Illegal logging constitutes a grave threat to biodiversity. (Illustration photo: RoyLuck/
1 Jul 2019

Curbing green corruption through research

Corruption poses a grave threat to the protection of animals, forests and fisheries. The Targeting Natural Resource Corruption project aims to reduce the threat by providing knowledge that can strengthen anti-corruption efforts.

Corruption threatens marine and freshwater environments, negatively impacting food security, national economies and local livelihoods. In forests, corruption threatens efforts to preserve tropical forests as well as the way of life of people who depend on it for survival. In wildlife, corruption is an enabler of wildlife crime. Poaching and illegal trade are among the main factors driving animals to extinction. We know all this. Yet we know surprisingly little about the actual mechanisms that makes corruption one of the biggest threats to biodiversity and about the effectiveness of anti-corruption interventions.

The Targeting Natural Resource Corruption (TNRC) project aims to change this. The USAID-funded Leader with Associates Award involves CMI’s U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre, the World Wildlife Fund-US (WWF), TRAFFIC and the Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center (TraCCC) at George Mason University. It will use a political ecology approach to better understand what works to reduce corruption and under which conditions.

-We aim to deliver new thought-leadership and research on how to approach anti-corruption in the natural resource sector, says Aled Williams, consortium research coordinator and senior adviser at the U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre.

Reaching a broader audience
In July, Williams will head to the WWF office in Washington D.C. to meet with the project’s academic advisory group. Conservation efforts, wildlife protection and anti-corruption strategies will be up for discussion.

-This is first and foremost a learning and planning event where several projects working on biodiversity and conservation will interact. We will also present the TNRC project to USAID’s Environment Officers, says Williams.

-Our aim is to strengthen the wider community of stakeholders’ abilities to engage in and implement conservation efforts in ways that strengthen both anti-corruption outcomes and people’s rights, he says.

Getting the job done
The close collaboration with USAID and WWF presents opportunities and challenges.

-We get unique access and these actors inform our research in a way that desk studies cannot come close to, says Williams.

But it is extra important to the research team to be meticulous in their research approach and to play the “critical friend”.

-Our validated approach to research will be true to the empirical evidence we collect. Only then will we actually stand a chance of arriving at policies that can make a difference.