More on the Tension between Analysis and Advocacy for Anticorruption Academics

A couple weeks back I posted some brief reflections that  alluded to the possibility of the tension,  between academics and advocates. I asserted this tension was something I’d observed, but I didn’t give any specific examples. Partly because of that weakness in the original post, I thought I’d follow up on this topic, using a concrete example of the tension I had in mind.

That example is drawn from a debate I’ve engaged in elsewhere on this blog with Maud Perdriel-Vaissiere, an advisor to the UNCAC Coalition. In brief, the substantive issue that she and I (and others) have been arguing about is the extent to which the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) obligates law enforcement agencies that recover judgments or settlements against bribe-paying firms to share those proceeds with the governments of the countries where the bribes were paid. I won’t go into all the details here. (For those who are interested, some of my earlier posts on the topic can be found here and here, and other contributors to this blog have discussed related issues here, here, here, and here.) In my most recent post on the subject, I specifically criticized Ms. Perdriel-Vaissiere’s discussion of the issue in a post she published on the UNCAC Coalition’s blog. Among other criticisms, I accused Ms. Perdriel-Vaissiere of failing to make basic distinctions between different types of legal recovery, of failing to acknowledge their different treatment under UNCAC, and of citing misleading statistics that conflated these different forms of recovery. I described the legal analysis in the post as “sloppy” and concluded with some harsh words: “The anticorruption community can and should do better.”

Ms. Perdriel-Vaissiere submitted a lengthy, detailed, and thoughtful rebuttal, which you can read in the comments section for the original post. Much of her response focuses on substantive matters where she and I respectfully disagree, and I leave it to interested readers to make their own determinations on those issues. But part of her reply caught my attention because it so nicely illustrates, in a much more concrete form, the “analyst vs. advocate tension” I alluded to generally in my post on the role of academics. Here’s what Ms. Perdriel-Vaissiere has to say in my response to my criticism that she cites misleading statistics that don’t take into account the differences between distinct forms of recovery: Continue reading