Today, the U.N. Security Council held its first-ever session on the critical connection between corruption and conflict.
John Prendergast, Founding Director at the Enough Project and Co-Founder of The Sentry, and U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres were the two featured speakers at the historic briefing.
Selected excerpts from Prendergast's remarks:
"Throughout history, war may have been hell, but for small groups of conflict profiteers it has also been very lucrative. Today's deadliest conflicts in Africa -- such as those in South Sudan, Somalia, northern Nigeria, Sudan, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of Congo -- are sustained by extraordinary opportunities for illicit self-enrichment that emerge in war economies, where there is a visible nexus between grand corruption and mass atrocities."
"As it stands now, war crimes pay. In order for peace to have any chance, those benefiting from the human misery wrought by conflicts around the world need to pay a price, whether financial, legal, or political, and the corrupt systems that underlie them need to be ended."
"Until the Security Council and other interested parties with potential influence can create leverage to change these dynamics, the bottom line is that war is more beneficial than peace for those at the center of conflict and corruption."
"Remarkably, and regrettably, there is currently no coordinated strategy to gain this necessary leverage to disrupt the illicit siphoning of money by leaders and their foreign business partners, to break the link between corruption and conflict. Every year, billions of aid dollars pour into Africa. UN agencies, taxpayers, and donors around the world fund peacekeeping forces, state-building programs, humanitarian assistance, elections, and peace processes. But none of this support has been able to keep corrupt leaders and their network of beneficiaries from stealing billions of dollars because the diplomats leading these efforts have no leverage to change the systems that perpetuate conflict... This is not about regime change. It is about system change."
"The policy tools that can provide the UN Security Council and other interested parties with maximal leverage are three-fold: a network-focused approach to sanctions that focus on grand corruption; anti-money laundering measures that focus on illicit movement of money through the international financial system; and prosecutions that focus on financial crimes associated with atrocities."
"Ultimately, these tools of financial pressure are not an end in themselves, but should be deployed in the context of a comprehensive strategy that intensifies diplomacy and supports institutions of accountability and transparency."
"In order for peace to have any chance, those benefiting from the human misery wrought by conflicts around the world need to pay a price, whether financial, legal, or political, and the corrupt systems that underlie them need to be ended."
Initiated by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley as the United States takes up the rotating U.N. Security Council Presidency, the session highlighted the major role that corruption plays in fueling and extending conflict and instability, and undermining peace processes.