chapter  13
19 Pages

Part of the problem or part of the solution? Civil society and corruption in post- conflict states

ByROBERTO BELLONI

In recent years the extent of mismanagement and corruption in postconflict countries has been identified as a serious challenge to the efficiency and effectiveness of peacebuilding programmes. Perhaps more worryingly, sometimes the cure has been more damaging than the disease. Judicial prosecution has rarely resulted in visible and lasting results, mostly because of low capacity and corruption in the judiciary – typical of postconflict states. Likewise, the establishment of anti-corruption agencies, probably the most common executive anti-corruption approach in peacebuilding contexts, has obtained only meagre results (see John Heilbrunn’s contribution to this volume). In Afghanistan, Kosovo and Sierra Leone, not a single ‘big fish’ has been convicted by an anti-corruption agency. In some extreme cases, anti-corruption agencies are nothing more than another layer of corrupt bureaucracy (de Sousa 2009). It is in this context that policy makers and analysts have turned to civil society hoping to deal more effectively with fighting corruption than current executive-driven strategies (Bolongaita 2005: 13). This chapter acknowledges that civil society can play a positive role in anti-corruption activities, in particular by monitoring the behaviour of public authorities in the unstable and corruption-ridden transition from war towards peace and democracy, and also in providing a ‘voice’ to citizens’ demands for accountability and change. However, the relationship between civil society and corruption is not limited to the former fighting the latter. Civil society organisations in post-conflict states commonly incorporate and reflect the broader political and institutional context in which they operate. Where such a context is dominated by patronage, clientelism and corruption, as is regularly the case in post-conflict settings, civic associations also tend to replicate those vertical bonds. Thus, as this chapter will argue, civil society plays a dual role. At its best, civil society organisations are at the forefront of anti-corruption activities. Media reports of both civil society work and intimidation against whistleblowers confirm how the determination of individuals and groups is essential to exposing corrupt activities. At the same time, many civil society organisations are part of a broader network of patron-client relationships.