Special Commentary: Outbreak: COVID-19, Crime, and Conflict

Paul R. Kan
Content Type
Commentary and Analysis
The Strategic Studies Institute of the U.S. Army War College
The COVID-19 pandemic is the byproduct of illicit global trafficking. Although COVID-19 was likely transmitted to humans via pangolins sold in the wet markets of Wuhan, China, these markets acted as mere way stations for the virus. The natural habitats of the pangolins are the forests, grasslands, and savannahs of Africa. But, through a network of impoverished local communities, poachers, transnational organized crime, gangs and corrupt officials, approximately 2.7 million of this endangered species are captured and smuggled to Asia every year. The pangolin has earned the sad distinction of being “the most trafficked animal on earth.” The illicit global network of wildlife trafficking was a major facilitator of the pandemic, but the effects of the virus’ spread are, in turn, facilitating more criminal activities while creating the potential for greater internal instability in many states. The contagion-crime nexus has been overshadowed by the urgent need to combat the spread of the virus. Nonetheless, COVID-19 is acting as an amplifier for crime and conflict that will have repercussions in the international security environment in the near and long term.
Crime, Trafficking , Conflict, Pandemic, COVID-19
Political Geography
China, Global Focus