chapter  1
26 Pages

Selling the peace? Corruption and post- conflict peacebuilding


Corruption has become an increasingly salient issue in war to peace transitions, both for the populations of war-torn countries and for the donor governments, NGOs, and international and regional organisations involved in peacebuilding efforts. Conflict-affected countries feature prominently in corruption surveys as having the most serious corruption problems (Transparency International 2010; World Bank 2010). They offer an ideal environment for pervasive corruption: with their weak administrative institutions and often broken legal and judicial systems, they lack the capacity to effectively investigate and enforce prohibitions of corrupt behaviour. Moreover, the social norms that are expected to contain corruption tend to be weak or non-existent; and divisions within societies affected by conflict weaken shared conceptions of the public good (Sandholtz and Koetzle 2000: 36; Philp in this volume). Further, the sudden inflow of donor aid and the desire of external actors to disburse it quickly create ample incentives and opportunities for corruption (Wilder and Gordon 2009). That countries with weak institutions and weak shared conceptions of the public good are more prone to corruption is not a new insight (see for example Nye 1967: 418). The fact that it has become a major preoccupation for peacebuilding actors and analysts in recent years is a consequence of the broad scope of peacebuilding (Barnett et al. 2007), defined in Boutros Boutros-Ghali’s Agenda for Peace as ‘actions to identify and support structures which will tend to strengthen and solidify peace in order to avoid a relapse into conflict’ (UN 1992). In particular, peacebuilding’s focus on socio-economic development and the reform and strengthening of political and administrative structures are strongly affected by corruption. This focus reflects two intellectual developments in particular. The first is the recognition of the importance of war economies in perpetuating conflict, and of the persistence of power structures rooted in war economies well into peacetime, where they become entrenched and consolidated through corruption (Berdal and Malone 2000; Berdal and Zaum 2011; Cheng 2011; Cramer 2006; Pugh et al. 2004). In addition to contributing to the outbreak of war and sustaining it, the political

economy of conflict also shapes the possibilities and the character of the peace that follows, as well as the efforts of local and external actors to shape that peace. The second is the increased focus by many donor governments and international organisations on statebuilding as an essential part of peacebuilding, even though the latter encompasses a wide range of practices. As the weakness or even collapse of state institutions came to be seen as sources of conflict, peacebuilding and statebuilding have also been used interchangeably at times. Functioning institutions that can help to manage conflicts over power, resources and identity in divided societies, and that can effectively deliver key public goods such as security and justice are undoubtedly central to post-conflict stability (Call and Wyeth 2008; Paris 2004; Zaum 2007).This emphasis on the role of political institutions and political economy in post-conflict peacebuilding has increasingly shifted the attention of peacebuilders towards the issue of corruption. Closely associated with market distortion and the malfunction of political institutions, corruption is considered a key challenge to consolidating peace, hindering economic development, perpetuating the unjust distribution of public resources and undermining the legitimacy and effectiveness of government (Mauro 1997b; Rose-Ackerman 1999; Seligson 2002; Senior 2006). In recent years, there has been a growing literature on the impact of corruption after conflict (Boucher et al. 2007; Large 2005; Le Billon 2003, 2005; O’Donnell 2008). This book aims to contribute to this debate by examining the specific conceptual and political challenges that corruption poses to post-conflict peacebuilding. In referring to ‘post-conflict’ countries, it is important to clarify that we are referring to states that have reached a formal peace agreement, even though violence, including armed conflict might still be pervasive. While peace agreements do not necessarily end violence, and the distinction between conflict and post-conflict might not be as meaningful to individuals on the ground who continue to experience violence in the ‘postconflict’ period, peace agreements set a framework under which peace can take hold (Höglund 2008). Thus, despite the obvious shortcomings of the term, post-conflict remains a useful descriptor for our purposes. Across the different chapters in this volume, a complex set of issues emerges to shape our understanding of post-conflict corruption, its impact on stability and development, and the consequences of anti-corruption initiatives in the context of peacebuilding efforts. The chapters explore several questions:

• What specific forms does corruption take in conflict and post-conflict environments?