LSE Press publishes pioneering new journal examining the role of illicit economies in development

We look forward to LSE Press serving as a key venue for JIED and a whole generation of open access journals going forward
- Professor Julia Black
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As communities around the world reel from failed government policy responses to crime and illicit economies – such as the global war on drugs – and while other autocratic states and leaders merely seek to replicate them, debates on the role illicit economies play in development outcomes have never been more significant.

To help inform these narratives, the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), has today (14 January 2019) launched a ground-breaking open-access journal. 

The Journal of Illicit Economies and Development (JIED) – which will publish three issues a year – will provide a new innovative platform for evidence-driven research and policy commentary.

The JIED is an initiative of LSE’s International Drug Policy Unit (IDPU) – a cross-regional and multidisciplinary project harnessing LSE research and expertise – in partnership with the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime (GIATOC). This is an expert global network of policymakers, practitioners and analysts of illicit economies. The journal is published by LSE Press.

The field of illicit economies has tended to be dominated by securitised approaches, with limited academic inquiry informing the debate. Hence, the JIED aims to develop new cross-disciplinary academic scholarship and policy commentary on this debate. It plans to approach issues related to illicit economies from a development-oriented perspective.

The journal will provide analysis of the root causes of illicit markets, new methodologies and ways of measuring their impact and growth, while providing policymakers with actionable recommendations for addressing vulnerabilities brought about by illicit markets. It will contribute to the broader UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

As the lead editors of the first issue, Allan Giles, John Collins and Alexander Soderholm, write: “Conventional policy discourses have typically framed illicit economies as a security problem, drawing simplistic causalities with underdevelopment, which provide little in the way of effective policy responses. However, for many communities, involvement in illicit economic activity can often ameliorate some of the immediate problems they face. Under such circumstances, securitised policy responses, with no understanding of their impact on development outcomes, may cause more harm than good.”

"This journal," they continue, has been conceived to highlight "the complex relationship between illicit economies and development, with the goal of driving more informed and development-centric policies and state responses."

Commenting on the important role of high-quality, open-access research in an era of increasing policy contestation and complexity, Professor Julia Black, founder of LSE Press, says: “We launched LSE Press as a unique and ground-breaking forum for the key social science issues of our time to be debated, discussed and for innovative policies formulated. Perhaps most importantly we launched it as a mechanism to promote open access research produced and consumed in all parts of the world, not just institutions in the global north.

“In this sense it is intended to throw open the doors of academic research, from production at the most local levels of research development through its utilisation at the highest levels of policy formulation. JIED is a perfect example of this.

“The brainchild of LSE’s International Drug Policy Unit, a research and policy engagement unit that has shown tremendous success in developing policy relevant research and bringing it to key international, national and local forums, JIED is the first of many journals LSE will be launching in this vein. We look forward to LSE Press serving as a key venue for JIED and a whole generation of open access journals going forward.”

According to Dr John Collins, Executive Director of the IDPU, the JIED fills a major gap in the policy-research literature on illicit economies: “There is widespread acknowledgement that the ideas underpinning wars on drugs, crime and illicit economies have been a weak and often counterproductive response to societal issues demanding far more complex solutions.

“This journal will be a vital medium for publishing top-quality research that can begin to answer key policy questions: what comes after these wars? What lessons can we learn from them? What can the drug debate in particular teach us about how to manage illicit economies globally? What role is there for regulatory responses? And what are the limits of traditional, militarised and police interventions?”

The JIED is intended to foster a new generation of high-quality, policy-relevant research that can recalibrate the global policy norms that have defined how state and non-state actors view and respond to illicit economies and development policies.

Commenting on the launch of the journal, Mark Shaw, Director of the GIATOC says: “The evidence basis for the evolution and impact of organised crime and illicit economies is fragmented, and often driven by the downstream security concerns of Western states. The Global Initiative is therefore proud to partner with the LSE and promote the JIED, a journal that is committed to showcasing the work of a globally representative set of scholars.

“The publication will be an important means to connect cutting-edge research with the needs of policymakers and practitioners by helping them to access the latest perspectives on the nature of the threat and the broader scope for responding to it.”


Behind the article

The first issue of the JIED (titled ‘Addressing the Development Implications of Illicit Economies’) builds on multifaceted research and policy agendas that advance development perspectives of illicit economies, particularly in the Global South.  

The global ethos of the journal is reflected in the profile of the contributors and editors, and in the regional focus of its content. Deborah Alimi of the Université de Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, Julia Buxton (Central European University), Axel Klein (Global Drug Policy Observatory) and Patrick Meehan (School of Oriental and African Studies) will guest-edit the first issue.

 For more information and/or media enquiries, please contact Charlotte Eaton at LSE’s International Drug Policy Unit at: