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JUNE 2016


year. When President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria took office,

he inherited a military weakened by corruption and unprepared

to defend against threats like Boko Haram. In Ukraine, govern-

ment corruption not only triggered an international crisis but

hampered the military’s ability to resist Russian intervention.

Corruption can pose an even greater danger to vulnerable

populations. By corroding the rule of law, corruption gives

predators more opportunities to exploit the vulnerable—from

government officials targeting the poor for bribes to traffickers

ensnaring children. In India, pervasive corruption weakens the

enforcement of legal protections against domestic violence,

leaving women more vulnerable to abuse.

As the world grapples with these issues, the Department of

State is elevating anti-corruption in our work. Speaking at the

World Economic Forum in Davos in January, Secretary of State

John F. Kerry called on the world to make corruption a “first-order

national security priority.” He echoed this message at the Anti-

Corruption Summit hosted by the United Kingdom last month.

Taking a Broader, Bolder Approach

Answering the Secretary’s call, however, requires a broader

and bolder approach to address corruption. Here are four steps

the State Department is taking.

First, we are balancing law enforcement responses to corrup-

tion by strengthening efforts to prevent corruption in the first

place. This can include creating streamlined and transparent

governmental processes to reduce opportunities for graft, using

technology to increase citizens’ access to information, or train-

ing investigative journalists and civil society leaders—who play

such a critical role in detecting wrongdoing, as we saw in the

wake of the “Panama Papers” exposé. As funding for democracy,

human rights and governance increases this year, the depart-


The State Department is going

beyond law enforcement to

unite a wider range of anti-

corruption tools and actors.

U.S. Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights Sarah Sewall discusses links between corruption,

human trafficking and illegal fishing with port security officials in Thailand.