Interactions between international interveners and host nation stakeholders can result in change for the better, but can also empower corrupt and criminal networks. International interventions can become significant sources of tangible resources and intangible political legitimacy: they can provide concrete resources through sustainment, reconstruction, humanitarian aid, development contracts, and training of the host nation armed forces, and can bestow political legitimacy on local stakeholders. In fragile and conflict environments, relationships with international stakeholders can become a source of political power and influence.
International interventions also depend on local stakeholders for intelligence, information and assessments of the political and economic situation. This brings its own risks: host nation actors, for instance, could try to use the intervening forces for their own ends, which could have very little to do with preserving peace and stability or enhancing development. Intelligence information, if it is not gathered from a wide range of sources, can also present a skewed picture and can help direct the flow of resources to malign actors, strengthening corrupt and criminal networks. This is a particularly serious threat if international interventions operate in countries where state institutions have been captured by criminal patronage networks, as these stakeholders are likely to attempt to use the international presence to advance their own goals.
These manifestations of corruption can be observed at every level. Tactical-level issues such as checkpoint extortion and operational questions related to supporting private militia or obtaining intelligence are intertwined with strategic and political questions on which powerbrokers to support and who to marginalise. In fragile and conflict states, the different types of corruption are likely to add up to vertically integrated corruption networks. Within these networks, the flow of resources starts with corruption at the lower levels – for example, checkpoint bribery – and feeds corruption at the highest levels (often fused with government ministries), where actors offer protection to those who funnel corrupt money their way. Thus tolerating corruption at the lower level can also strengthen the networks that capture the government and ultimately funnel money out of the country.
Impact of mission activities
As missions establish relationships with host nation stakeholders, the tangible and intangible resources they can offer – from money to equipment to political support and recognition – can be used by malign actors to support criminal and corrupt networks. This wastes mission resources, directs them toward adversaries, and makes supporting peace- and security-related goals more difficult.
Risk Areas within Risk Pathway 2. Relations with host nation stakeholders
These risk areas provide further information on corruption risks related to mission interaction with host nation stakeholders, including specific guidance how to identify these risks and what measures can be implemented to mitigate them.
Working with the local community is a necessity for obtaining intelligence in the operational theatre, however there are significant risks for corruption involved in relying heavily on one or a few sources.
Privileged access and the mandate to control shipments are necessary for international missions to do their jobs; however, they can also create opportunities for corruption and abuse of entrusted position, often for private gain.
The access that international missions have to basic resources such as food, water and medication has in the past opened door to sexual abuse. This involves an abuse of entrusted powers – distribution of resources and keeping of peace – for private gratification.
Ensuring that financial flows do not exceed the host nation’s absorptive capacity will diminish the risk of diversion by corrupt networks; tying funding and assistance to improvements in governance can help create momentum for reform.
Supporting civilian initiatives such as reform of the judiciary can help create counter-balance to state capture, and using a full spectrum to shape incentives could render corruption less attractive at strategic, operational and tactical levels.
Stronger oversight of mission resources will help limit opportunities for corrupt networks, and helping develop host nation or civil society oversight mechanisms will help create longer-term accountability of host nation forces.