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Lessons Learned: Corruption as a Threat to Security and the Stability of States

Transparency Germany

While the link between corruption and economic and social development has been debated for a long time, the discussion about the effect of corruption on the stability or fragility of states is a recent one. It was particularly the experience gained by the international community in Afghanistan and Iraq, which drew the attention to this topic.

Corruption and the underestimation of its role was a major factor for the failure of the international efforts in Afghanistan.

In Afghanistan, the army has been undermined completely by corruption: salary lists contained tens of thousands of ghost soldiers, arms were sold to the Taliban and promotions were based on corruption payments instead of merits. The political system has been based on corruptive ties between the president and the governors. The legal system was highly corrupt, too. Studies from Afghanistan show that the population has lost trust in its government because it has not been able to provide two of the most crucial goods: security and justice. Similar experiences were made in Iraq, too.

What have decision-makers learnt from these experiences?

In February 2019, Transparency International once again organised a panel discussion at the Munich Security Conference. As in recent years, the event focused on the interplay between corruption, security and the stability of states. We invited international experts on security issues to talk about the consequences which can be drawn from international peace and stability missions especially in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Are there any new approaches? What are the best practices? The German State Secretary of the Ministry of Development (BMZ), Martin Jäger, underlined the importance of regional structures and cited experiences from working in Mali where strengthening regional and local governance has been a key aspect. He stressed the importance of civil society in these processes generally and particularly named the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) as a valuable tool when assessing corruption.

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction of the American Congress (SIGAR) John Sopko emphasised the importance of choosing the right partners in a country to avoid losing the trust of the local population. His report of 2016 on Corruption in Conflicts has played a major role in creating awareness for the topic. The Security Advisor of the Iraqi Prime Minister Falih Al-Fayyadh underlined the need of a comprehensive approach based on a thorough analysis of the internal situation and the interests of the various actors. All panellists agreed that the cooperation between civil and military actors has improved, but still need to be further strengthened.

Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, listening to the panel discussion. © Munich Security Conference

There was the general understanding that there is not enough exchange of knowledge and discussion on good practices concerning the fight against corruption in fragile states. The German Secretary of State of the BMZ offered to convene an expert meeting or small conference to discuss these experiences in order to give actors the chance to learn from each other. In the meantime, Transparency Germany has offered to support the Ministry in preparing such a conference.

The panel discussion “Stabilizing States and Combating Corruption — Consequences from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Mali” was hosted by Transparency International and took place on Saturday, February 16th, 2019 at the Munich Security Conference 2019. The panel consisted of H.E. Falih Al-Fayyadh, National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister, Iraq, H.E. Martin Jäger, State Secretary in the German Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), Amb. Hadiza Mustapha, Adviser on Peace, Security and Governance of the Chairperson, African Union and Special Inspector General John Sopko, SIGAR (Special Inspector General Afghanistan Reconstruction). Katherine Dixon, outgoing director of the Transparency International Defense and Security Program in London, moderated the discussion.

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