Introduction – Key Themes in Peacebuilding and Corruption

Since the end of the cold war, interventions to stabilize post-conflict societies have grown in number, length and scope, no longer just interposing troops between combatants and negotiating a peace agreement, but engaging in far-reaching efforts of institutional and societal transformation to prevent a relapse into war and to encourage a sustainable peace. On the one hand, this expansion of peacebuilding reflects the recognition that functioning institutions are central to post-conflict stability, as they can help to manage conflicts over power, resources and identity in divided societies. For most of the international organizations and donors involved in post-conflict peacebuilding, these institutions are liberal-democratic ones by necessity because they are considered to give all conflict parties a stake in the new, post-war order, they are concomitant with the protection of human rights and the rule of law, and they encourage economic growth. On the other hand, the expansion of peacebuilding activities reflects a growing understanding of how war economies have perpetuated conflict and how economic power structures and dynamics can persist well into peacetime. As well as causing war and sustaining it, the political economy of conflict also shapes the possibilities and the nature of the peace that follows. This emphasis on the role of political institutions and political economy in post-conflict peacebuilding has increasingly shifted the attention of peacebuilders towards the issue of corruption. Closely associated with the distortion of the market and the malfunction of political institutions, corruption is considered a key challenge to consolidating peace because it hinders economic development, perpetuates the unjust distribution of public resources, and undermines the legitimacy and effectiveness of government. In recent years, there has been a growing literature on the impact of corruption after conflict. This collection of papers aims to contribute to this debate by examining the specific conceptual and political challenges that corruption poses to post-conflict peacebuilding. Across the different papers in this special issue, a complex set of issues emerges to shape our understanding of postconflict corruption, its impact on stability and development, and the consequences of anti-corruption measures in the context of peacebuilding efforts. In this introduction, the implications for peacebuilding will be discussed in greater detail.