Corruption as the Biggest Security Challenge

Global security has always been one of the main problems of humanity, but in recent decades, due to globalization of the world economy, interdependence of countries, and the development of technology, including the military, it has come to the fore. This is such a complex concept that there are disagreements even in the definition of the term, not to mention the ways to achieve it (Hough, 2018).

The world faces an unprecedented convergence of instability and international threats. The range of threats – regional coercion and meddling, government corruption, transnational terrorism, government-supported corporations and militias, health insecurity, chemical, nuclear, and other unconventional weapons, massive displacement of populations, and overwhelming humanitarian crises – creates a complex environment. Traditional response tools have proven increasingly ineffective against such crises, with the combination of threats and instability presenting novel challenges.

Considering my professional, academic and personal experience, in my opinion, the biggest security challenge facing the world today is corruption. Since I am an Iraqi native, I understand from personal experience the levels of corruption at all scales, from government officials to government departments, and I am aware of the severity of its consequences. Corruption has emerged as a top-priority security threat by undermining state effectiveness, eroding trust between citizens and government, and exploiting vulnerable populations. By undermining state effectiveness, corruption creates opportunities for non-state actors like terrorists, traffickers, insurgents, drug cartels, and criminal groups. Corruption allows them to infiltrate and influence the state itself, further weakening governance and expanding terrorist and criminal reach.

Moreover, systemic corruption has an unrecognized bearing on international security. Over the past decades, there have been a series of popular uprisings around the world. Arab Spring, Red and Yellow Shirt Protests in Thailand, Kyrgyzstan uprising, Revolution of Dignity in Ukraine, Janatha Aragalaya in Sri Lanka, etc. Most of these uprisings led to severe changes not only in countries but also in entire regions. They all have one thing in common – an extremely high level of corruption in governments, which dramatically reduces citizens’ standard of living. Corruption creates a danger to vulnerable populations. By corroding the rule of law, it gives predators opportunities to exploit the vulnerable. In India, corruption weakens the enforcement of legal protections against domestic violence, leaving women more vulnerable to abuse.

Corruption undermines the government’s ability to respond to threats and ensure security. When Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi prepared to take on Daesh, he discovered that 50,000 soldiers on the government payroll, costing Iraqis $380 million a year, did not even exist.

In a range of countries, governments have been repurposed to serve the personal enrichment of ruling networks. Corrupt rulers refuse to transfer power, turning countries into authoritarian regimes. In Iraq, corruptionists create personal militias and private organizations. I have come across them in my professional experience while providing the US military deployed to Iraq with language and cultural support. Unfortunately, not all countries are able to cope with systemic corruption. In the past three years, outrage against corruption has fueled protests in 32 countries. Slowly but surely, the fight against corruption is gaining momentum all over the world.


Hough, P. (2018). Understanding global security. Routledge.

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"Corruption as the Biggest Security Challenge." LawBirdie, 13 June 2023,


LawBirdie. (2023) 'Corruption as the Biggest Security Challenge'. 13 June.


LawBirdie. 2023. "Corruption as the Biggest Security Challenge." June 13, 2023.

1. LawBirdie. "Corruption as the Biggest Security Challenge." June 13, 2023.


LawBirdie. "Corruption as the Biggest Security Challenge." June 13, 2023.