of the UN’s crime policy agenda with the onset of neoliberal globalization during the 1970s and 1980s. We then account for the emergence of transnational organized crime as a dominant focus of UN crime policy and the declining interest in development during the 1990s. The remainder of the article then presents a detailed account of UNODC’s efforts to advance the idea that crime is a threat to sustainable development during thirteen-year period preceding the adoption of the SDGs.

Jarrett Blaustein is a Lecturer in Criminology at Monash University. He is the author of Speaking Truths to Power (Oxford University Press, 2015) and his research focuses on intersections between global crime and development governance. As a member of the Monash Migration and Inclusion Centre, he also conducts research on community policing and the criminalisation of young people from migrant backgrounds.


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