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Countering Transnational Organized Crime


Admission requirements

  • Only students of the MSc Crisis and Security Management can take this course

  • This course only offers a place to a maximum number of 38 students.

  • Students can only register for one elective.


Transnational Organized Crime (TOC) is considered one of the high-priority threats for international justice, peace and security. Estimated to generate between 1.6 and 2.2 trillion USD per year, it has inestimable human, social and economic costs. Efforts to eradicate, or even simply curb TOC are hampered by how deeply rooted the phenomenon is in our institutional, social and cultural fabric.

We will start the course by looking at what TOC is, the historical development of competing definitions and the different typologies of TOC. Drawing on a range of different disciplines, including law, criminology, international relations, peace and development studies, the course will cover theoretical and practical approaches to TOC. Students will develop holistic and critical views on the phenomenon and will be encouraged to develop the knowledge and skills necessary to formulate innovative approaches and responses.

These learning objectives will be achieved by looking at specific case studies, in different contexts. Our third class will be dedicated to the trafficking and smuggling of people, unborn children and organs. A comparison of three different contexts, namely South-East Asia, North Africa and Europe will allow us to consider the context-specific characteristics of related criminal activities and responses. In addition, we will consider how these phenomena are culturally situated and, at times, strongly politicised. Next, we will look at the illicit trafficking of drugs and firearms, its interlinks with state and non-state actors’ violence, and its impact on peace, security and justice. Our last case study, in class 5, will focus on environmental crimes. Treating this topic will offer us the opportunity to lay the foundations for a broader discussion on the link between organised crime, peace and sustainability, which will be the topic of class 6. Our last class will differentiate cyber-dependent and cyber-enabled crime and look at the cyber space as one in which crime and justice coexist, develop and interact with one another.

Throughout the course, particular attention will be given to three main root causes and facilitators of TOC, namely insecurity, violence and corruption. As a consequence, we will look at good practices in the responses of policy-makers and security agents, as well as at systemic failures which hinder the formulation of effective responses.

Course Objectives

By the end of the course, students are able to:

  • Understand and critically appraise the main definitions and approaches to Transnational Organized Crime

  • Identify and critically evaluate a range of operational approaches to the phenomenon;

  • Survey, discuss and propose a range of innovative approaches.


On the right side of programme front page of the studyguide you will find links to the website and timetables, uSis and Brightspace.

Mode of Instruction

This course consists of seven lectures, workgroups, case study analyses and general debates

Attendance is mandatory. Students are only allowed to miss more than one session if there are special, demonstrable personal circumstances. The Board of Examiners, in consultation with the study advisors, will decide on such an exceptional exemption of mandatory attendance

Total study load 140 hours:
21 Contact hours
119 Self-study hours: reading, preparing lectures, assignments, etc.

Assessment method

Assessment for this course is based on three assignments:

Group presentation:

  • 30% of final grade

  • Grade can be compensated in case of a fail (grade < 5.50),

  • Resit not possible.

Take home exam

  • 70 % of final grade

  • Grade cannot be compensated, a 5.50 is required to pass the course

  • Resit is possible

  • Resit will take the same form

The calculated overall course grade must be at least 5.50 in order to pass the course. If the calculated overall course grade is lower than 5.50, students are also permitted to resit the 50% exam.

In the case of written assessment methods, the examiner can always initiate a follow-up conversation with the student to establish whether the learning objectives have been met.

Transitional Arrangement
Passed partial grades obtained in year 2022-2023 are no longer valid during year 2023-2024. All students are expected to enroll for an elective via MyStudymap on a 'first come first serve' basis.

Reading list

A selection of articles, to be announced on Brightspace.


Register yourself via MyStudymap for each course, workgroup and exam (not all courses have workgroups and/or exams). Do so on time, before the start of the course; some courses and workgroups have limited spaces. You can view your personal schedule in MyTimetable after logging in.

Registration for this course is possible from t.b.a..

Leiden University uses Brightspace as its online learning management system. After enrolment for the course in MyStudymap you will be automatically enrolled in the Brightspace environment of this course.

More information on registration via MyStudymap can be found on this page.


Clara Cotroneo