In dozens of countries, corruption can no longer be understood as merely the bad deeds of individuals. Rather, it is the operating system of sophisticated networks that cross national boundaries in their drive to maximize returns, and it has gotten to a level that it threatens global security, according to Sarah Chayes, who is speaking at the next Cape Ann Forum at Gloucester City Hall on Sunday, May 6 at 7 pm.
Chayes, a former reporter for National Public Radio in Afghanistan and a senior associate in the Democracy and Rule of Law program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, is not only exposing the extent of this problem—she’s advising policymakers on how to combat it. One of her recent studies focused on Honduras, the source of many of the refugees now seeking asylum in the United States.
“The strands of the Honduran kleptocratic network overlap, and personnel is shared among public, private, and criminal network elements. But the three sectors do retain some autonomy, interacting via exchanges of revenues and services,” writes Chayes.
“Revenues are captured at the expense of the environment as well as the people of Honduras, and some of the most resilient opponents of the network’s business model are community groups defending the land. These groups are largely ignored by international donor institutions, the bulk of whose assistance benefits the network.”
Sarah Chayes’s work explores how severe corruption can help prompt such crises as terrorism, revolutions and their violent aftermaths, and environmental degradation. She recently left her position at Carnegie to work on her next book, which will apply this framing to the United States.
Before joining the Carnegie Endowment, Chayes served as special assistant to the top-ranked American military officer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen. She focused on governance issues, participating in cabinet-level decision-making on Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Arab Spring, building on the years she reported on the region for NPR.
Chayes says it was “a sense of historic opportunity” that prompted her to end her journalism career in early 2002 and to remain in Afghanistan to help rebuild the country. She chose to settle in the former Taliban heartland, Kandahar where she founded Arghand, a start-up manufacturing cooperative, where men and women working together produce fine skin-care products.
Her first book, The Punishment of Virtue: Inside Afghanistan After the Taliban, was published in 2006. Her most recent book is Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security (2014), which won the 2016 Los Angeles Times Book Prize.
This is the Cape Ann Forum’s last major event of the 2017/2018 season, as the organization closes in its 100th presentation since it was formed in 2001, which will be commemorated next September. The May 6 forum will also feature the announcement of the organization’s annual international awareness award to a graduating Gloucester High School senior, which comes with a $500 scholarship.
The Cape Ann Forum is also cosponsoring a presentation by Andrew Bacevich, a West Point graduate and Vietnam War veteran, at the Gloucester Stage Company, 267 East Main Street, on Sunday, May 20, at 6 p.m. The talk is part of a month-long program on Combat Art—“In War and Afterwards”—curated by Gloucester artist Ken Hruby and organized by the Rocky Neck Cultural Center, which will exhibit the work of combat veterans.
Bacevich is a two-time Forum speaker and a nationally known commentator on international affairs, a professor emeritus at Boston University, and the author of nine books, including The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism and America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History.
For more information on the Cape Ann Forum or these events, go to the Forum’s website: http://capeannforum.org.