THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
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.