The world is entering a “polycriminal age” where cross-continental gangs use fraud, synthetic drugs, AI and child sexual abuse to generate profits bigger than the gross domestic products of nation states, a senior figure in Interpol has claimed.

Stephen Kavanagh, an executive director of the international agency, said multibillion-pound syndicates were destabilising countries, driving migration and destroying ecosystems, while international police forces struggled to cope.

Kavanagh, who is seeking to be elected as the next Interpol secretary general, urged officers to team up with outside organisations such as academia and tech firmsto tackle the crimes.

“A new era of crime is under way unlike anything we have faced before in speed, scale and sophistication. The chaos and misery it is unleashing is destabilising countries, driving migration, destroying ecosystems and harming the lives and livelihoods of millions,” he told an audience at the Royal United Services Institute on Whitehall, central London.

“This polycriminal age requires us to recognise the impacts in all their forms, to face uncomfortable truths and to make collective choices about how, where and when we as an international community are prepared to take responsibility and confront it.”

He said crime gangs had helped to destabilise countries such as Ecuador and were capitalising on the £61bn methamphetamines market in south-east Asia and the Pacific region. They were exploiting AI as part of sophisticated frauds, Kavanagh said, while profiting from the sexual exploitation of hundreds of millions of children.

“We need to recognise the importance of a new collective wisdom if we are to defend our citizens from this new era of crime,” he said. “That means working more closely with others outside traditional law enforcement, with academia, with tech, the private sector, with wider government, with development agencies. It is a fact that Interpol and law enforcement simply don’t have access to the insights, resources and data that our partners hold.”

His comments come as Interpol, which is 100 years old, has faced criticism over the issue of “red notices”, requests to law enforcement worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest a person, which have been used to detain and extradite enemies of autocratic states including Russia, China and the UAE.

The Guardian disclosed on Tuesday that a former Rwandan justice minister, Johnston Busingye, now the Rwandan high commissioner to London, presided over at least three cases in which Rwandan exiles who had defied the authorities were detained, deported or declared wanted on dubious grounds.

Ahmed Naser al-Raisi, the president of Interpol and a senior police officer in the UAE, faces accusations of complicity in torture, with legal complaints filed against him in France and Austria by Matthew Hedges, a British academic, and Ali Issa Ahmed, a torture victim. He has denied the allegations.

Asked about the abuse of red notices, Kavanagh said: “We have invested heavily in analysts lawyers and others to try to ensure that red notices are not misused.”

The agency has declined to identify red notice abusers, saying it would contradict the spirit of international cooperation needed to keep together the organisation, which represents 196 nations.