What Heather Marquette is reading on Corruption, Crime & Conflict

January 25, 2022

     By Duncan Green     

Heather Marquette (occasional contributor to this blog) has started a new newsletter drawing on her work for SOC ACE – the Serious Organised Crime & Anti-Corruption Evidence programme (and sister programme to SOAS ACE and Global Integrity ACE) and lots more on corruption, organised crime, conflict, security, foreign policy and development..

The first two editions dropped this week, and here are some highlights (minus the discussion a recent FP2P post – too much self-citation bad for the health). You can subscribe here.

The post combines some in depth discussion of things she’s read, and a broader set of short links.

Serious Organised Crime Research Programme

The real crisis of global order (Alexander Cooley & Daniel H Nexon, Foreign Affairs)

Alexander Cooley and Daniel H Nexon’s piece on ‘The real crisis of global order’ for Foreign Affairs has far too much in it that’s worth reading to even begin to give it justice and is a genuine must read, particularly for anyone working on foreign policy, national security and strategy. Through use of a wide range of examples, they argue:

In their current form, liberal institutions cannot stem the rising illiberal tide; governments have struggled to prevent the diffusion of antidemocratic ideologies and tactics, both homegrown and imported. Liberal democracies must adapt to fend off threats on multiple levels. But there is a catch. Any attempt to grapple with this crisis will require policy decisions that are clearly illiberal or necessitate a new version of liberal order.

There’s so much in the piece, and I can’t just cut and paste it all here (though I would love to…). They discuss the emergence of what they describe as ‘asymmetric openness’, where technological innovations that created more open flows of knowledge and commerce, along with illiberal policy choices by liberal democracies and a number of evolving, adaptive authoritarian practices means we have ‘the strange reality that the contemporary liberal order works better for authoritarian regimes than it does for liberal democracies’. Liberal democracies face many threats from within, including ‘homegrown antidemocratic’ forces’, and a backlash against the ideas underpinning political liberalism, including the belief in certain universal rights and values. Whether in the examples they include – the US, the UK, Hungary and Uganda – or beyond, illiberal forces connect together across borders in what’s often referred to as the so-called ‘culture wars’ to push back against the ideas underpinning universal human rights.

This has an impact on the area I personally work in as well. As Cooley and Nexon argue,

The Biden administration has correctly declared corruption to be a national security risk. But anticorruption measures will inspire blowback that also poses a national security concern. Aggressive measures will threaten politically connected oligarchs in Europe and elsewhere. Corrupt autocrats are likely to see a number of anti-kleptocracy efforts, such as expanding diligence requirements for service providers and prohibiting foreign officials from accepting bribes, as a serious threat to their regimes and will rally their publics against these new forms of “domestic interference.” Important steps for conserving liberalism, even defensive ones, will generate pushback against the liberal order—and not just from overseas. Anticorruption measures threaten a wide range of U.S. politicians, businesspeople, and consultants. In recent years, and especially after the 2016 election, such measures have become another source of partisan polarization.

In analysis published with Westminster Foundation for Democracy last year on ‘Doing anticorruption democratically’, I also discuss this danger:

…there is emerging evidence that suggests the fight against corruption itself can harm democracy. This includes things like anticorruption messaging campaigns that leave people more likely to pay a bribe and less likely to feel they’re able to do anything themselves to fight back. Or how the reporting of corruption by investigative journalists and civil society can fuel populism and backlashes against democracy. Or where the politicisation of corruption in election campaigns can weaken democracy and may even lead to rising authoritarianism or violence. All of these are serious charges that need to be taken seriously; however it’s also important to remember that the real problem is not the anti-corruption interventions but rather the corruption and the impunity of the powerful, perceived or otherwise. The solution needs to be tackling impunity, but this definitely doesn’t mean we should continue doing the same anticorruption things in the same ways as we do now.


Anti-corruption sign

A bonanza for people interested in smuggling can be found in the new Routledge Handbook of Smuggling, edited by Max Gallien and Florian Weigand, and which is entirely open access. As a side note, Max’s paper on ‘Researching the politics of illegal activities’ is a serious must read for anyone in the field.

Two new articles on ‘social bads’ and citizen attitudes: one from Amelie Godefroidt on ‘How terrorism does (and does not) affect citizens’ political attitudes: a meta-analysis’, and another by my colleagues Nic Cheeseman and Caryn Peiffer on ‘The curse of good intentions: why anticorruption messaging can encourage bribery’.

OpenDemocracy’s report by Alice McCool and Khatondi Soita Wepukhulu on ‘US conservatives spreading anti-vax misinformation to unvaccinated Uganda’ is disturbing, with serious consequences for health security in Uganda and globally, as well as for the liberal order (see Cooley and Nexon for related examples).

Shannon Zimmerman argues that ‘Peace and security are not the same thing’ in this piece for the Lowy Institute, arguing against combining peacekeeping and counter-terrorism, the latter of which she says ‘closes off political space that successful peace operations need’.

Ivan Gunjic’s report for U4 on ‘Albania’s Special Courts against Corruption and Organised Crime’ includes interesting insights on a different way to embed anti-corruption/counter-organised crime reforms within wider judicial reforms, including why thinking about political and technical feasibility is important from the start.

Liz David-Barrett has been doing some interesting thinking recently about state capture, including here in the UK, and her piece for OpenDemocracy on ‘If Tory whips are blackmailing MPs, that’s corruption. We should call it that’ assesses current scandals through this wider lens.

For Ukraine watchers, Michael Hikari Cecire, senior policy advisor at the Helsinki Commission, has written about why ‘Half measures are worse than nothing in Ukraine’ for Foreign Policy, where he argues that speed and plausibility are key, i.e., ‘steps that not only can be taken quickly but that Russia will believe Washington will carry through’.

Another Ukraine read is an article from the UK’s Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace, which focuses in large part on President Putin’s article ‘On the historical unity of Russians and Ukrainians’. Beyond being an interesting read in its own right, what I found most striking about Wallace’s article is how different it is from most outputs from UK ministers: an article, not a speech or press release, that reads as if he’s written it himself, rather than something pulled together with (or by) special advisors and officials. Whether or not that’s true, I don’t know, of course, but it would be nice to have more of this sort of thing. It makes for more interesting reading anyway…

Human Rights Watch’s report on ‘Afghanistan: Taliban deprive women of livelihoods, identity’ raises a lot of important questions for both the Taliban government and the international community. Well worth a read along this story by Emma Graham-Harrison in the Guardian called ‘“We are struggling”: two former officials at Afghan women’s affairs ministry’.

Anti-corruption message
Anti corruption message, Bangladesh

Mirko Heinzel’s paper on ‘Divided loyalties? The role of national IO [international organisation] staff in aid-funded procurement’ finds that the context-specific knowledge national staff have increases the development effectiveness of procurement. Food for thought.

People interested in tracking unrest, corruption, inequality, violence and so on will find this piece by Jeremy Cliffe in the New Statesman on ‘Why the global middle class is in revolt’ worth reading. It’s good to read alongside Benjamin Press and Tom Carothers ‘The four dynamics that drove protests in 2021’, drawing on Carnegie’s new Global Protest Tracker data, with the four dynamics being: 1) resistance to coups and rising authoritarianism, 2) fierce political contestation, 3) frustration with public health responses and 4) economic insecurity. Apparently, a system that allows the stonking inequality outlined in Oxfam’s recent report on how ‘Inequality Kills’ in the context of COVID-19 is a Very Bad Thing. Who woulda thunk…

Lots more in the newsletter (including poetry, fiction etc) but that’s a blog’s worth for now. You can subscribe here.

January 25, 2022
Duncan Green