Prof. Johnston, the Charles A. Dana Professor of Political Science Emeritus at Colgate University, was a member of IACA’s frequent visiting faculty for several years and lectured in a number of its programmes and trainings, including the Master in Anti-Corruption Studies (MACS).
As well as continuing to teach in the MACS and supervise master’s theses, he will also lecture in this year’s IACA Summer Academy and the fourth Alumni Reunion on 6 and 7 July. Furthermore, Prof. Johnston will support and supervise a small number of students in IACA’s PhD programme and provide general academic advice and support to the Academy.
“We are sincerely delighted to welcome Professor Johnston, a world-leading luminary and longstanding supporter of IACA, in this new role,” said Martin Kreutner, Dean and Executive Secretary. “Our organization will benefit greatly from his further involvement in our educational activities, while even more anti-corruption and compliance professionals around the world will be inspired by his expertise and passion for empowerment.”
As a leading authority on questions of corruption, democratization, and reform, Prof. Johnston has also served as a senior consultant to organizations such as the World Bank, United Nations, the Organization of American States, and the US Agency for International Development.
He recently spoke with us about his involvement with IACA, his current research, and future trends in anti-corruption studies.
What are you especially looking forward to in this new role?
Michael Johnston: I've always enjoyed my teaching at IACA, as well as supervising theses, but I'm very much looking forward to contributing to programme development. IACA has built up its strength and capacity over the past several years, and now the time is right, both for the organization and in terms of the wider field of anti-corruption work, for IACA to take a step back and assess larger opportunities. The anti-corruption world needs fresh thinking and critical perspectives if it is to move ahead, and I hope to contribute in that respect.
How would you describe your experience of teaching at IACA?
MJ: The teaching has always been demanding but rewarding. The students who enrol in the MACS programme - I always tell them this, but it bears repeating - are the future of the anti-corruption movement. They occupy strategic roles in their home societies and may well become role models for young people coming up within institutions there. The sheer diversity of backgrounds, outlooks, and experience they bring to the table - often from countries that are struggling with development and governance challenges - is tremendously impressive, and is an asset for the programme in its own right.
Which areas of research are you focusing on at the moment?
MJ: My own interests focus more and more on corruption and inequality, both in the developing world and in the more affluent "Influence Market" societies that play leading roles in the global system. Inequality makes it very difficult to combat Influence Market corruption, which typically involves wealthy interests trying to buy influence within strong institutions over specific decisions. And those countries' global influence tends to spread such practices (along with much else, of course) around the world. Corruption, in turn, often entrenches and intensifies inequality.
You’ve been studying corruption for four decades. What do you see as the main growth areas in anti-corruption studies over the next few years?
MJ: This may be a strange way to respond, but the biggest change is that there is a field at all. For the first 20 years or so that I spent working on corruption issues, only a handful of scholars studied it, official and international-organization interest was nil, and few businesses wanted to address the issue. Now we have such tremendous interest and so many opportunities, but the anti-corruption movement tends too much to chase its own tail, developing essentially the same remedies and diagnoses even in widely divergent settings.
The next growth area, I hope, will be in understanding the contrasts among the kinds of corruption problems different societies face, and among the appropriate responses - many of which will be indirect and aimed at long-term change. Preparing the ground for rapid anti-corruption progress, when the opportunities arise, is difficult, frustrating, and lonely work. Perhaps the best thing institutions like IACA can do is to build up and help sustain networks among young professionals around the globe, and to give them a continuing forum in which they can exchange their views and insights.