Does corruption make people more susceptible to disasters? In other words does corruption shape the impact and magnitude of a disaster?
In the first post in this series I wrote about what is more well-known regarding corruption and disasters. Such as the embezzlement of relief funds and substandard buildings collapsing during earthquakes.
However, when it comes to how corruption influences vulnerability in general, little has been written, and even less has been said.
There are a few published articles on the subject but they are beyond most people’s reach. Official reports and documents often only hint at a connection, and use terms like “ lack of accountability” or “weak governance”.
That does not mean a relationship does not exist. Because, there are several things we actually do know.
Corruption > Development > Disaster Vulnerability
Firstly, you can find plenty of material on corruption and international development. During the last years this has become a topical issue on international actor’s agendas. Corruption (actually called corruption) is also part of the Sustainable Development Goal number 16.
Secondly, the connection between development and disaster risk has gradually gained acknowledgment. And the fact that development, or the lack of it, are the driving forces behind many so called natural disasters.
Corruption & Development
Corruption and fraud is not so much about what is being done, as about what is not being done. Due to corruption money goes astray. Money that was supposed to improve people’s lives through safer roads, schools or livelihood programmes.
Another aspect of corruption is the direct daily impact is has on the poor. They often spend a considerable amount of their income on paying bribes. Some have to refrain from seeking health care since they cannot afford the bribes. Or paying bribes to a police officer may imply that you have no money left for school fees.
What corruption actually DO is creating uncertainty. The claim for bribes are most often unpredictable. If you run a business you can never be certain that it will be enough to upheld a contract or renew a license.
Therefore businesses turn on their short-term modus, getting as much profit as possible here and now.
So, they can go ahead even if their activities include deforestation or other detrimental environmental impacts. Activities that increase the risk of hazards, such as landslides and flash–floods.
Corruption & Disaster Vulnerability
Corruption impacts development. Development impacts disaster vulnerability. Therefore: Corruption impacts vulnerability.
You and I can probably accept such a statement, though we do not know the details.
Others may be harder to convince, due to the dearth of causal evidence.
An example of the direct impact of corruption on disaster outcome, is from the Philippines, where corruption lead to fewer, safe roads being built, impeding evacuation during typhoon Yolanda.
But most often it can be hard to prove that due to corruption related to a big dam project, less funds were available for sanitation in slum dwellings or for a nutrition project; subsequently leading to people being less able to recover after a huge storm.
The biggest problem is the secrecy surrounding corruption.
Much more effort has to be put into getting the facts.
That cannot be left to nascent civil societies or independent journalist, who are already putting themselves in danger. It needs a massive public awareness and local action. Strongly supported by national actors , if viable , and international actors. That makes it even more deplorable that corruption is not mentioned in the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.
What we also tend to forget is that ” a culture of corruption” found in many countries today, used to be the case in most European countries two hundred years ago, but not any longer. Something has definitely changed. How was that change possible? I will come back to that in a coming post.