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Risks of corruption to state legitimacy and stability in fragile situations

Examining the cases of Liberia, Nepal and Colombia, this study asks how corruption poses risks to political legitimacy and stability in fragile situations. The report focuses on the key role of elites and their views of the state's legitimacy in determining the extent to which there will be instability or stability. Qualitative interviews of elites show that two particular patronage scenarios are seen as threatening stability. One is when the state or illegal actors sustain a corrupt network by violently eliminating opponents. The other is when corruption benefits few people, the benefits are not distributed “fairly,” and the population’s basic needs are not met. Public opinion data suggest that despite corruption, the legitimacy of governments and public institutions in the three countries studied is reasonably high. The impact of corruption on legitimacy and stability is mitigated by other factors. Anti-corruption initiatives potentially strengthen state legitimacy, but undermine it if they fail to deliver or become too far-reaching. In conclusion, the report makes recommendations to the international community for prioritising action on corruption.

30 May 2012
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Risks of corruption to state legitimacy and stability in fragile situations

Cite this publication

Hussmann, K.; Dix, S.; Walton, G.; (2012) Risks of corruption to state legitimacy and stability in fragile situations. Bergen: U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre, Chr. Michelsen Institute (U4 Issue 2012:3)

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About the authors

Karen Hussmann

Karen Hussmann is a public policy expert with extensive experience in governance, anti-corruption issues, health-sector integrity, and fragile states. Her experience includes having been the director of an EU financed anti-corruption programme in Colombia, senior consultant for the U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre and the EUROsociAL II Programme in Latin America, and accountability expert with UNDP in Afghanistan. She has also worked many years with Transparency International. She is currently an independent consultant conducting applied policy research and working with partners on policy development and implementation of anti-corruption standards. She teaches the U4 online courses Essentials of anti-corruption and Corruption risk management.

Sarah Dix
Grant Walton

Dr Grant W. Walton is a Fellow with the Development Policy Centre at the Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University, and Chair of the Transnational Research Institute on Corruption. He is the author of Anti-Corruption and Its Discontents: Local, National and International Perspectives on Corruption in Papua New Guinea (Routledge, 2018). 


All views in this text are the author(s)’, and may differ from the U4 partner agencies’ policies.

This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International licence (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)