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Corruption and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding: Selling the Peace?

Published by Routledge. Part of the Cass Series on Peacekeeping.

Available on Amazon (but it’s £76). A better bet is to ask your librarian to buy a copy. If you have journal access through your university library, earlier versions of some of the chapters are also available at International Peacekeeping.

I’m providing some more information on the core ideas since it won’t be available in paperback for at least 18 months.

The Blurb

This edited volume explores and evaluates the roles of corruption in post-conflict peacebuilding.

The problem of corruption has become increasingly important in war to peace transitions, eroding confidence in new democratic institutions, undermining economic development, diverting scarce public resources, and reducing the delivery of vital social services. Conflict-affected countries offer an ideal environment for pervasive corruption. Their weak administrative institutions and fragile legal and judicial systems mean that they lack the capacity to effectively investigate and punish corrupt behaviour. In addition, the sudden inflow of donor aid into post-conflict countries and the desire of peacebuilding actors (including the UN, the international financial institutions, aid agencies, and non-governmental organisations) to disburse these funds quickly, create incentives and opportunities for corruption.

While corruption imposes costs and compromises on peacebuilding efforts, opportunities for exploiting public office can also be used to entice armed groups into signing peace agreements, thus stabilising post-war environments. This book explores the different functions of corruption both conceptually and through the lens of a wide range of case studies. It also examines the impact of key anti-corruption policies on peacebuilding environments. The dynamics that shape the relationship between corruption and the political and economic developments in post-conflict countries are complex. This analysis highlights that fighting corruption is only one of several important peacebuilding objectives, and that due consideration must be given to the specific social and political context in considering how a sustainable peace can be achieved.

This book will be of great interest to students of peacekeeping and peacebuilding, criminology, political economy, war and conflict studies, international security and IR.

Some Early Reviews

‘In this book Cheng, Zaum, and colleagues show how corruption control must be integrated within broader peacebuilding goals, and how we must adapt our choices to both history and rapidly-changing circumstances. The result is an essential guide to the challenges confronting citizens, and those who would aid them, in some of the world’s most troubled areas.’

Michael Johnston, Colgate University

‘It is well known that conflict-affected states are prone to corruption, which in turn undermines faith in public institutions. What is less well known is how corruption can shape the possibilities and character of a transition to peace. By approaching it as a political rather than technical problem, this important book takes a clear-eyed look at the ways in which corruption can threaten — but also, on occasion, facilitate — post-conflict peacebuilding.’

– Simon Chesterman, National University of Singapore, Faculty of Law


1        Selling the Peace? Corruption and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding (PDF here)
Christine Cheng (Oxford) and Dominik Zaum (Reading)

This introductory chapter explores the complex relationship between corruption and peacebuilding. It argues that fighting corruption is only one of several important peacebuilding objectives, and that due consideration must be given to the specific social and political context in considering how a sustainable peace can be achieved. The chapter begins by examining some of the problems arising from efforts to define corruption and the implications that these difficulties have for our analysis. It then examines in detail the impact of corruption on peacebuilding outcomes, as well as the impact of peacebuilding practices on corruption. It finds that the sudden inflows of donor aid into post-conflict countries and the desire of peacebuilding actors (including the UN, the IFIs, aid agencies, and NGOs) to disburse these funds quickly, create incentives and opportunities for corruption. While corruption imposes costs and compromises on peacebuilding efforts, opportunities for exploiting public office can also be used to entice armed groups into signing peace agreements, thus stabilising post-war environments. The issue of why anti-corruption measures taken during post-conflict transitions have often not achieved their objectives is also discussed.

Part I: Conceptualising Corruption

2        Conceptualising Corruption in Peacebuilding Contexts
Mark Philp (Oxford)

The article argues that questions of definition relating to corruption are central to understanding its significance and its prominence in peacekeeping contexts. Definitional issues are discussed and a definition that combines certain universal features while acknowledging the importance of local norms and rules is offered. The definition revolves around actions, decisions and processes that subvert or distort the nature of public office and the political process. The challenge for peacebuilders is to develop and enforce standards for public office that have sufficient linkage with local norms and expectations to command some support, and to do so in a context that, by definition, lacks consensus on norms and principles of legitimacy for public office. The article explores some of the strategies open to those in post-conflict contexts and argues that corruption will frequently be a rational strategy for many, creating a vicious cycle that is hard to break. The article also questions how far corruption should be the major concern of peacekeeping forces, and how the concept might be disaggregated to allow a more targeted approach – one that recognizes that attacking corruption directly may not always be the best strategy, and that sees that corruption may not always be the major priority.

3        Corruption and Government
Susan Rose-Ackerman (Yale)

In countries emerging from civil war with weak governments, bribery demands will be used opportunistically by officials operating under unclear rules that allow them to invent offences or simply to extort funds from ordinary people. Furthermore, many people may engage in illegal activities, such as smuggling or illicit trade in arms, and may need the protection of public authorities to continue to operate. Peacebuilding strategies must avoid triggering vicious spirals. An economy that is jumpstarted by giving monopoly powers to a few prominent people may produce a society that is both lacking in competition and unequal. Although it may be risky and difficult to counter corruption in post-conflict peacebuilding, if the problem is allowed to fester, it can undermine other efforts to create a stable, well-functioning state with popular legitimacy. Care must be taken in starting down the road to reform. Strong leadership from the top is needed that moves towards the goal of a more legitimate and better functioning government and sidelines those who have in the past been using the state as a tool for private gain through threats and intimidation. International assistance can, in principle, help, but it needs to be tailored to avoid exacerbating the underlying problem created by the mixture of corruption and threats of violence from those inside and outside the government.

4        Corrupting Peace? Corruption, Peacebuilding, and Reconstruction
Philip LeBillon (University of British Columbia)

Many conflict-affected countries are among the most corrupt in the world, and corruption is frequently reported as a major concern of local populations and foreign aid agencies during transition to peace. Tackling corruption is part of ‘liberal peacebuilding’, which seeks to consolidate peace through democracy and free markets economy. Yet liberalization policies may also foster corruption. Using a preliminary analysis of selected corruption perception indicators, this article finds tenuous and divergent support for post-conflict patterns of corruption. Three main arguments linking liberal peacebuilding with higher levels of corruption are then presented for further elaboration, and a research agenda is outlined.

5        Aiding the State or Aiding Corruption? Aid and Corruption in Post-Conflict Countries
Sarah von Billerbeck (Oxford)

Economic growth and macroeconomic stability have come to be considered key to the consolidation of peace after civil war; as a result, development assistance has become a pervasive element of post-conflict interventions. However, despite providing certain benefits to post-conflict states, high levels of aid in the aftermath of civil war can also entail a number of negative consequences, including increasing corruption and imperiling one of the fundamental goals of peacebuilding: strengthening state capacity for the peaceful management of conflict. This paper describes the circumstances in post-conflict states that make them susceptible to corruption before discussing how the goals of peacebuilding and the methods of aid collide to produce a situation in which corruption may be an unintended by-product of building state capacity to maintain peace. More specifically, I examine the manner in which aid is disbursed, arguing that aid that is given directly to the government can strengthen the state but increase corruption; while aid that is disbursed around the state can prevent corruption but weaken the state, and thus work against the goals of peacebuilding. Finally, I examine some of the political, strategic, and bureaucratic obstacles to overcoming this trade-off.

Part II: Case Studies

6        The Political Economy of Corruption in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Michael Pugh (Bradford) and Boris Divjak (Transparency International, Bosnia and Herzegovina)

This article contends that the complex administrative mechanics prescribed in the Dayton Accords presented opportunities for nationalist leaders to abuse public office. At the same time, economic reforms and a high degree of decentralization gave elites and local communities the facility to resist externally induced structural adjustment. The economic paradigm introduced for transition limited any attempt to establish a social contract between individual and the state. Consequently, a degree of social cohesion remains through adherence to local, clientelistic loyalties and informal economic activity. This provides the cultural and structural economic context in which the abuse of public office flourishes.

7        From Ownership to Imposition: The process of creating a legally accountable Bosnian judiciary
Per Bergling (Umeå)

Not only was the international community late in discovering the significance of the judiciary for the success of the peace process in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), but international agencies were also late in identifying corruption as a key reason for why Bosnian judicial agencies were not working. The steps taken to eventually address the situation, including reforming judicial admission, discipline and dismissal regimes, were not strategic, but reactive in nature. Notably, the international community felt that these reforms should be domestically ‘owned’ and ‘led’ and that the resulting laws should resonate with pre-existing legal-cultural paradigms. However, this process did not produce the desired results. Consequently, the Office of the High Representative and the Independent Judicial Commission chose to gradually increase their involvement, eventually assuming almost complete control over the judicial reform process. In this case, international intervention culminated in the firing of almost the entire Bosnian judiciary and the imposition of an internationalised structure for judicial appointments and dismissals. While this policy stood in stark contrast to the values of local ownership and local leadership, it has essentially produced positive long-term results— despite difficulties arising from corruption, political infighting and ethnic differences. Nevertheless, these positive results are fragile in nature and could be negated by endemic features of the BiH political landscape.

8        Anti-Corruption Efforts in Liberia: Are They Aimed at the Right Targets?
William Reno (Northwestern)

International agencies intervene to promote reform in Liberia with promises to remake the country. Yet elections produce victories for former wartime commanders and officials accused of corruption. Many of these people continue to play important roles in the economy and command vocal followings. International organizations face a choice between a more radical intervention that amounts to a counterinsurgency operation to remove these people from their positions at the risk of creating political instability, and tacit acceptance of their power. Looking beyond these choices, is it possible that corrupt members of the elite and insiders can contribute to economic growth and political stability? Comparison of the organization of corruption in Liberia with models in East Asia indicates that political networks rooted in Liberia’s economy may offer the promise of helping to integrate ex-combatants into the economic life of the country and address local demands for participation in politics.

9        Corrupting or Consolidating the Peace: The Drug Economy and Post-conflict Peacebuilding in Afghanistan
Jonathan Goodhand (SOAS)

This article examines how the drugs economy emerged, evolved and adapted to transformations in Afghanistan’s political economy. With a primary focus on the conflictual war to peace transition following the signing of the Bonn Agreement, the relationship between drugs and political (dis)order is explored. Central to the analysis is an examination of the power relationships and institutions of extraction that developed around the drug economy. Expanding upon a model developed by Snyder (2004), it is argued that joint extraction regimes involving rulers and private actors have tended to bring political order whereas private extraction regimes have led to decentralized violence and political breakdown. This model helps explain why in some parts of Afghanistan drugs and corruption have contributed to a level of political order, whereas in other areas they have fuelled disorder. Thus, there is no universal, one-directional relationship between drugs, corruption and conflict. Peacebuilding involves complex bargaining processes between rulers and peripheral elites over power and resources and when successful leads to stable interdependencies. Counter-narcotics policies have the opposite effect and are thus fuelling conflict.

10      Reconstruction and Peace Building under Extreme Adversity:  The Problem of Pervasive Corruption in Iraq
Robert Looney (Naval Postgraduate School)

Indexes of corruption compiled by the World Bank and Transparency International suggest that Iraq is one of the world’s most corrupt countries. While corruption thrived under Saddam Hussein, it has worsened further in the post-Saddam era. Controlling and eradicating Iraqi corruption has proved difficult owing to the fact that it is the product of an interrelated set of forces including: (a) the growth and dynamics of the shadow or informal economy; (b) the deterioration in social capital, and in particular the near absence of trust between the different regions, religious groups, tribes and even within local neighbourhoods; and (c) the evolving relationship between tribes, gangs and the insurgency. Any effort that attempts to control corruption without taking these factors into account will have little chance of success.

11        The Nexus of Militarization and Corruption in Post-Conflict Sri Lanka
Zachariah Mampilly (Vassar)

Corruption is often born in the crucible of war and has important effects on the nature of post-conflict reconstruction. Sri Lanka’s three-decade war which ended in 2009 provides an ideal example of how the militarization of the state during the conflict created the conditions for corruption to become endemic, thus affecting the post-conflict social order. Drawing on interviews conducted both during and after the war, this paper examines three conflict-induced changes to the state that have allowed corruption to flourish: 1. The centralization of power in the executive, 2. The closure of the democratic space, and 3. The geopolitical maneuvering of the Sri Lankan government between India, China and the United States. By situating the behavior of the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime within political patterns established by his predecessor, this paper depersonalizes the question of corruption, arguing instead for a more historical and holistic perspective.

Part III: Anti-Corruption Measures in Peacebuilding Contexts

12      Post-Conflict Reconstruction, Legitimacy, and Anti-Corruption Commissions
John Heilbrunn (Colarado School of Mines, LAIS)

This paper evaluates the incentives of policy makers in post-conflict states to establish anti-corruption commissions (ACCs). It argues that ACCs are a mechanism by which leaders of fragile states may signal both legitimacy and commitment to reform. Their intended audience includes citizens, the diplomatic community, and international donors. The establishment of an ACC in a post-conflict state is particularly important since it provides an impetus to reforms that could improve transparency and accountability. To make its argument, the paper looks first at the legislative structure that numerous ACCs have adopted to comply with the UNCAC in post-conflict countries. Second, creating an ACC poses numerous challenges in post-conflict states. On the one hand, the process of investigating venal officials or private sector actors may threaten the coalition that allowed peace. On the other, post-conflict states lack resources and personnel; they simply have no money to pay salaries or people competent to staff an effective ACC. How these agencies interact to reduce corruption is critical to the ability of an ACC to contribute to reconstruction and sustainable peace. Finally, an effective ACC may help to build legitimacy in fragile, post-conflict states. Building legitimacy of its rulers and the offices they create in the reconstruction process is a lengthy process that has substantial benefits. Yet, the establishment of an ACC is crucial to the legitimacy of fragile, post-conflict states. Reducing corruption requires a recognizably credible commitment to reform by political leaders and the coalitions that support them. The paper concludes by considering why success, while so elusive, is a desirable outcome.

13      Part of the Problem or Part of the Solution? Civil Society and Corruption in Post-Conflict States
Roberto Belloni (Trento)

Many scholars and policy-makers trust that the participation of non-state actors in public policy, its design, monitoring, and implementation can improve the quality of anti-corruption activities. This paper assesses this view. It holds that civil society groups in post-conflict states struggle to participate into public policy, and in particular to perform the monitoring and watchdog functions necessary to carry out effective anti-corruption efforts. Not only many civil society organizations are small, have little access to information and are starved of funding, and thus may be reluctant to engage with state actors, but also they frequently incorporate and reflect the broader political and institutional context where they operate. Where such a context is dominated by patronage, clientelism and corruption, as is regularly the case in post-conflict settings, civic associations too tend to replicate those vertical bonds. Thus, civil society can hardly support the development of stronger institutions and better domestic governance in post-conflict states. Rather, a weak civil society reflects a weak state, a state and societal weakness are two faces of the same coin.

14      International Campaigns for Transparency: Leveraging EITI and PWYP for Broader Political Reforms
Alexandra Gillies (Revenue Watch Institute) and Page Dykstra (Revenue Watch Institute)

The international movement to advance extractive industry transparency has sought to positively influence post-conflict environments by increasing oversight and accountability of the oil and mining revenues which accrue to the state. In many such environments, earnings from extractive industries funded parties to the conflict, or were misappropriated in ways which generated pre-conflict grievances, or both. Transparency advocates argue that disclosing the amount of revenues which countries earn from these sectors will help to discourage corrupt and self-interested behavior, build trust among stakeholders, and provide civil society and citizens with tools for holding their government to account. While the international movement to advance resource transparency is still new, it is worth exploring how its early efforts have faired in the uniquely challenging environments of post-conflict, resource rich states. The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and Publish What You Pay (PWYP) have emerged as the primary institutional manifestations of the global transparency campaign.  Since their creation in 2002, these initiatives have operated in several countries with current or recent conflicts including Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, East Timor, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and to a more limited extent Afghanistan and Iraq. By investigating the experience of these initiatives in post-conflict settings, the paper presents evidence of resource revenue transparency’s potential impact, as well as the sizeable political obstacles which it faces.

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