As an Open Society Fellow, Vanda Felbab-Brown is researching seven illicit economies—including the drug trade, maritime piracy, the smuggling of gems, illicit logging, and the illegal trade in wildlife—to determine how best to understand and manage them in ways that enhance human security and human rights. She argues that current efforts to contain such economies, which center on law-enforcement strategies—such as suppression, interdiction, and border control—have thus far not significantly reduced many of the illicit flows they target. Her research explores both the structural characteristics and the local contexts of these illicit economies in different parts of the world.
Felbab-Brown is a Fellow in Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution where she researches internal and external conflict issues and their management as well as organized crime, illicit economies, and law enforcement. She focuses particularly on Afghanistan, Pakistan, Southeast Asia, Mexico, Colombia, the Andean region, and the Horn of Africa. She is the author of Shooting Up: Counterinsurgency and the War on Drugs (Brookings), which examines efforts to optimize counternarcotics policies with counterinsurgency strategy. She is also the author of numerous policy reports, peer-review articles, and opeds on conflict issues, state-building, law enforcement, organized crime, and illicit economies. She received her doctorate from MIT and her BA from Harvard University.