Summary

This report provides recommendations and suggests best practices in combatting corruption following Hurricane Irma’s destruction in Sint Maarten. While focused on Hurricane Irma in particular, the report formulates its recommendations to be responsive to corruption in the wake of extreme weather events generally, especially in the era of climate change where such events are increasingly frequent.

The report focuses on four areas of law where the government is especially insecure in terms of corruption following an extreme weather event: (1) criminal law, (2) ethics and non-criminal anti-corruption law, (3) environmental law, and (4) building, zoning, and public procurement. First, it explores the criminal law relevant to corruption. The recommendations aim to address the influx of relief and aid money and the plentiful opportunities for money laundering and fraud that follow an extreme weather event. Second, the report analyzes the area of ethics and non-criminal anti-corruption law. It provides recommendations in the areas of accountability in government, the Integrity Chamber, and public awareness. Third, the report addresses the environmental legal framework. This section focuses on updating the Emergency Support Function (ESF); prioritizing prosecution of environmental crimes; passing legislation to address climate change; and generating funds for environmental education and cleanup. Finally, the report examines relevant building, zoning, and public procurement laws. Recommendations focus on emergency cleanup, post-disaster recovery, and public procurement.

While the recommendations are intended to address specific issues to which Sint Maarten is vulnerable, major themes applicable to all small island developing states (SIDS) are prevalent across all four issue areas. First, existing corruption is exacerbated by extreme weather, making corruption easier and more prevalent in the wake of an extreme weather event. Second, a culture shift is necessary to change focus to the long term, as climate change ensures more and more extreme weather events. Part of changing the culture is ensuring those on the Island have access to information, including the legal codes. Such access requires publishing information and the laws in languages understood by residents; in the case of Sint Maarten that would be English as well as Dutch. Another part of changing culture is to implement practices aimed at changing views of corruption, protecting against extreme weather, and decreasing the effects of climate change. Third, prevention and preparedness are key to ensure that the chaos and urgency that follows an extreme weather event is minimized as much as possible. When processes are in place to control this chaos, opportunities for corruption decrease. Keeping these lessons in mind, the government of Sint Maarten will be able to increase its ability to stave off corruption following extreme weather events into the future.

Cindy Gerges, J.D. Candidate
Gerry Hirschfeld, J.D. Candidate
Claire Hutar, J.D. Candidate
Garrett Salzman, J.D. Candidate
Juliet S. Sorensen, Director, Bluhm Legal Clinic, and Associate Dean,
Clinical Education
Elise Meyer, Schuette Clinical Fellow in Health and Human Rights,
Bluhm Legal Clinic

Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law

May 2018

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