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In conversation with Jurgen Stock

26 November 2019

Jürgen Stock (JS), the Secretary General of INTERPOL, tells Philip Ingram MBE (PI) of the importance of improving public private cooperation in the fight against international crime and terror. He explains how international conferences and exhibition play a vital role in enabling this.

(PI) We are seeing an increasingly polarised world, how is that effecting INTERPOL and security challenges from your perspective?

(JS) I think INTERPOL has been created, almost 100 years ago because there were challenges at that time and if you study old documents, sometimes you think nothing has changed. We are still talking about criminals crossing borders, organised crime that spans continents and of course the situation has been changing.

Today we talk about the fourth industrial revolution, we are talking about globalisation, we are talking about migration flows. So, the environment to ensure security has definitely been changing. The situation is more international and more complex than ever, law enforcement has to keep pace. We need not only to react but be prepared for what’s going on for maybe the next three or five years. So indeed, there’s a number of challenges for global law enforcement, but INTERPOL is more important than ever for sure.

(PI) Are international organisations and international exhibitions and conferences important in the fight against global crime?

They are very important, because they are a place to build bridges between law enforcement. It’s about building bridges with non-traditional partners of law enforcement which means the private sector and the academia. International events are a platform where experts from law enforcement meet, but not only amongst each other, but also to bridge to the private sector, which is playing an increasing role and an increasingly important role in providing security solutions, but also providing data, because the private sector is also a victim of crime. Specifically, in an environment where everything is connected in a hyper-connected world.

Not to forget the academia, which also has an important role to play in let’s say evaluating a little bit what we are doing and helping and finding tangible solutions. So those means and measures that help law enforcement front lines to come up with practical solutions. So, this is where the private sector has to play a key role. Again, that makes conferences where we come together important, not only amongst us, but in teams and teamwork- a joint approach, a comprehensive approach. I think it’s what’s needed to face today’s challenges.

(PI) So clearly public and private co-operation is one of your key messages to the international audiences?

(JS) I mean the key message is indeed building strong partnerships. No country or region can deal with the challenges we’ve been describing alone. It requires to organise collaboration, and more and more in an institutional way, not just ad-hoc. So, law enforcement amongst each other, we need to better co-operate. This is what INTERPOL is actually about, our primary mandate. But it’s also more systematic co-operation with the private sector.

We have a common understanding of where the threats are and what are possible solutions. So, in working in teams on specific questions, specific solutions, this is more important than ever, because everyone has a responsibility. Law enforcement is not just security, it’s not just something where we can say ‘we leave it for the police’, everybody has a role to play in terms of developing solutions, but also protecting our systems.

In the cyber environment, it’s quite obvious we all have to update our phones, our computers, with up to date anti-virus software and all the possibilities that exist to mitigate the risk. So, everybody has a responsibility, everybody has a role to play. But we as law enforcement have to do it in a better organised and institutionalised way, for instance with the private sector.

(PI) What are the greatest risks that we have got at the moment? Do you think it is serious international organised crime or is it international terrorism? Is it rogue nation states or is it a big mixture of all?

(JS) It’s the complexities of all these phenomena, because international terrorism is more complex than ever definitely. In the past, maybe it was more a national phenomenon, but perhaps now because of the so-called Islamic State, but also terrorist groups like Boko Harem, Al-Shabaab, Jemaah Islamiyah in Asia, many other groups. Also, through using modern technologies, social networks, they’re more connected than ever. Remember the terrible attack in Christchurch in New Zealand very recently, where we saw that through social networks there’s a different level of communication, organisation, radicalisation and of course it ended up in a live-streaming of an attack which is terrible- it’s really a new phenomenon that we are facing.

Organised crime, more and more really global criminal enterprises that are spanning the whole globe. Of course cyber-crime, borderless by nature and perhaps we are just at the beginning of a development which will really create problems for all our communities, again in a hyper-connected world, where you don’t have, as a criminal, to leave your home, you just from your sofa, you can use the underground economy to get access to the tools. You can actually attack any device, any system, any critical infrastructure around the world that is connected to the internet. So, there’s completely new challenges for global law enforcement.

(PI) You are the one person who has got the best understanding of the threats across the globe, what keeps you awake at night?

(JS) I think it’s that many of our member countries’ police services are struggling with the equipment they need to be a strong part of our global network, with the training their police officers need to be a part of our global network and how we can help with the support of many of our member countries who are in the position to help to enable these police officers, police agencies, police departments to exchange internationally relevant information, and to exchange because we know we are depending on each other more than other.

A critical incident in Africa might have an impact on the security situation in Europe and in Asia and in the Americas and vice versa. So, we need to help each other and how do we ensure that we enable and empower each other, and those who need our support.

(PI) Jürgen Stock, it has been a real pleasure speaking to you.