The Corruption-Security Nexus: Lessons from Afghanistan (Part 2)

This spring has been a season of reckoning with regard to anticorruption efforts in Afghanistan, with two important reports on that topic released last February. The first report, a study on the relationship between corruption and stability in conflict and post-conflict zones from Transparency International (TI) Germany, was the subject of my last post. The second study, was  the U.S. military published a report prepared by the Joint and Coalition Operational Analysis (JCOA) Division of the Joint Staff. The JCOA study is disheartening, with the report’s key findings amounted to an admission that U.S. forces initially contributed to corruption in Afghanistan. Indeed, the report finds that actions on the part of the International Security Assistance Force, the Afghan government, and the Afghan population fostered a “culture of impunity,” and that even where military taskforces made progress in fighting corruption, lack of unity and a lack of Afghan political will frustrated the taskforces’ headway.

The JCOA report offers recommendations for operationalizing what it refers to as Counter/Anti-Corruption (CAC) in the future term in Afghanistan and suggesting ways to optimize CAC from Day 1 in future missions. One of the major, and potentially fruitful tasks, will be to integrate fully CAC into counterinsurgency (COIN). I would supplement the JCOA Division’s recommendations with several additional suggestions: Continue reading

The Corruption-Security Nexus: Lessons from Afghanistan (Part 1)

This past February, Transparency International (TI) Germany released a study on the relationship between corruption and stability in conflict and post-conflict zones. Titled “Corruption as a Threat to Stability and Peace”, the report notes that corruption and conflict have a “symbiotic relationship,” in which corruption drives instability by encouraging rent-seeking behavior, undermining state institutions, and fueling social and political grievances, while institutional weakness in fragile or conflict-ridden states allows corruption to take root. (The U.S. military’s Joint and Coalition Operational Analysis (JCOA) Division released a report on a similar theme, focusing specifically on Afghanistan, around the same time. That report will be the subject of my next post.)

The good news, as TI relates it, is that both intervening military forces and peace-builders are taking note of the effects of corruption on security and are starting to implement efforts to fight corruption. The bad news is that the results of those efforts are decidedly mixed, and their long-term success is threatened by countervailing interests, like securing short-term peace agreements. Those observations are not all that surprising. Buried in the report, however, are a few unexpected observations that are worth highlighting.

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Social Media and Anticorruption Reform: When Does Crowdsourcing Work?

Is social media the next great tool in fighting corruption, or is its role more limited? As Matthew noted in his last post, some anticorruption activists have used blogs and other online platforms to circumvent traditional media, and there’s some limited evidence they may have had an effect. Perhaps even more exciting, the launch and the early successes of the website I Paid A Bribe, started by an Indian nonprofit, suggested that the egalitarian internet could take advantage of “crowdsourcing” approaches to provide information on corrupt activities, disincentivize bribe-taking, and educate the public. Anticorruption reformers in other countries took note of I Paid A Bribe’s achievements, launching their own country-specific spinoff websites.

But those websites have not been universally successful. One of the most notable recent disappointments has been in China, where I Paid A Bribe and similar crowdsourced antibribery platforms failed, and ultimately folded. Recent research by Yuen Yuen Ang examines the short-lived existence of China’s crowdsourced antibribery platforms and offers some explanations for why the Chinese efforts failed to accomplish their objectives. While she stops short of offering broader takeaways on the role of social media in combating bribery, we can draw some conclusions using her work as a starting point. Broadly speaking, her conclusions suggest that social media is only effective in combating bribery where an adequate educational, social, and political framework exists to support its use. Continue reading