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In early December, the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime participated in the 17th International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) in Panama City, Panama.

The biennial conference brings together heads of state, civil society, the private sector, and other actors to examine and tackle the increasingly sophisticated challenges posed by corruption. This year’s IACC, hosted by the Panamanian government and organized by the IACC Council and Transparency International, sought to build on previous conferences in fostering networking, cross-fertilization, global exchange of experiences in order to promote international cooperation among government, civil society, the private sector, and citizens.

Peter Tinti, with the support of the German Government, represented the Global Initiative as part of a panel session organized by the U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre, titled “Corruption and Migration: Connecting the Flows of Money and Refugees.” During the panel presentation, Tinti shared findings as a result of ongoing research conducted by the Global Initiative on the role of corruption within the business model of migrant smuggling networks. Citing examples from Africa, but in particular in Niger, Tinti stressed the need to understand the broader political economies within which these networks operate.

In many contemporary contexts, migrant smuggling networks are deeply enmeshed within local political and security structures, relying on corruption in order to carry out their activities. In the case of Niger, for example, where government and security officials, as well as certain marginalized communities rely on the migrant smuggling industry to sustain themselves, poorly designed interventions meant to stem irregular migrant flows carry a significant risk of upsetting local balances of power predicated on the political economy of migrant smuggling. A crackdown on migrant smuggling that fails to account for the actors and communities for whom smuggling is a source of livelihoods, therefore, could come at the expense of stability in an already volatile region. Unless serious measures are taken to reduce demand for smuggler services, measures that seek to increase border control are likely to create more opportunities for corruption and put migrants at greater risk.

For more on these particular dynamics as they pertain to the northern Niger and southern Libya, please see a recent report, “The Niger-Libya Corridor: Smugglers’ Perspectives” published by the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime in partnership with the Institute for Security Studies.