The Carnegie Working Group on Corruption and Security last month published a paper, Corruption: The Unrecognized Threat to International Security.
It’s an important paper: it points to the striking fact that corruption is closely associated with state fragility, and that militant insurgencies are closely associated with opposition to kleptocratic regimes.
It’s also work in progress: an early stage of a project that is beginning to reveal just how deeply the problem of corruption is embedded within international insecurity—and in turn how the remedies must be sought in global systems, not just at the national level.
Let me point an area in which this analysis could be expanded: in which the Carnegie report understates the case for corruption as a threat to international security. Here is the central part of the map on page 13:
This has five kinds of violence and instability associated with corruption since 2008:
1. Sudden regime change or war due to anti-kleptocracy protests;
2. Serious violence due to corrupt alliances with trafficking networks;
3. Insurgency or coup traceable in part to outrage at corruption;
4. Severe electoral violence sparked by corruption/corrupt state institutions;
5. Widespread, serious popular protest or coup attempts against corruption.
Four of these five categories are associated with popular opposition to corruption. But corruption can cause insecurity, even when people are unable to express their opposition. The thieves can deliberately generated insecurity or fall out among themselves.
Category 2 (red on the map) is the only one that covers corruption that itself produces violence. The countries included are Colombia, Guatemala, Guinea-Bissau, Honduras, Mexico, Paraguay. This list can be expanded: the people traffickers of the Sahara and the Red Sea region are generating violence, which isn’t included.
We can also add another subcategory:
• Maintaining a war economy because of the opportunities for corrupt accumulation (Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and others).
And we must add a sixth category: civil war or governmental collapse due to internal conflict among corrupt elites:
• Fighting over the spoils of kleptocracy (South Sudan);
• State collapse because both government and insurgents are wholly devoted to corrupt accumulation (Central African Republic).
This would color in a whole swathe of central Africa.
Lastly, by restricting the security incidents to the years since 2008, and including only those that register on conventional metrics, the project has yet to deal with a long list of countries in danger:
• Undermining democracy and the rule of law through the penetration of patronage and corruption into political life;
• Maintaining a dictatorship or authoritarian government in part because of the opportunities for corrupt accumulation (Angola, Burkina Faso, Chad, Congo Republic, Eritrea, Uganda)—which will in due course lead to popular challenge.
Watch this space.