What we're reading on conflict & governance - Covid-19 edition, 7 May
Hot off the presses, this week's edition features content curated by Alisha Patel and me, as usual, and DFID colleagues Chris Underwood, Dennis Curry, Juliet Walton, Sana Zia, Thomas Wheeler and from the Covid-19 Conflict, Stability & Governance Hub.
We hope that you’re finding these lists helpful in framing your responses to the pandemic and ensuring that interventions are underpinned by governance, conflict and social science considerations.
DFID Research & Evidence Division (RED)-funded research teams designated with a 🌟.
Stay safe, everyone.
Infographic of the week
This report aims to provide background information on how key political actors and local communities in Yemen view COVID 19 to help humanitarian actors tailor their COVID 19 programming and health messaging to the local context.
Alan Martin & Joanne Lebert, Covid-19 and ASM: Illicit traders cashing in on vulnerable miners in conflict-prone areas
Artisanal small-scale mining (ASM) comes through as a key threat in serious organised crime analysis, and this report explains clearly the complexity of the markets (licit and illicit) and the rising threats from Covid for stability as hurting miners working legally are forced to move into the shadow economy to survive.
Anam Parvez Butt, Amber Parkes & Dana Stefov, Coronavirus and the case for care: envisioning a just, feminist future
Propositions from Oxfam for how a feminist approach can help ‘build back better’ in a way that puts care, climate and inclusion at the centre.
Analysis from one of South Africa’s leading policing experts
The huge economic slowdown brought about by COVID-19 has resulted in companies around the world seeking help from their governments. One piece of research found 40% of all corporate tax revenues are parked in tax havens, leading to a tax loss for global society of US$700 billion in 2017 alone.
British Foreign Policy Group, The Covid-19 Response in Africa
Governments starved of resources will have less to invest in infrastructure and will also have less capacity to tackle endemic challenges such as corruption, even though, as the Ebola response tells us, corruption is likely to increase during instability.
Byron Pakula & Mark Pruden, The endgame for Covid-19 has no end: thinking through your pivot strategy
Really useful resource for those of us thinking about how our programmes can pivot on Covid (and our research…).
Carl Miller & Institute for Strategic Dialogue/BBC, Disinformation, the far-right and Covid-19
As part of BBC’s Click series on technology, Carl presents new research on Covid-19 and disinformation and the links to far-right extremists. This should be on all of our radars. The segment is from 5:17-13:52 for those of us with access to the BBC. If you don’t, then you can read about it here.
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Can the Coronavirus Heal Polarization?
Polarization is straining democracies around the world, but effective governance and mobilization during the crisis could help narrow social divides.
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Coronavirus in Conflict Zones: A Sobering Landscape
The new coronavirus is spreading into conflict-affected states. The pandemic and efforts to contain it are much more likely to aggravate and multiply conflicts than reduce or end them.
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Corruption Vulnerabilities in the US. Response to the Coronavirus
Times of uncertainty present opportunities for corrupt actors to act corruptly—and the crisis caused by the novel coronavirus will be no exception.
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Do Authoritarian or Democratic Countries Handle Pandemics Better?
A mix of factors have shaped every country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, but the stakes for the democratic model are high.
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Illicit Financial Flows Will be Easier During the Coronavirus Pandemic
International criminal organizations are now exploiting the coronavirus crisis. The corrupt and criminal entities that thrive on illicit financial flows, or the transfer of illegally earned money across borders, can seize the moment.
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, The Coronavirus Pandemic is Reshaping Global Protests
Many protest movements have adapted to coronavirus-related restrictions as they fold new public health and economic concerns into their lists of governance grievances.
Centre for Global Development, Accountability for COVID-19 Aid: Better Visibility Matters for the Quality of the Response
As the international community mobilizes billions for the COVID-19 response, we need standards for aid tracking and reporting. Aid visibility informs data-driven response, draws attention to critical gaps, and ensures accountability, Janeen Madan Keller, Julia Kaufman, and Amanda Glassman write.
Centre for Global Development, USAID's First Digital Strategy Seeks to Counter Digital Authoritarianism
Digital systems are just as much tools for foreign policy and political influence as they are for innovation and economic growth," Mike Pisa and Ugonma Nwankwo write. They unpack what USAID's new digital strategy means for global development and for a more free and open internet.
An influx of financial and other support comes with its own challenges, as many of us know, and Elder sets some of the potential impacts of Covid interventions here.
Claire Mcloughlin & David Hudson, The limits of Covid compliance? Three tests for legitimate rules
DLP’s team on on why legitimacy matters for compliance on Covid interventions.
One Colombian governor was suspended and another six are facing criminal investigations over alleged embezzlement of coronavirus emergency aid, Colombia’s authorities announced on Friday. So far, a joint task force found suspected corruption in 53 investigations into suspicious emergency contracts with a total value of $33.8 billion (COP135.9 billion), it was announced. The Comptroller General’s Office said it was looking into almost 17,500 possibly fraudulent contracts and has taken steps to impose penalties in 21 of these cases.
Really useful contribution from CGD pulling together a number of resources from around the world.
Esther Dufflo and Abhijit Banerjee, Coronavirus is a crisis for the developing world, but here’s why it needn’t be a catastrophe
A pithy article by the recent Nobel prize winning economists which highlights the importance of cash transfers and universal ultra basic income as a mitigation strategy to the worst impacts of COVID-19, with some striking examples from Togo. This draws on their book Good Economics for Bad Times, which is just as relevant now as before.
Gary Milante & Robert Muggah, World Bank needs to make fragility a central priority in the Covid-19 era
Experienced researchers Milante (also ex-WB) and Muggah set out propositions for the World Bank to lead global coordination on the Covid-19 response and to fully embed its Strategy for Fragility, Conflict & Violence 2020-2025 at the heart of its efforts. The same could be said of DFID’s Building Stability Framework.
Preview of an upcoming paper from WFD about the role of political trust in Covid interventions
Amid the current uncertainty, business and government leaders have had to take extraordinary measures to ensure continuity of operations and to meet evolving demands. Intense competition for access to public coffers may create a high-pressure environment in which companies seek to excuse corruption as a necessary evil.
Hannah Beech et al, The Covid-19 riddle: why does the virus wallop some places and spare others?
This piece in the NY Times is a brilliant overview of the puzzlingly uneven impact of C19 on different countries.
Former Indian Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Monday alleged a scam in the supply of rapid test kits to the government to detect coronavirus cases, saying it was beyond belief that some people were indulging in profiteering from the immeasurable suffering of millions. He urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take immediate strict action to bring the corrupt to justice.
Human Rights Watch, IMF: Make Covid-19 funds transparent, accountable
Aimed at the IMF but applies to Covid-19 interventions in general
In order to combat the spread of COVID-19, a large number of Islamic countries including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, and Malaysia have put restrictions on religious congregations and gatherings, including the obligatory Friday prayer. Leading international Sunni and Shia clerics have endorsed these rulings. And yet, in Pakistan, there has been a lack of clarity on the official stance on whether and how congregational prayer is going to be restricted as part of on-going lockdowns. How is this leading to a governance problem?
Andrew Sam Raja Pandian, a digital journalist and founder of a news portal in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, was arrested for running two news articles related to COVID-19. One of the articles exposed corruption in the government food aid distribution system, while the other highlighted doctors in Coimbatore city facing food issues.
Over 100 academics, NGOs and activists warn of dire consequences from the drop of remittances to Somalia and propose several options for the international community. Much applies to other countries where remittances make up a large part of the economy.
Journal of Democracy, The Squeeze on Africa Media Freedom
As the world celebrated World Press Freedom Day, some encouraging reminders from the Pew Research Center on how majorities view the importance of a free press in much of the world (check out these charts). Sadly, Africans’ confidence in their media is declining under governments’ squeeze and Jeff Conroy-Krutz worries that democracy cannot survive without independent media.
Jude Devermont & Simon Allison, Covid-19 in Africa: The good news and the bad
This includes several things for pessimists (human cost, xenophobia, corruption etc) and several things for optimists (technology, philanthropy, social protection etc).
Kyaw San Wai, Myanmar & Covid-19
In-depth analysis of how the virus is affecting Myanmar’s tricky political settlement, likely to also be of interest to other countries with similarly difficult balances of power.
The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the global watchdog that sets international standards for combating money laundering, published a report outlining various risks that businesses are facing in light of the COVID-19 pandemic as a result of widespread business closures and a general policy shift. Central among them are the incidence of increased fraud, including the impersonation of officials and the proliferation of investment scams, increased cybercrime, and an increase in the "misuse of online financial services and virtual assets to move and conceal illicit funds."
Mairi Martini, Covid-19: a perfect storm for the corrupt?
Transparency International’s Martini on some of the threats and why urgency shouldn’t lead to relaxed standards.
Montana Public Radio, Israel's High Court to Decide Whether Netanyahu Can Form Government
Israel's top court is deciding if corruption charges should bar Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from forming a government. Last month, the COVID-19 pandemic forced a deal between Netanyahu and his election rival, Benny Gantz, to end a government deadlock and form an emergency government. Opponents of Netanyahu, are claiming criminal charges — including bribery, fraud and breach of trust — should prevent him from leading the unity government.
Mushtaq Khan & Pallavi Roy, Covid-19: Locking in solutions while in lockdown 🌟
SOAS-ACE team on why governance constraints matter for Covid-19 interventions and how to think about opportunities as well as risks. Great graphic from the Evans Inc team too…
National Endowment for Democracy, The Big Question: How Will the COVID-19 Pandemic affect Transnational Kleptocracy?
While it is too early to understand the full impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is likely that with global attention trained on containing and responding to the virus, kleptocratic financial flows are receiving less scrutiny.
Neil Walsh, Here’s how criminals exploit Covid-19 for profit
Short explainer video (5min) from UNODC’s head of cybercrime & anti-money laundering.
COVID-19 exposes the extent to which corruption has contributed to the destruction of Zimbabwe’s State institutions’ capacity as the public health system, which the poor depend on, struggle to deal with the viral infections to save lives. The failure to successfully prosecute cases of corruption involving high profile individuals, most of whom are politicians or politically connected, has further eroded public confidence in the government’s willingness to fight the scourge. Corruption should be treated as a national security threat, the author argues.
Obinna Onwujekwe, Charles Orjiakor & Prince Agwu, Coronavirus: corruption in health care could get in the way of Nigeria's response 🌟
From SOAS ACE, an extensive study of health sector corruption in Nigeria interacted with front-line health workers and health policy makers and managers. The aim was to systematically identify the different types of corruption occurring in the Nigerian health sector, and rank them based on how damaging they can be to the health sector. In the war against COVID-19, health system resilience, accountability and integrity are more important than ever.
Drawing on a range of resources and data, this report from the OECD makes the case for addressing underlying fragility in countries as part of Covid-19 strategies.
Prensa Latina, Panama: More COVID-19 cases and a possible corruption scandalA scandal over alleged corruption in the purchase of medical supplies caused the resignation of a deputy minister. The deputy minister of the Presidency, Juan Carlos Muñoz, tried to defend publicly a direct purchase of 100 respirators for which the State would pay an amount that is several times higher than the market price.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Balkan Service, How Did A Bosnian Raspberry Farm Get A State Contract To Acquire 100 Ventilators?
This article looks at how a privately-owned TV presenter's raspberry farm won a multi-million dollar contract to import dozens of Chinese ventilators, bypassing the Public Procurement Agency. While BiH governments have generally received praise for keeping virus numbers relatively low, this scandal is stirring up interest among civil society.
Tax Justice Network, A "world fit for money laundering" must end in the post COVID-19 era
Looking ahead, Naomi Fowler urges our post-Covid world to finally clamp down on money laundering, while Blair Glencorse pushes for anticorruption through the G20 civil society engagement process. His argument? Improving the accountability and diversity of the Global C20 civil society Anti-Corruption Working Group (ACWG) process over time is essential, not only to help fight corruption but also to ensure that G20 itself remains credible.
A recent UN interagency memo, led by the World Health Organization, said that Bangladesh was ill-prepared to tackle the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The memo, which was later published by the Sweden-based investigative news site Netra News noted that if the government did not take adequate action up to 2 million would die. Bangladesh’s government chose to react by punishing Netra News for publishing the memo, and at least three government officials, two college teachers, and a doctor were stripped of their responsibilities after criticizing the government handling of the COVID-19 crisis on social media. Due to ongoing endemic corruption in the government apparatus, the doctors had been supplied with low-quality personal protective equipment (PPE).
The OECD Working Group on Bribery is therefore going to examine the possible impact and consequences of the coronavirus pandemic on foreign bribery, as well as solutions to help countries strengthen their anti-bribery systems. This OECD initiative ought to be read in conjunction with the recent letter sent by Transparency International, Human Rights Watch, and Global Witness to the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The letter also includes a set of recommended anti-corruption measures in economic responses to Covid-19.
In a period of significant economic disruption resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, it is time to make supply chains more resilient by introducing mandatory due diligence for anti-corruption, human rights, and environmental protection. Criminal laws proscribe bribery of foreign public officials in all countries. Many also prohibit bribery of business partners.
Numerous bosses of hotels, airlines and other sectors have lobbied Trump and cabinet officials during the pandemic, the Guardian writes. Watchdog groups say Trump’s close ties with top backers and donors from the oil patch and other sectors deserve close scrutiny, as more than $2.6tn in relief funds are doled out.
Tom Goodfellow & David Jackman, Ghost towns and crackdowns: the politics of urban Covid-19 control🌟
Building on their research for ESID, Tom and David provide a dizzying array of ways in which Covid interventions are impacting cities and call for political analysis in explaining threats and identifying opportunities.
Tom has gone through IPA’s new RECOVR Hub, which is a resource for researchers and decision-makers working to document or learn about the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in LICs/MICs, and breaks down the data to show what’s being funded and where. For anyone who muted the debates on Twitter about RCTs after the Nobel Prize (or maybe that was just me…), there’s a nice section here on ‘breaking some stereotypes’.
Many regulators across the globe have realised the challenges that banks and other financial institutions will face in anti-money laundering compliance during the COVID-19 pandemic. Albeit a temporary suspension in the regular supervisory activities, they have instructed financial institutions to stay cautious and suggested certain best practices to counter an expected surge in money laundering operations. This article tries to capture what some of the major money laundering watchdogs have in their minds to address the situation.
The report demonstrates how constrictions in media freedoms and civic space often precede more formal dismantling of free and fair electoral processes; so these constrictions serve as warnings and as the first signs of autocratization.
Whistleblowers Blog, OECD Puts Whistleblowers at Centre of Covid-19 Anti-Corruption Initiative
In announcing a new initiative to track the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on foreign corruption and bribery, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has called on international governments to protect whistleblowers.
So far, policy discussions about tax responses to Covid-19 have focused overwhelmingly on how to offer immediate tax relief. There is a clear sequence in these discussions: tax relief today, expanded revenue collection in the future to compensate. This blog explores a less conventional argument: that African governments may want to think much more immediately about sustaining—and even expanding—taxation of rich individuals in particular. It outlines the arguments for this strategy and examines the nuts and bolts of what it might entail, as well as the politics of making it a reality, in the hope of sparking broader discussion.
Useful sites & twitter threads curating content to follow
ECPR Standing Group on Organised Crime, Controcorrente (dedicated Covid-19 blog series)
GI-TOC, Covid Crime Watch
Global Voices, Covid-19: Global voices for a pandemic
ICNL, COVID-19 Civic Freedom Tracker (Will Taylor)
IPA, RECOVR Hub
Jorge Mantilla (UC-Chicago), Twitter thread curating pieces on Covid-19, conflict and crime
K4D, Covid-19 Resource Hub 🌟
Political Settlements Research Programme, Conflict, development and Covid-19 resources 🌟
The Politics of Covid 19, The Politics of Covid 19
The Syllabus, The politics of Covid-19 readings
UCL Jill Dando Institute of Security & Crime Science, Covid-19 Special Papers