Politeia Conference on Transnational Crime Organisations

From the 22nd to the 29th of August, the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin was the scene of the Politeia Community’s International Summer Academy (ISA) 2015, this year organised and hosted by the German student think tank: Studentenforum im Tönissteiner Kreis e.V.  Invitations were extended to members of the Grimshaw Club, a founding member of the Politeia Community and three members attended: Adriana Boloc, Kelly Benguigui and Isabella Wilson. The following is an account of the conference from Isabella.

The Politeia Community’s aims include fostering a spirit of international cooperation and participation among future generations in areas that are considered beyond the concern, scope and capacity of individual nation states. The community and its member organisations have hosted ISAs with this purpose in mind for several years, bringing together interested students and experts across many cities and countries. This year’s ISA continued in the tradition with the topic of Transnational Crime Organisations. The week was divided up into a sub-topic for each day: Arms Trafficking, Drug Trafficking, Human Trafficking, Environmental Crime and Cyber Crime.
Indian Dinner
The participant group was small but diverse. All levels of students were represented from undergraduates to PhD candidates, studying in fields as varied as law and government to literature and biomedical sciences, and coming from Germany, Switzerland, France, the UK and Mexico. The intimacy of the group allowed for closer and more detailed discussions with the invited guest speakers, who were also covered an extremely diverse range of fields of expertise. With an average of three seminars for each day, it would not be possible to summarise all that we took away from this opportunity. Nonetheless it is possible to isolate a few notable highlights.

The day dedicated for the subject of Human Trafficking took a particular emphasis on policies surrounding the sensitive area of prostitution. It was fascinating to compare and contrast the very different policy models in operation in Germany and Sweden, both clearly originating from a genuine drive to protect some of the most vulnerable people in society and yet advocating very different principles and rationales with which to approach this. This was represented on the one hand by Dr. PG Macioti from Hydra e.V. who passionately argued that key to protecting those involved in prostitution or sex work was working to break down the stigma associated those involved in the trade. Having deeply criticized the Swedish model it was then up to Endrit Mujaj, The Secretariat against Prostitution and Trafficking from Stockholm to defend it. The debate that ensued visibly affected all in the room including the speakers, no doubt due to the sensitive nature of the topic but also due to how it drew out the individual and human stories and situations in a week which could often suffer from the desensitisation of statistics.

Oxford presentation

This great academic and intellectual benefit of witnessing genuine disagreement of ideas and policies was also demonstrated in the discussion between Prof.Dr.Udo Helmbrecht, the Executive Director of the European Union Agency for Network and Information Security (ENISA) and Christian Grothoff, whose PhD is leading a research team at Inria Rennes. Together they represented both sides of one of the most vital debates of the modern era: how to create a word where states are able to protect themselves on a cyber level from the malicious actions of other states, criminal organisations and individuals, while also ensuring the privacy and safety of citizens remain protected from the same threats. The discussions were highly technical for many of the unspecialised participants but made accessible thanks to an interactive workshop delivered by Dr. Dominik Herrmann, University of Hamburg and a fascinating comparison of the governance of cyberspace to the early formation of principles of the high seas during the age of privateering from Florian Egloff, University of Oxford.

group shot

Finally, the day allocated to environmental crime was a day that revealed the shocking scale and extent of environmental crime carried out by groups as varied as the mafia, multinational corporations and states. The challenges faced by trying to encourage hard hitting action against the perpetrators of what is often called a ‘victimless crime’ were well explained. However, the National Member for Germany for EUROJUST, Klaus Meyer-Cabri gave a refreshing tone of optimism by highlighting the extremely positive developments in the area of international legal cooperation within Europe.

As with any conference of this nature, of course, the week brought together new contacts and connections of like minded and motivated people. Who knows what may come from my new contact in the drugs division of the German federal police?

Finally, it would be utterly remiss to not mention the incredibly generous hospitality of our hosts from the Studentenforum, who not only put a huge amount of work into organising a successful ISA (including, importantly, securing funding that made the ISA outstanding value for money!) but also acted as excellent hosts and ensured our evenings and weekends were spent with some of the best entertainment and food in Berlin.

Overall the week was a wonderful experience and I would recommend for others to stay up to date and involved with future events!

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