The coronavirus pandemic has undoubtedly exacerbated existing corruption risks in countries around the world, but it has also generated new opportunities for civil society to gain leverage in the fight against transnational kleptocracy. As part of the collection “Global Insights: Transnational Kleptocracy and COVID-19” by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), NRGI's Alexandra Gillies has written the essay "A Pandemic and a Price Plunge: Oil-Rich Kleptocracies in Uncertain Times". The essays in this “Global Insights” series are the product of six workshops held by the International Forum for Democratic Studies during the spring and summer of 2020.
Oil and other natural resources fuel most of the world’s kleptocratic networks. When the new coronavirus pandemic first hit in early 2020, the global drop in oil demand sent the commodity’s already low prices plummeting further. For the oil-rich kleptocratic regimes of the world, this shock further constrained the patronage and corruption possibilities available to them. The ways in which these networks have responded to the dual crises of collapsing revenue and a worldwide pandemic may offer potential opportunities to support democracy, curtail illicit financial flows, and even combat climate change.