Tag Archives: governance

Student Position Paper – Civil society oversight role in SSR – Donatella Rostagno

In post-conflict contexts, it is vital to develop a coherent Security Sector Reform (SSR) in order to build sustainable peace. In order to be coherent and successful, SSR should be context specific and should respond to the principle of local ownership of all the stakeholders, including both the providers of security services and the beneficiaries (population and civil society) (DCAF-ISSAT, 2014). If external donors want to proactively and coherently support the development of democratic, transparent and accountable security institutions, then particular attention and efforts should be put on enhancing Security Sector Governance (SSG) thus creating the right conditions for the development of security institutions that respond to democratic oversight and control. SSR programmes have to be developed and implemented to enhance change and improve SSG (Schroeder, 2010).

It is widely recognized that SSR should be people-centered and locally owned, in order to allow people and civil society organisations to hold security and justice institutions accountable. It is only by ensuring the active participation of the people most affected by either the improvement or the deterioration of the security and justice sectors, that their oversight role is strengthened and trust in state security and justice institutions is reinforced.

However, the international community has too often embraced a technical approach by focusing on equipping and training security institutions and on the operational effectiveness of security providers. In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), for example, donors have invested in short-term operational objectives, especially to deal with the crisis in the East of the country. Not enough resources have been invested in longer-term initiatives aimed at changing the way security is managed enhancing therefore the role of civil society and the parliamentary security and defence committee (Boshoff et al., 2010). Our NGO therefore calls the international community to ensure that security institutions actually operate under democratic control and are accountable to the population. Resources allocated to building the capacity of parliamentary security and defense committees and civil society organisations should be increased and better structured.

In many contexts, the international community has invested a great deal of resources in SSR in order to ensure security throughout the country and create the right conditions for development. However often progress is quite slow and weak and although it is widely recognized that the effectiveness of the security sector depends on accountability, programmes lack the necessary focus on making sure that civilians and civil society organisations can actually play the oversight role.

Our NGO calls on the international community to make sure that civil society is aware of the particular role it should play, is trained to understand SSR in their context and develops the right knowledge and skills to make security forces accountable. This people-centered approach is needed in order to develop an understanding of local communities’ security needs and priorities as well as the dynamics and trust or distrust in formal security actors.

In their cooperation with security institutions and support to SSR programmes, international donors should communicate the importance of enhancing SSG in order to make sure that the goal of developing effective, inclusive and accountable security institutions and contribute to international peace and security and sustainable development is achieved. Our NGO is convinced that developing programmes aiming at strengthening democratic oversight and control is the only way to ensure that rights and interest of the citizens but also of the people who are employed in the security sector are protected.

In order to achieve the objective of strengthening civil society’s oversight role, coherence and harmonization of donors policies is needed and unfortunately these are often not coordinated and sometimes even opposed (Wulf, 2004). Although at a conceptual and policy level there seem to be widespread agreement among the members of the international community on the basic elements of SSR, on the ground coherence among different stakeholders has been much less apparent (Bryden, 2015). Unfortunately, the lack of coordination and overlapping or contradictory mandates can easily result in a lack of clear priorities and in a lack of optimization of how resources are allocated. Clearly, the lack of coherence has translated into an incapacity of international donors to assist all stakeholders in reforming the security sector and in supporting the capacity building of civil society to play the oversight role.

In conclusion, investments in SSR should aim at enhancing SSG ad make sure that security institutions serve the interests of the population and enjoy the trust and confidence of the population. In order to achieve this objective, civil society must have the means and develop the capacity to monitor security forces and take part in the political debate on security policy and reform since the very early stage of the process (Department of criminology, 2015).

Postscript

It is generally acknowledged that good SSR has to do with “democratic forms of accountability, transparent decision-making processes and security apparatus that is fully subordinated under the control of a civilian authority” (Schroeder, 2010: 11).

Mark Sedra (2010: 6) identifies a number of key norms and fundamental principles of SSR according to which the participation of civil society organisations (being them media, human rights NGOs or grassroots organisations) exercise a control role on SSR policies and practices. Moreover institutional mechanisms should be created with a role of control over the way SSR is carried on in terms of human rights record and financial management.

There are different dimensions to a good SSR (local ownership, effectiveness, accountability and political sensitivity) but often the international community supporting SSR programmes prefers to concentrate on elements measurable in the short-term such as training and logistic support. Accountability is a difficult dimension to be measured and it requires work with security institutions to make sure that ownership of SSR is not only meant as elites’ ownership but also non-state actors and the wider society.

Engaging civil society in the security sector can prove to be difficult: in post-conflict environments civil-society can be quite weak and fragmented, it is not easy to identify who from civil society should take part in SSR programmes, civil society can often lack trust in the government and from the government. For all these reasons often donors find it difficult to concretise civil society participation in SSR. However better coordination and coherence of donor’s policies would be needed in order to develop programmes that focus on all stakeholders’ capacity building and that in turn, would enhance the participation of civil society in SSR at all levels.

Dividing the Threat Multiplier: An Argument for Effective International Prosecution Against Grand Corruption and Kleptocratic Regimes – Maren Moon

The release of the Panama Papers by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) has fuelled spectacular revelations regarding the scale of grand corruption and the wider system which enables it (ICIJ, 2016: np).  The scandal is exposing involvement by the very people and institutions who should feel morally and legally compelled to act with the highest integrity but who instead participate in a system all too frequently perpetrating wholesale crime, undue privilege, and the global erosion of security.  (Wolf, 2014: 3). They are doing so with impunity, and they are doing so while the world’s watchdogs cannot help but possess full knowledge that ‘the link between grand corruption and mass human rights violations is undeniable’ (Freedom House, 2014, and also Woodrow Wilson Center, 2016: np., and Transparency International: 2008, ).

No less than heads of states and global financial institutions linked to London, New York and Switzerland have now been connected to an enormous shadow economy responsible for: hiding assets; exercising bribery; facilitating tax evasion; practicing financial fraud; enabling drug trafficking; and participating in sexploitation. (See ICIJ, 2016 and Huffington Post a, 2016, Huffington Post b, 2016: np, and BBCb, 2016: np ). And no fewer than 11 million documents have laid bare the global elite’s participation in a system purposefully rigged to increase the gap between the absurdly wealthy and the tragically poor.  The international community would do well to note too that this is a system which facilitates crime in desperate and conflict-vulnerable settings while arming the insurgents and terrorists who operate from within such settings (Patrick, 2009 and Napoleoni, 2003). We should also recall the system intentionally erodes democratic principles of transparency, fair taxation, the right to peaceful protest, and the exercise of free speech (Woodrow Wilson Center, 2016: np and Wolf, 2014: 5-8).  In short, this is a system wherein leaders and criminals alike actively undermines everything to which the international community aspires, and for which it ultimately endeavours; sometimes selflessly and in conditions of great hardship.

It should not go unrecognised that the responses of those who have been unveiled as both witting and unwitting participants in the darker aspects of this economy, all too consistently reiterate a mantra which should give each of us a moment’s pause for reflection – that lawyers and financial experts alike still possess the legal means of perpetrating unfair, corrupt, and increasingly unfair and corrupting practices. Vested interests in lofty positions have suggested big businesses, and their high-flying personnel, need to work in the shadow economy even when it lowers opportunities for smaller businesses and honest entrepreneurs.  They argue further that legislation against bribery ‘puts British companies at a competitive disadvantage’ (Barrington, 2016: 4). And yet still too, others have intoned that society needs to tacitly accommodate unethical practices in the financial sector on the grounds that businesses in their countries are too big to fail, or too important to risk having relocate to another country. But in making these accommodations we will be enabling the capture of entire governments by organisations whose interests do not include the common citizens who eke by and sustain the infrastructure enjoyed by those who have rigged the system against them (Johnson, 2009: np).  Such accommodation could only serve to entrench profit for the few at the cost of the many. We are, in effect, now experiencing parallel attacks on democracy by the licit and illicit economies alike – both of whom are seemingly melding into a deeper, more committed relationship in an increasingly shady capacity and whose political-economy will forever thwart the international community’s efforts in bringing peace and security.

Those who evade tax legally are allowed to escape criminality by conveniently structured legal technicalities. This phenomena is relatively easy to rectify. But the Big King Kleptocrats who knowingly act outside the law, do so understanding that successful prosecution against their acts is nearly unheard of. History and statistics remain firmly on their side. This is occurring regardless of corruption’s increasingly evident role in destabilising entire continents such as Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Central and South America (Carnegie, 2015).  These actors smile comfortably while insinuating that exposure of their misdeeds might expose a larger, darker reality in which too many purportedly clean-skinned actors may also be complicit.

And while they may not be kind, they most certainly are proving wise.

Indeed, these same kleptocrats, and their advisors, will have followed closely the freedom and riches once more enjoyed by Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak who has now escaped charges of corruption and murder on a mere technicality (Reuters, 2015: np). Mubarak was a kleptocratic despot whose legacy includes death, blood, fear, and a deeply troubled country. He did not operate in a vacuum, and he was aided by the most powerful regimes in the world. But that does not excuse the outcome – nor does it justify the continuance of such behaviour. Those choosing to play in the dirty sandbox of blood and money in today’s shadow economy will have either dismissed the importance of the Arab Spring’s impact on security and human rights or cynically regarded the situation as yet another opportunity from which to leverage additional millions.  I argue that humanity can no longer afford such cynicism.

I further assert these same actors will have understood President Goodluck Jonathan’s dismissal of his bank governor following the well-intended public servant’s disclosure to the ‘Nigerian Senate that the treasury was missing billions of dollars in expected oil revenue’ (Wolf, 2014: 5). Indeed, Jonathan and his cronies seemed content to turn a blind eye to the networks which channelled money and arms to Boko Haram while leaving security forces ill equipped to quell an uprising which has now left more than 10,000 civilians and security personnel dead at the hands of Islamist savagery (Foreign Policy, 2015: np).

The kleptocrats will have further monitored the toppling of corrupt regimes in Tunisia and the Ukraine and reacted like narcissistic sociopaths unable to emotionally register the gravity of their actions, while concurrently making plans to fly to safety while maintaining access to their ill-gotten gains if the same danger knocks on their door.

The impunity enjoyed by this cohort, and structured into our globalised economy, has paved the way for much of the harm we see unfolding on the world’s stage. It has also provided resonant and compelling reasons from which the so called Islamic State, Boko Haram, and the Taliban find a seemingly endless supply of recruits (Chayes, 2007: 22, and Woodrow Wilson Center, 2016: np, and Schirch as cited in Mertus and Helsing, 2009: 68).

Whether knowingly or not, every last player in the shadow economy has contributed to an encroaching threat against humanity and which serves as nothing short of a security threat multiplier. It is of epic and global proportions.

The 2014 Ebola crisis in West Africa provides an immediate example of how easily corruption might impact security on a global scale. UN donor contributions topping $5.2bn were dispersed to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.  Almost all of it vanished, and only a fraction of the disbursement was ever audited. ‘In all three countries, no individual has been tried, much less convicted, for their role in the mismanagement of money meant to save the lives of the dying’ (Al Jazeera, 2016: np.).  These funds were also intended to contain the outbreak and prevent its spread.  The UN’s Global Ebola Response data refers to the outbreak’s nature as having been of ‘widespread and intense transmission’ (UN, 2014: np). But to date, the myriad pages and resources on their website speak only of a level of need and the current status of the situation.  Their silence of the flagrant misappropriation of funds perpetuates impunity.  And such complicit behaviour could very well facilitate a new pandemic of Ebola or some other virus, which experts warn could be incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to halt if not contained early, and with the utmost care; care which could never result in the face of another round of missing but badly needs funds (Oxford Martin School, 2012: np).

Grand Corruption further impacts security by destabilising regions in concussive shock waves. As migrants flee corrupt regimes and insurgencies (again, simultaneously fostered by the shadow economy), we see communities decimated, resentments grow, borders close, and trust diminish. (BBCa 2015: np,). Actions originating thousands of miles away from Europe’s shores are now threatening the cohesiveness of European states and the long architected interdependence of the EU.   The Schengen Agreement is further threatened as once ceded sovereignty is being repossessed by politicians seeking to erect borders and control the influx of desperate people fleeing the regimes which grand corruption has enabled.

Finally, kleptocracy feeds the thickening of the crime-conflict nexus as human traffickers, arms dealers, and smugglers share mutually beneficial relationships with terrorists, insurgents and the ruling elite. The nexus will continue to thicken so long as the chaotic conditions and lack of governance resulting from unabated kleptocracy ensures the conditions favourable to its growth.  (see Patrick, 2009,  and Lacher, 2012, and McMullin, 2009, and Jesperson, 2015 and Sloan and Cockayne, 2011).

And it is for these reasons, and so many more, that we must strive to end impunity for grand corruption – and the shadow economy in which it thrives.   Such a task will require concerted, relentless multilateral efforts and incredible political will.  But it can, and must be done.

We can begin by seizing opportunity from the momentum gathering in the wake of the Panama Papers and the associated Unaoil scandals in current headlines.  We can further reach out across the international community and form inter-organisational working teams to apply pressure on host-countries, the Bretton Woods institutions, and home governments.   We can institute training programs which dispel the activities which remain shrouded in mystery but whose reality can be unpacked in simple terms.  But most of all, we must challenge the sovereignty of those countries who refuse to participate in fair trade and good governance – and we must have an international court with both the will and capacity to challenge the problem.  And that court must somehow operate separately from the arbitrary and political interests of the United Nations Permanent 5.

But it has to start. Impunity has to end. And accountability must follow. And never has there been a more pressing time.

Post-script

As a post-script to my previous position piece, I would like to gently assert that the International Community has understandably tolerated grand corruption in the theatres of peacekeeping and peacebuilding operations. The conditions in many of these theatres have necessitated that our precious resources be used first to protect lives and second to institute the ground-level security needed to maintain sufficient equilibrium from which to begin the long, hard institutionalisation of security sector reform, transitional justice, and micro-development projects.  But this too provides another reason why the solution to grand corruption requires an international effort outside the influence of the P5 (whose own members might be guilty of grand corruption or geopolitics).  We must seek a solution which can pre-empt the looting of banks and act independently of outside political agendas which might situate a vulnerable country between winning and losing scenarios as powerful countries battle for control by proxy. We need a solution which sends a clear signal to corrupt elites across the entire world, and not simply those situated in areas of conflict, that corruption will no longer be tolerated, nor paid for by blood of innocent people.  But we, the donor countries, must see to our own houses first.  We must ensure our hands are clean and that any authority we exercise is comprised of substance and never hollow in its nature. We must lead from the front, and from genuine experience.  But we simply cannot afford to turn away from this issue – at home or abroad.  People are dying by guns and by starvation; and they are dying by torture when taking action to stop the atrocity at hand while having inadequate support behind and beside them.  We must be that support.

References

Al Jazeera Media (2016) The plunder of west Africa Ebola funds. Available at: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2016/01/plunder-west-africa-ebola-funds-160125140155872.html (Accessed: 6 April 2016).

BBC (2016) Migration and citizenship, start the week – BBC radio 4. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06ybg7h (Accessed: 3 April 2016).

BBC (2016) Panama papers: What the documents reveal. Available at: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-35956055 (Accessed: 6 April 2016).

Barrington, R. (2016) ‘Spot the Difference: Corruption Research, Academies and NGOs’, British Academy: British Academy. pp. 1–7.

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (2014) Corruption: The Unrecognized Threat to International Security. Available at: http://carnegieendowment.org/files/corruption_and_security.pdf (Accessed: 14 March 2015).

Chayes, S. (2007) ‘Days of Lies and Roses: Selling Out Afghanistan’, Boston Review, , pp. 21–23.

Foreign Policy (2015) In Nigeria, $2 Billion in Stolen Funds is Just a Drop in the Corruption Bucket. Available at: http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/11/18/in-nigeria-2-billion-in-stolen-funds-is-just-a-drop-in-the-corruption-bucket/ (Accessed: 20 November 2015).

Freedom House (2014) ‘Combating Impunity: Transnational Justice and Anti-Corruption’, Washington, DC: Freedom House. pp. 1–10.

Huffington Post (2016) Big Banks Aided Firm at Center of International Bribery Scandal. Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/unaoil-citibank-hsbc_us_56feba02e4b0daf53aefa1da (Accessed: 6 April 2016).

Huffington Post (2016) There’s A huge new corporate corruption scandal. Here’s why everyone should care. Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/unaoil-bribery-scandal-corruption_us_56fa2b06e4b014d3fe2408b9 (Accessed: 6 April 2016).

ICIJ (2016) Giant leak of offshore financial records exposes global array of crime and corruption. Available at: https://panamapapers.icij.org/20160403-panama-papers-global-overview.html (Accessed: 6 April 2016).

ICIJ (2016) The Panama papers. Available at: https://panamapapers.icij.org/ (Accessed: 6 April 2016).

Jesperson, S. (2015) ‘Development Engagement with Organized Crime: a Necessary Shift or Further Securitisation?’, Conflict, Security, & Development, 15(1), pp. 23–50.

Johnson, S. (2009) The Quiet Coup. Available at: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2009/05/the-quiet-coup/307364/ (Accessed: 6 April 2016).

Lacher, W. (2012) Organized Crime and Conflict in the Sahel-Sahara Region.

McMullin, J. (2009) ‘Organised Criminal Groups and Conflicts: The Nature and Consequences of Interdependence’, Civil Wars, 11(1), pp. 75–102.

Napoleoni, L. (2003) Modern Jihad: Tracing the Dollars Behind the Terror Networks. London: Pluto Press.

Oxfam International (2015) Richest 1% will own more than all the rest by 2016. Available at: https://www.oxfam.org/en/pressroom/pressreleases/2015-01-19/richest-1-will-own-more-all-rest-2016 (Accessed: 6 April 2016).

Oxford Martin School (2012) Pandemics – can we eliminate major worldwide epidemics? | videos. Available at: http://www.oxfordmartin.ox.ac.uk/videos/view/208 (Accessed: 4 April 2016).

Patrick, S. (2011) Weak Links: Fragile States, Global Threats, and International Security. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Reuters (2015) Egypt’s high court overturns last conviction against Mubarak. Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-egypt-mubarak-idUSKBN0KM0O620150113 (Accessed: 6 April 2016).

Schirch, L. (2006) Human Rights & Conflict: Exploring the Links between Rights, Law, and Peacebuilding. Edited by Julie A Mertus and Jeffrey W Helsing. Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace.

Sloan, B. and Cockayne, J. (2011) ‘Terrorism, Crime, and Conflict: Exploiting the Differences Among Transnational Threats?’, Policy Brief, , pp. 1–11.

Transparency International (2008) ‘Human Rights and Corruption’, Working Paper, 05, pp. 1–6.

United Nations (2014) Global Ebola crisis response | data. Available at: http://www.un.org/ebolaresponse/data.shtml (Accessed: 6 April 2016).

Wolf, M.L. (2014) ‘The Case for an International Anti-Corruption Court’, Governance Studies at Brookings, July, pp. 1–15.

Woodrow Wilson Center (2016) Combatting grand corruption internationally. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GN6HDEgiSc8 (Accessed: 6 April 2016).

Afghanistan’s Endemic Corruption – Iain Blackwood

The author has elected out of all the subject matter taught on the Security, Conflict and International Development course to discuss ‘corruption’. Although the subject matter is discussed, the author has first hand experience of corruption, which other individuals who work in conflict zones will undoubtedly have experience of and will have to contend with.  As the author has been working and living in Afghanistan for a number of years and has experienced corruption in his daily business dealings and within his own organisation, which diverted funds allocated in assisting Afghanistans humanitarian needs.  Furthermore, corruption within Afghanistan is not only a problem but is happening on endemic proportions and is not just limited to the capital Kabul, but reaches every element of Afghan society.

To give an indication of how endemic corruption is within Afghanistan, the 2015 Asia foundation report, reported that the local Afghan population sees corruption as inescapable, which they encounter daily, and 89.9 percent of Afghans reporting corruption as thee foremost problem in their day-to-day lives and 91.2 percent, when dealing with varying levels of the Afghan government (Asia Foundation, 2015).  These high levels of corruption in the daily lives of the Afghan peoples can be seen as further exacerbating an already troubled emerging fragile state and the newly formed Afghan government it appears has done little in the way of countering the endemic proportions of corruption within Afghanistan.

Corruption in Afghanistan can be all encompassing and encountered in various forms from the man in the street buying bread, to prices being inflated to include extra charges to fuel prices, or government officials wanting their share of the price of registering an Armoured vehicle. Although some of the added fees may be insignificant in size and terms of profit margins, this is corruption and certainly, the sums being asked by Government officials are large and often blatant corruption.  This occurs to local Afghans and International actors and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), alike.  Higher costs are incurred for International organisations as well as local Afghans but Internationals are perceived as being rich and capable of handing over ‘Baksheesh’ a bribe; to officials in order bypass the myriad rules and regulations, get paper work signed and officiated.

According to Transparency International (2015), Afghanistan is ranked 166 out of 168 and third worst country in the world for corruption. Therefore, corruption may emerge from necessity because of low wages or from the lack of education or just a way of Afghan life.  However, corruption is a way of life in Afghanistan and as previously mentioned encountered daily.  Although there have only been a handful of high profile prosecutions over the past decade these have principally involved money laundering through the  ‘hawala’ transfer system, which is an unofficial money system used to transfer proceeds both monetary and physical goods through normal merchant transactions to laundering the proceeds from Afghanistans pervasive opium industry (Ahmed, 2016).  Money laundering through the informal ‘hawala’ black market money transfer system is a major contributing factor in supporting criminality (Maimbo, 2003). This criminality within Afghanistan can further exacerbate an already fragile emerging failed state such as Afghanistan.  It is also known that criminal networks thrive in fragile and conflict states due to the disorganization of state infrastructures as well as other internal and external state dysfunction.  Still the Afghan government has done little prior to the election of Ashraf Ghani in cracking down and where clear cases of corruption have come to light, few cases have been investigated or prosecutions followed (FinTRACA, 2016). This is caused by a number of factors including complicit officials; weak financial polices, a weak government, which lacks both the expertise and will power to enforce its policies and follow through with its prosecution mechanisms Singh, (2015).

Additionally, according to Ashraf Ghani, criminal networks ‘often use formal government positions to promote criminal networks, as a result of which government offices degenerate into little more than a springboard for organized looting’, (Ghani and Lockhart, 2009: 80). To fight corruption it is necessary to initiate and populate educational elimination and reduction strategies together with new broad reaching law-enforcement measures, which would be considered a positive step, forward in fighting Afghanistan’s ongoing corruption and educating its population as to the harm corruption does. However in order to achieve its aims in crime reduction it also has to consider it conflict reduction programmes as crime and conflict go hand in hand in failed states. Although this is a tall order considering its curent unstable political climate and ongoing current counter insurgency (Banfield, 2014).

Postscript

Corruption is a human condition based on personal choice, coercion or group dynamics and has been recorded as far back as biblical times. Public officials have abused their offices for personal gain while populations have taken advantage by corrupting those holding power.  Corruption persists in countries that are susceptible to crime through weak and failed systems and ongoing conflicts where procedures and policies are lacking or do not exist.  It is therefore difficult to respond and prosecute offenders; this in part may be due to the fact that individuals lack the motivation to follow though investigations, or due to the Afghan judicial system having a entrenched corruption problem.

To counter corruption, anti-corruption measures must be embedded within institutions and organisations must be held accountable to higher offices. To do this simple crime reduction measures can be emplaced to deter individuals or groups of attempting to commit corruption, through such measures of having monitoring systems in place, greater transparency which may deter corruption, more surveillance and internal checks and greater prosecution and investigative checks.

Yet, these measures can also be implemented and adjusted to fit the means and the contextual factors involved. For example, greater monitoring, transparency, and internal checks could lead to those individuals in offices of importance to resist such measures for fear of revealing further malpractices of office or position.  Additionally, only when normal anti-corruption practices are in place and individuals are willing to work within these practices can crime reduction measures and campaigns be successful and ultimately eradicate the problem, however in Afghanistans case that may take some time yet due to the pervasiveness of it.

References

Ahmed, J. (2016) ‘Dirty Money in Afghanistan: How Kabul is Cleaning up the Illicit Economy’, Foreign Affairs, avaialable at https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/afghanistan/2016-09-07/dirty-money-afghanistan, (accessed 24th September 2016).

Asia Foundation (2015) ‘Afghanistan in 2015: A Survey of the Afghan People’, San Francisco: Asia Foundation.

FinTRACA (2016) Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Center of Afghanistan (FinTRACA): Home Page, avaialable at http://www.fintraca.gov.af, (accessed 24th September 2016).

Ghani, A. and Lockhart, C. (2009) Fixing Failed States: A Framework for Rebuilding a Fractured World, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

High Office for Oversight and Anti-corruption (2016) Anti-Corruption Laws & Strategy, available at http://anti-corruption.gov.af/en/page/8477, (accessed 24th September 2016).

Maimbo, S. M. (2003) ‘The Money Exchange Dealers of Kabul: A Study of the Hawala System in Afghanistan’, World Bank Working Paper Series; No: 13, Washington, DC: World Bank, available at http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/335241467990983523/The-money-exchange-dealers-of-Kabul-a-study-of-the-Hawala-system-in-Afghanistan, (accessed 24th September 2016).

Patrick, S. (2011) Weak Links: Fragile States, Global Threats, and International Security, New York: Oxford University Press.

Singh, D. (2015) ‘Explaining varieties of corruption in the Afghan Justice Sector’, Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding, 9:(2): 231-255.

Transparency International (2015) Corruption Perception Index 2015, avaialable at http://www.transparency.org/cpi2015#results-table, (accessed 24th September 2016).

The Perils of Security Policy Making in the 21st Century

security-perils-blog

If I were to chose an epigraph for a book on the topic of challenges faced by security sector today, this quote from the recent book of Wilhelm Agrell and Gregory Treverton would say it all: ‘We are living in a social environment transcended by growing security and intelligence challenges, while at the same time the traditional narrow intelligence concept is becoming increasingly insufficient for coping with diffuse, complex, and transforming threats.’ [1]

Below is my take on the issue, on the example of UK’s anti-terrorism and anti-extremism strategies. This post aims at sharing opinion on certain themes and generating a cross-disciplinary discussion (ideally with the involvement of both practitioners and scholars), without pretending to present any comprehensive, all-encompassing analysis of the intelligence. [2] It serves as an introduction to a series of episode studies/essays I am writing on security policy (employing, to extent possible, the knowledge from various social sciences), namely on the UK Government’s strategies to counter the threats posed by militant Islamists. [3]

Rethinking Security, Realistically

A few month ago, a group of British charitable organisations and think-tanks, The Ammerdown Group, has published a discussion paper on the UK’s security doctrine and strategy. Written by academics and practitioners having first-hand experience working with communities affected by conflict all over the world, Rethinking Security offers valuable insights into the present state of affairs in the field of preventing crises, responding to threats, and building peace. The paper points to a number of factors impeding a change from ‘heavily militarised’ approach towards civilian instruments of peace building, such as influence of powerful social elites and business interests on the policy-making, institutional inertia and politicisation, and preference for values associated with dominance.

In conclusion, it recommends a new strategic approach where instead of interventions based on military power the UK ‘would develop non-military response capabilities, such as early resort to state and civil capacities for violence prevention, conflict transformation, diplomacy and peacemaking, as well as cooperatively devised, civilian-based violence reduction interventions’.

Welcoming the publication of this well-thought-out and timely discussion paper and agreeing with the analysis findings and general direction of recommendations therein, I still have certain reservations with regards to abandoning intelligence and military altogether in favour of soft measures, such as passionately building community cohesion through shared responsibility and common action. I am convinced that the change is necessary, even imperative, but with security sector in the equation (and not only in the US and UK, but in many other countries across the globe which need more effective and more democratically controlled security forces) – a new security sector, adapted to realities of the day and capable of effectively fighting security risks that have resulted from globalisation, such as global terrorism, cyber threats, cross-border human trafficking, and organised transnational crime.

Four features, three themes

Security sector in the twenty-first century faces a number of unprecedented challenges, both by their scope and complexity. One set of contributing factors relates to globalisation. The nature and pace of technological advancements, and especially the revolution called Web 2.0, have exerted enormous influence on all aspects of life. Security environment being by definition dominated by uncertainty, nowadays becomes increasingly volatile—it is multifaceted, nuanced, filled with potentially large-impact surprises, and is very dynamic and rapidly changing. This makes planning, collecting and processing intelligence, and making decisions immensely difficult.

On the top of it, militant Islam has evolved over the last three-and-half decades into a kind of security threat that the world has not encountered before; it keeps evolving through the mutually reinforcing relations between its political and religious causes and economic, political and social contexts as within certain countries, so regionally and globally. By the way things are developing it is clear that at present neither states nor societies are prepared to deal effectively with such a threat.

Western liberal democracies, in particular, are ill-prepared to counter modern extremism, due to certain limitations inherent to them as a governance system; moreover, they are showing reluctance to reform the established practices and procedures and to introduce more flexibility into security policy making. Societies, in turn, are undergoing a painful generational process which is characterised by declining trust towards governments but also deepening divisions between various social, cultural and religious communities.

[*I am particularly interested in exploring social and cultural adaptation of migrants (and possibly newly arriving refugees) from the conflict-torn countries: (unmet) expectations, stereotypes on both sides (hosts and incomers), group identities – all this creates a fertile ground for misunderstanding, isolation, animosity, radicalisation, hate and violence.]

There have been various explanations offered in the literature, to democratic governments’ weakness in handling security sector issues. Four features of the present day decision making, which relate to the national security policy, deserve a close look. First is the sensitivity of issues dealt with by intelligence. Second feature is the urgency of the action required by citizens, from the state. These correlate and I will consider them in tandem, under the ‘pressing circumstances’ below. The third feature is an inherently political nature of the policy making, which in the case of security policy turns to be quite problematic (briefly addressed under the ‘political constraints’). And the fourth is the policy’s reactive rather than proactive positioning against the extremists, especially with regards to their very aggressive propaganda campaign (under ‘communication: a reactive stance’).

Under pressing circumstances

It is well known that in a daily life some people are ready to pay more for a quick gain instead of waiting a bit for getting it at a nominal cost. However, things change when we as individuals, communities, society feel endangered.  If there is a perceived threat to our lives and well-being or that of our beloved ones, we react sharply and our immediate gratification mood spirals with an enormous magnitude. At this moment of collective anxiety we are ready to overpay significantly (actually, no one even thinks about costs) and tend to put a massive pressure on the decision makers to act promptly and effectively.

The state’s reaction to public pressure in the aftermath of the Paris terrorist attacks in November 2015 can serve as a textbook case: Initial shock gave place to the public outrage, then intensive media reporting took off and this followed by a panic that we were the next target of militant Islamists—all in all, for the officials finding themselves under huge pressure to make last minute amendments to the Strategic Defence and Intelligence Review, pledging significant additional human, technological and financial resources committed to the security strategy (additional investment of £2.5 billion and employment of 1,900 more staff) and then to hastily pass a decision on joining the airstrikes of the ISIL’s targets in Syria.

In this case, the Government’s actions did not seem rational but rather emotionally charged, under the intensity of public outrage. Such decisions tend to result in immediate gains at the expense of long-term priorities. They are also costly. A few days after the publication of the Defence Review and the reports on first airstrikes by RAF planes in Syria, there was no panic anymore. No one thought about the cost of the response.  Obviously, those funds will be taken from some other budgetary items, if not borrowed, and the society will bear the cost of it in the years to come.

Political constraints

Key features of intelligence, such as fragmented knowledge and lack of timely and complete information, as well as difficulty gauging the progress make decision making in security sector notoriously complicated. The uncertainty of the environment where security policy operates partly explains one known weakness of democratic governments—that is, their indecisiveness in taking difficult decisions, also known as the ‘lack of political will’ to act on complex and sensitive problems. At the same time, there are situations when governments tend to act on security issues swiftly and with minimal hesitation. At least two political factors can be distinguished as contributing to this phenomenon.

Decision making in democracies is in many ways defined by electoral cycle, what limits politicians to implementing only those policies that can produce visible results in short time. Taking bold decisions is always difficult, as the cost of risk taking might be prohibitive, and hence, the time must be ripe. For example, the decision to launch the military campaign against al-Qaeda and their hosts, the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, was only possible because of conducive environment created by September 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and the declaration of the ‘war on terror’.

Similarly, the UK Government’s decision to join airstrikes in Syria was long on the agenda of the Prime Minister, but got the real chance to pass through the Parliament (without damaging his and the Conservative party’s image by the humiliation of possible defeat) in the aftermath of the Paris attacks, when the emotional tension was high and thus, conditions were favourable to overcome the opposition.

By its nature the policy making inevitably brings about change which affects the interests of various stakeholders. In foreign, defence and security policy domain, along with domestic interest groups (such as government ministries and agencies, and state and private contractors and providers of products and services) there are international (governmental, inter-governmental, international public and private) actors who have vested interests in the government taking this or another course of action under external obligations.

Government ministries/agencies elsewhere are constantly competing for funding, in a bid driven by the consideration of the scope and quality of work and, partly, by their political ambition to grow strong and exert more influence. For example, the Government’s reaction to Paris attacks, along with airstrikes, resulted in significant additional public funds pledged by the Prime Minister. This being a precedent, right after the terrorist attacks in Jakarta in January 2016, Scotland Yard went ahead announcing quite considerable increase in the number of trained marksmen (by more than 27 percent) in a move that cost £2.5 million of taxpayers’ money.

On the other hand, international allies put additional pressure on decision makers, either supporting or discouraging them, and not necessarily in the best interest of the nation but rather for the sake of the common good (NATO and European Union related policies stand as an example). Today, Syria and Iraq are not merely a battlefield where the war with ISIL, al-Qaeda, and other militants is fought. It is also the place where local actors (national governments vs. diverse opposition groups in Syria and Sunni tribes and former Ba’athists in Iraq), backed on either side by key regional players (Saudi Arabia vs. Iran) and global powers (US and allies vs. Russia)—all collide in their contest over exerting larger influence in the Middle East theatre, in a dramatic, complicated geopolitical stand-off.

Therefore, statements by some British pundits and politicians in justifying the airstrikes, that ‘we must show our solidarity with France’ or ‘we must go out there and prevent this threat from coming and hitting us next’ sound at the very least as naive (or misleading). Britain must join the fight because, first, that is what her allies demand of her; and two, that is the place to be, if you want to be regarded as an influential global player.

In their turn, the policy makers attempt at putting political pressure, or unduly intervening, in the intelligence process (which is there to provide an impartial specialist advice in support of the policy making).  This politicisation of intelligence may take various forms, from ‘soft’ framing to ‘hard’ manipulation of evidence and/or simply imposition of pre-formulated constructs, disregarding the intelligence advice. To these I would add another type, when policy makers simply reject the intelligence offered to them and rely on other information or their own reasoning. Given the degree of secrecy in decision making on the national security issues, we never actually know for sure how certain decisions were made and which type of politicisation was applied (if any at all).

Strategic communications: A reactive stance

The Government counter-terrorism strategy’s protective function is implemented by specialised forces quite effectively: the fact that there has been no successful attack by militant Islamists on the British soil in more than ten years stands as a proof. However, the responsive stance taken by the state enables militants dictate the pace, location and even the format of engagement. It is obvious when it comes to the terrorist propaganda: the state, the society, and the media are not doing well in countering it as could have been expected. This gives the Islamist extremists a possibility to manipulate individual perceptions and public opinion, media coverage, and eventually the decision making.

Aggressive propaganda undertaken by militants, first of all, targets the young Muslims and serves to justify violence. Traditional themes exploited are jihad (interpreted strictly as ‘just war’) and the protection of the Muslim lands from ‘infidel’ invaders. Their interpretation allows for preemptive attacks and killing civilians—to silence the critics among the Muslim community, of the methods they use. The propaganda also aims at glorification of the images of Islamist fighters (take, for example, Mohammed Emwazi aka ‘Jihadi John’), to promote the case of martyrdom and afterlife heaven. As for non-Muslims, through various video footages, particularly those with execution of hostages, militants intend at inflicting mayhem, so that to put additional pressure and diminish the resistance of targeted states/societies.

One of communication techniques used by militant Islamists is about imposing certain messages and symbols to influence the target audiences’ associations and perceptions. For example, the organisation which has its formal name as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, instead of being called by its acronym ISIL is frequently referred to in public discourse and in the official documents as Islamic State. No one seems to pay attention to this fact, but that is exactly what they want—to be seen as the state. And the attributes of the state, as known from classical definition, include an ‘exclusive authority to use violence for establishing law and order within its borders.’

Consider this (for conclusion)

You have already noticed that I used the case of the British Government’s hastily taking decision on amending the strategy and joining the airstrikes over Syria, under different thematic parts of this post. In one part, the decisions are explained by the desire to calm down the public anxiety (‘availability cascade’), in another it suggests that the decisions might be the result of political maneuvering of the Prime Minister, or the successful lobbying of political elites and military and intelligence agencies. It is also implied that this might have been the result of pressures from the allies, in the geopolitical struggle over the Middle East.

All these explanations seem equally plausible, and I believe that more than one (if not all, to various degree though) have contributed to the decision in question. Think about it. And think about other similar instances (in any country) and their consequences. I will try to elaborate in the future posts, too. Especially from the point of what could be done to minimize the politicisation of intelligence and to increase the transparency and accountability in the defence and security policy domain.

Notes

[1] Wilhelm Argell and Gregory F. Treverton, National Intelligence and Science:Beyond the Great Divide in Analysis and Policy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015), p. 196

[2] I owe my understanding of the sector’s present-day developments and challenges to a number of excellent works produced recently by the leading authors in this field, such as: Loch K. Johnson (ed.), Handbook of Intelligence Studies (Abingdon: Routledge, 2007); Loch K. Johnson (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of National Security Intelligence (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010); Mark M. Lowenthal, Intelligence: From Secrets to Policy, 3rd ed. (Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2006); Peter Gill and Mark Phythian, Intelligence in an Insecure World, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2012); and Wilhelm Argell and Gregory F. Treverton,National Intelligence and Science: Beyond the Great Divide in Analysis and Policy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015)

[3] There is no globally agreed terminology, but depending on the context (whether related to terrorism or to extremism) the most recent UK Government strategies and policy documents employ the ‘Islamist terrorism’ and ‘Islamist extremism’ phrases. I will use the ‘militant Islam’ alongside these two, as an overarching phrase. See: David Anderson Q.C., The Terrorism Acts 2014, Report of the Independent Reviewer on the Operation of the Terrorism Act 2000 and Part 1 of the Terrorism Act 2006, September 2015; and Counter-Extremism Strategy, October 2015, Cm9148

 

Externality Fallacies in International Aid

2015fragile-states

We like models, don’t we? We claim that they represent a simplified reality that helps us make sense of it and serve as guidance for taking action. Accepted, it does in many instances (especially in well ordered situations when the cause-effect relations are observable and/or future developments are mostly in line with the extrapolated past trend). But what happens when some developments do not fit into any existing model? Then in a customary manner we are quick to dismiss them as anomaly that has to be brought back to the norm of the known models.

Take, for example the notion of democracy promotion and democratic transition. All former colonies and, in the same vein, post-communist countries were expected to make a quick and effective transition from their non-democratic regimes to elected and then liberal democracies. It was assumed with little consideration given to unique cultural features of those societies and to their readiness to do so. The reality has shown that this is not the case. Then the notion of ‘grey areas’ was introduced to explain that those countries which did not make it to democracy were lost somewhere in-between but eventually would have to be driven on the predefined route, or otherwise they risk of reverting back to authoritarian rule—with no third option allowed. Not necessarily, it appears—at least not in such a simplistic manner.

What we failed to appreciate is the difference between the commonly accepted set of defined democratic values and the variety of forms that democracy as a governance regime based on those values may take, depending on local political culture and institutions. Also, the mechanistic understanding of such ‘transition’ fails to take into consideration that in order to become sustainable, the reforms will demand a cultural change which time-wise could be expected to take no less than a generational span (independently of the amount of effort, money and pressure invested externally).

And finally, we tried to model those transitions as flawless and irreversible—yet another failure to appreciate that even liberal democracies keep evolving and there is nothing surprising if at times this process turns into zigzagging and iterations, in an attempt of finding the optimal adjustment of political system to the changed external circumstances, let alone high-impact ‘surprises’.

(There are countries, such as Argentina, known for this kind of iterative democratic development. And it seems that the outcry of ‘illiberal democracy’ in Hungary and Poland is exaggerated; the policies of their elected governments signal more of a search of effective adaptive strategies in the face of daunting economic and social problems rather than of turning back to European liberalism).

The same holds true with regard to ending violent conflicts and peacebuilding. So frequently we tend to overestimate the effects of globalisation and see the interaction between local and global as a one-way street, although the evidence suggests that the influence is reciprocal, and to be absorbed by local contexts the global trend (or external influence) has to be ‘glocalised’. On the other hand, there is another fallacy of assuming that the solutions offered (if not imposed) by the developed/industrialised world actors are superior to those home-grown initiatives of local political players in the developing countries. Even driven by the best of intentions, external interventions may distort the inherent logic of internal conflict, which is a product of an interaction of many factors acting within a unique set of local political, economic, social contexts.

Locally owned democratic reforms and peacebuilding processes may not look as logical and attractive as externally promoted/imposed models, but they are effective–not the least because they derive from and are built in local culture, contexts, and institutions.

In any case, whether it is democratic reform or ending the conflict–only when the solutions are driven and owned by domestic actors, there is a chance that the meaningful development (including constitution building) or peace deal would be concluded, and respected and implemented afterwards. And we have to be ready to accept that it may take decades for them to come to realise that only through cooperative strategies they would achieve the final settlement (which is never a zero-sum outcome but something that demands concessions from all sides but still they can live with that)—if, of course, the democratic state and sustainable peace are the final goals and the contest/infighting has not turned into a self-sustaining endeavour when keeping the confrontation and thus status quo going is an end it itself and not a means to achieving the goal.

(These fallacies of international assistance have been recognised and pointed to on numerous occasions and by various institutional agents and leaders over years. For example, the latest, 2015 OECD report on the States of Fragility (formerly known as fragile states), lists fifty such states in Europe, Asia, Middle East, Africa and Oceania and concludes that ‘far greater international political will is needed to support nationally owned and led plans, build national institutions’. Note that the majority of those fragile states have been recipients of international aid for decades.)

That said there are various types of internal conflict and a variety of conflict drivers interact in any given violent confrontation, and they are set in a certain external geopolitical field with many interests—so I am far from drawing yet another model here, but rather intend at pointing to some fundamental issues which have been somehow neglected in the international community’s involvement in domestic violent conflicts and civil wars across the globe.

Whether ‘give war a chance’ or ‘give peace a chance’ should not be formulated as a dilemma, in my opinion. There is another dimension to resolving internal conflicts, which may well amalgamate these two within a flexible, adaptive and ecologically rational approach—as demonstrated by some successful experiences in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Among most recent are Colombia and Myanmar—they may not look as attractive as models but they are real and effective. Not such examples in the Middle East yet… or are they in making?

This article originally appeared as a blog post on PolicyLabs under the headline ‘Democracy and Conflict: Real-life Solutions vs. Models

 

 

Building Security and Justice After Conflict – Student Position Papers

At the end of the SCID Course, students are asked to reflect upon the whole Course and write a position paper (of about 750 words). The paper should be on an issue related to building security and justice in post-conflict environments that they feel most passionate about which requires attention by, at least an element of, the international community. The postscript to the paper summarises reasons why effective action has not been taken to date. Students are asked to draw on their own experience and knowledge as well as academic material, with the aim of persuading the reader to agree with the position put forward and, if necessary, to act, while displaying academic writing and analytical skills.

Those papers that secured a Merit or Distinction (i.e. above 60%) are reproduced on this Blog (below and on a new page entitled Building Security and Justice after Conflict – Student Position Papers). Congratulations to all students who did so well and to everyone in the September 2014 intake for completing the whole course – and all the very best with your dissertations.

Best wishes, Eleanor

Dividing the Threat Multiplier: An Argument for Effective International Prosecution Against Grand Corruption and Kleptocratic Regimes – Maren Moon

The release of the Panama Papers by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) has fuelled spectacular revelations regarding the scale of grand corruption and the wider system which enables it (ICIJ, 2016: np).  The scandal is exposing involvement by the very people and institutions who should feel morally and legally compelled to act with the highest integrity but who instead participate in a system all too frequently perpetrating wholesale crime, undue privilege, and the global erosion of security.  (Wolf, 2014: 3). They are doing so with impunity, and they are doing so while the world’s watchdogs cannot help but possess full knowledge that ‘the link between grand corruption and mass human rights violations is undeniable’ (Freedom House, 2014, and also Woodrow Wilson Center, 2016: np., and Transparency International: 2008, ).

No less than heads of states and global financial institutions linked to London, New York and Switzerland have now been connected to an enormous shadow economy responsible for: hiding assets; exercising bribery; facilitating tax evasion; practicing financial fraud; enabling drug trafficking; and participating in sexploitation. (See ICIJ, 2016 and Huffington Post a, 2016, Huffington Post b, 2016: np, and BBCb, 2016: np ). And no fewer than 11 million documents have laid bare the global elite’s participation in a system purposefully rigged to increase the gap between the absurdly wealthy and the tragically poor.  The international community would do well to note too that this is a system which facilitates crime in desperate and conflict-vulnerable settings while arming the insurgents and terrorists who operate from within such settings (Patrick, 2009 and Napoleoni, 2003). We should also recall the system intentionally erodes democratic principles of transparency, fair taxation, the right to peaceful protest, and the exercise of free speech (Woodrow Wilson Center, 2016: np and Wolf, 2014: 5-8).  In short, this is a system wherein leaders and criminals alike actively undermines everything to which the international community aspires, and for which it ultimately endeavours; sometimes selflessly and in conditions of great hardship.

It should not go unrecognised that the responses of those who have been unveiled as both witting and unwitting participants in the darker aspects of this economy, all too consistently reiterate a mantra which should give each of us a moment’s pause for reflection – that lawyers and financial experts alike still possess the legal means of perpetrating unfair, corrupt, and increasingly unfair and corrupting practices. Vested interests in lofty positions have suggested big businesses, and their high-flying personnel, need to work in the shadow economy even when it lowers opportunities for smaller businesses and honest entrepreneurs.  They argue further that legislation against bribery ‘puts British companies at a competitive disadvantage’ (Barrington, 2016: 4). And yet still too, others have intoned that society needs to tacitly accommodate unethical practices in the financial sector on the grounds that businesses in their countries are too big to fail, or too important to risk having relocate to another country. But in making these accommodations we will be enabling the capture of entire governments by organisations whose interests do not include the common citizens who eke by and sustain the infrastructure enjoyed by those who have rigged the system against them (Johnson, 2009: np).  Such accommodation could only serve to entrench profit for the few at the cost of the many. We are, in effect, now experiencing parallel attacks on democracy by the licit and illicit economies alike – both of whom are seemingly melding into a deeper, more committed relationship in an increasingly shady capacity and whose political-economy will forever thwart the international community’s efforts in bringing peace and security.

Those who evade tax legally are allowed to escape criminality by conveniently structured legal technicalities. This phenomena is relatively easy to rectify. But the Big King Kleptocrats who knowingly act outside the law, do so understanding that successful prosecution against their acts is nearly unheard of. History and statistics remain firmly on their side. This is occurring regardless of corruption’s increasingly evident role in destabilising entire continents such as Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Central and South America (Carnegie, 2015).  These actors smile comfortably while insinuating that exposure of their misdeeds might expose a larger, darker reality in which too many purportedly clean-skinned actors may also be complicit.

And while they may not be kind, they most certainly are proving wise.

Indeed, these same kleptocrats, and their advisors, will have followed closely the freedom and riches once more enjoyed by Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak who has now escaped charges of corruption and murder on a mere technicality (Reuters, 2015: np). Mubarak was a kleptocratic despot whose legacy includes death, blood, fear, and a deeply troubled country. He did not operate in a vacuum, and he was aided by the most powerful regimes in the world. But that does not excuse the outcome – nor does it justify the continuance of such behaviour. Those choosing to play in the dirty sandbox of blood and money in today’s shadow economy will have either dismissed the importance of the Arab Spring’s impact on security and human rights or cynically regarded the situation as yet another opportunity from which to leverage additional millions.  I argue that humanity can no longer afford such cynicism.

I further assert these same actors will have understood President Goodluck Jonathan’s dismissal of his bank governor following the well-intended public servant’s disclosure to the ‘Nigerian Senate that the treasury was missing billions of dollars in expected oil revenue’ (Wolf, 2014: 5). Indeed, Jonathan and his cronies seemed content to turn a blind eye to the networks which channelled money and arms to Boko Haram while leaving security forces ill equipped to quell an uprising which has now left more than 10,000 civilians and security personnel dead at the hands of Islamist savagery (Foreign Policy, 2015: np).

The kleptocrats will have further monitored the toppling of corrupt regimes in Tunisia and the Ukraine and reacted like narcissistic sociopaths unable to emotionally register the gravity of their actions, while concurrently making plans to fly to safety while maintaining access to their ill-gotten gains if the same danger knocks on their door.

The impunity enjoyed by this cohort, and structured into our globalised economy, has paved the way for much of the harm we see unfolding on the world’s stage. It has also provided resonant and compelling reasons from which the so called Islamic State, Boko Haram, and the Taliban find a seemingly endless supply of recruits (Chayes, 2007: 22, and Woodrow Wilson Center, 2016: np, and Schirch as cited in Mertus and Helsing, 2009: 68).

Whether knowingly or not, every last player in the shadow economy has contributed to an encroaching threat against humanity and which serves as nothing short of a security threat multiplier. It is of epic and global proportions.

The 2014 Ebola crisis in West Africa provides an immediate example of how easily corruption might impact security on a global scale. UN donor contributions topping $5.2bn were dispersed to Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.  Almost all of it vanished, and only a fraction of the disbursement was ever audited. ‘In all three countries, no individual has been tried, much less convicted, for their role in the mismanagement of money meant to save the lives of the dying’ (Al Jazeera, 2016: np.).  These funds were also intended to contain the outbreak and prevent its spread.  The UN’s Global Ebola Response data refers to the outbreak’s nature as having been of ‘widespread and intense transmission’ (UN, 2014: np). But to date, the myriad pages and resources on their website speak only of a level of need and the current status of the situation.  Their silence of the flagrant misappropriation of funds perpetuates impunity.  And such complicit behaviour could very well facilitate a new pandemic of Ebola or some other virus, which experts warn could be incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to halt if not contained early, and with the utmost care; care which could never result in the face of another round of missing but badly needs funds (Oxford Martin School, 2012: np).

Grand Corruption further impacts security by destabilising regions in concussive shock waves. As migrants flee corrupt regimes and insurgencies (again, simultaneously fostered by the shadow economy), we see communities decimated, resentments grow, borders close, and trust diminish. (BBCa 2015: np,). Actions originating thousands of miles away from Europe’s shores are now threatening the cohesiveness of European states and the long architected interdependence of the EU.   The Schengen Agreement is further threatened as once ceded sovereignty is being repossessed by politicians seeking to erect borders and control the influx of desperate people fleeing the regimes which grand corruption has enabled.

Finally, kleptocracy feeds the thickening of the crime-conflict nexus as human traffickers, arms dealers, and smugglers share mutually beneficial relationships with terrorists, insurgents and the ruling elite. The nexus will continue to thicken so long as the chaotic conditions and lack of governance resulting from unabated kleptocracy ensures the conditions favourable to its growth.  (see Patrick, 2009,  and Lacher, 2012, and McMullin, 2009, and Jesperson, 2015 and Sloan and Cockayne, 2011).

And it is for these reasons, and so many more, that we must strive to end impunity for grand corruption – and the shadow economy in which it thrives.   Such a task will require concerted, relentless multilateral efforts and incredible political will.  But it can, and must be done.

We can begin by seizing opportunity from the momentum gathering in the wake of the Panama Papers and the associated Unaoil scandals in current headlines.  We can further reach out across the international community and form inter-organisational working teams to apply pressure on host-countries, the Bretton Woods institutions, and home governments.   We can institute training programs which dispel the activities which remain shrouded in mystery but whose reality can be unpacked in simple terms.  But most of all, we must challenge the sovereignty of those countries who refuse to participate in fair trade and good governance – and we must have an international court with both the will and capacity to challenge the problem.  And that court must somehow operate separately from the arbitrary and political interests of the United Nations Permanent 5.

But it has to start. Impunity has to end. And accountability must follow. And never has there been a more pressing time.

Postscript

As a post-script to my previous position piece, I would like to gently assert that the International Community has understandably tolerated grand corruption in the theatres of peacekeeping and peacebuilding operations. The conditions in many of these theatres have necessitated that our precious resources be used first to protect lives and second to institute the ground-level security needed to maintain sufficient equilibrium from which to begin the long, hard institutionalisation of security sector reform, transitional justice, and micro-development projects.  But this too provides another reason why the solution to grand corruption requires an international effort outside the influence of the P5 (whose own members might be guilty of grand corruption or geopolitics).  We must seek a solution which can pre-empt the looting of banks and act independently of outside political agendas which might situate a vulnerable country between winning and losing scenarios as powerful countries battle for control by proxy. We need a solution which sends a clear signal to corrupt elites across the entire world, and not simply those situated in areas of conflict, that corruption will no longer be tolerated, nor paid for by blood of innocent people.  But we, the donor countries, must see to our own houses first.  We must ensure our hands are clean and that any authority we exercise is comprised of substance and never hollow in its nature. We must lead from the front, and from genuine experience.  But we simply cannot afford to turn away from this issue – at home or abroad.  People are dying by guns and by starvation; and they are dying by torture when taking action to stop the atrocity at hand while having inadequate support behind and beside them.  We must be that support.

References

Al Jazeera Media (2016) The plunder of west Africa Ebola funds. Available at: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2016/01/plunder-west-africa-ebola-funds-160125140155872.html (Accessed: 6 April 2016).

BBC (2016) Migration and citizenship, start the week – BBC radio 4. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06ybg7h (Accessed: 3 April 2016).

BBC (2016) Panama papers: What the documents reveal. Available at: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-35956055 (Accessed: 6 April 2016).

Barrington, R. (2016) ‘Spot the Difference: Corruption Research, Academies and NGOs’, British Academy: British Academy. pp. 1–7.

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (2014) Corruption: The Unrecognized Threat to International Security. Available at: http://carnegieendowment.org/files/corruption_and_security.pdf (Accessed: 14 March 2015).

Chayes, S. (2007) ‘Days of Lies and Roses: Selling Out Afghanistan’, Boston Review, , pp. 21–23.

Foreign Policy (2015) In Nigeria, $2 Billion in Stolen Funds is Just a Drop in the Corruption Bucket. Available at: http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/11/18/in-nigeria-2-billion-in-stolen-funds-is-just-a-drop-in-the-corruption-bucket/ (Accessed: 20 November 2015).

Freedom House (2014) ‘Combating Impunity: Transnational Justice and Anti-Corruption’, Washington, DC: Freedom House. pp. 1–10.

Huffington Post (2016) Big Banks Aided Firm at Center of International Bribery Scandal. Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/unaoil-citibank-hsbc_us_56feba02e4b0daf53aefa1da (Accessed: 6 April 2016).

Huffington Post (2016) There’s A huge new corporate corruption scandal. Here’s why everyone should care. Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/unaoil-bribery-scandal-corruption_us_56fa2b06e4b014d3fe2408b9 (Accessed: 6 April 2016).

ICIJ (2016) Giant leak of offshore financial records exposes global array of crime and corruption. Available at: https://panamapapers.icij.org/20160403-panama-papers-global-overview.html (Accessed: 6 April 2016).

ICIJ (2016) The Panama papers. Available at: https://panamapapers.icij.org/ (Accessed: 6 April 2016).

Jesperson, S. (2015) ‘Development Engagement with Organized Crime: a Necessary Shift or Further Securitisation?’, Conflict, Security, & Development, 15(1), pp. 23–50.

Johnson, S. (2009) The Quiet Coup. Available at: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2009/05/the-quiet-coup/307364/ (Accessed: 6 April 2016).

Lacher, W. (2012) Organized Crime and Conflict in the Sahel-Sahara Region.

McMullin, J. (2009) ‘Organised Criminal Groups and Conflicts: The Nature and Consequences of Interdependence’, Civil Wars, 11(1), pp. 75–102.

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Oxfam International (2015) Richest 1% will own more than all the rest by 2016. Available at: https://www.oxfam.org/en/pressroom/pressreleases/2015-01-19/richest-1-will-own-more-all-rest-2016 (Accessed: 6 April 2016).

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Patrick, S. (2011) Weak Links: Fragile States, Global Threats, and International Security. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Reuters (2015) Egypt’s high court overturns last conviction against Mubarak. Available at: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-egypt-mubarak-idUSKBN0KM0O620150113 (Accessed: 6 April 2016).

Schirch, L. (2006) Human Rights & Conflict: Exploring the Links between Rights, Law, and Peacebuilding. Edited by Julie A Mertus and Jeffrey W Helsing. Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace.

Sloan, B. and Cockayne, J. (2011) ‘Terrorism, Crime, and Conflict: Exploiting the Differences Among Transnational Threats?’, Policy Brief, , pp. 1–11.

Transparency International (2008) ‘Human Rights and Corruption’, Working Paper, 05, pp. 1–6.

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