Kerry tackles corruption as driver of extremism

Story highlights

  • Kerry gave a keynote address to the World Economic Forum taking place in Davos

Davos (CNN)Warning that corruption fuels violent extremism, Secretary of State John Kerry said Friday that the U.S. would redouble its commitment to fighting it, deeming it a national security priority.

"We have to acknowledge in all quarters of leadership that the plagues of violent extremism, greed, lust for power and sectarian exploitation often find their nourishment where governments are fragile and leaders are incompetent or dishonest," Kerry said in a keynote address to the World Economic Forum taking place in Davos.
Kerry noted that corruption either caused or fueled crises in Iraq, Nigeria, Syria, Ukraine, Libya and Yemen, adding that graft and bad governance "complicates every single security, diplomatic and social initiative we undertake" and costs the global economy some $2.6 trillion a year.
    Kerry said corruption is used by extremist groups as a tool to radicalize and recruit youth and, therefore, was no longer a domestic problem but a global one.
    "The fact is there is nothing, absolutely nothing, more demoralizing and disempowering to any citizen of any nation than the belief the system is rigged against them and that people in positions of power are -- to use a diplomatic term of art -- crooks who are stealing the future of their own people," Kerry said. "It's everybody's responsibility to condemn and expose corruption, to hold perpetrators accountable and to replace a culture of corruption."
    With unprecedented refugee flows sparking a migrant crisis in Europe, Kerry said the Obama administration would seek a major increase in funding for support of refugees and encourage countries to take more refugees in the lead up to a refugee summit hosted by President Barack Obama at the U.N. General Assembly this fall.
    Kerry said the U.S. would press countries currently resettling refugees to double the number they take in and urge at least 10 more countries to begin accepting refugees. The U.S. also wants to increase the number of child refugees in school and the number of refugees legally allowed to work by one million each.
    Kerry said the U.S. would ask donors to increase funding for worldwide humanitarian appeals by 30 percent, from $10 billion to $13 billion a year.
    In a sweeping address laying out what he described as U.S. policy successes, Kerry hailed the Iran nuclear deal as bringing the world back from the brink of a "collision course" with the country that, without diplomacy, would have led to war.
    "We were on the cusp of confrontation. I can't tell you how many leaders, as I traveled through certain areas, told me, 'You've got to bomb it,'" Kerry told the audience of politicians and business leaders.
    Kerry also said progress was being made in the campaign against ISIS, which has been pushed out of 30% to 40% of the territory it once held in Iraq and Syria. Noting that the group has had to slash the salaries of its workers because of coalition air strikes against oil refineries and cash depots, Kerry said that ISIS is feeling the pressure.
    "The struggle is far from over," Kerry said. "But we are headed in the right direction."
    Kerry said that an end to the Syrian civil war would be the greatest tool in destroying ISIS and called upon nations to help implement a U.N.-backed 18-month roadmap for a political transition in Syria.
    "Every country in the region opposes Daesh, and even governments that disagree on other issues acknowledge the war must end and a diplomatic solution must be found," Kerry said, using another name for ISIS.
    Talks between regime officials and members of the opposition, the first step in that Syria peace plan, are scheduled to begin next week.
    From Davos, Kerry travels to Riyadh, where he will urge Saudi and Gulf leaders to resolve their differences with Iran in the hopes of working together on Syria and the fight against ISIS.