Revealing Global Inequalities and Corruption

Revealing Global Inequalities and Corruption:  Panel debate on the film “Breaking Social”


In an engaging panel discussion hosted at the Bergen International Film Festival (BIFF), a group of experts from various fields convened to dissect the implications of the documentary film “Breaking Social”. The film, directed by filmmaker Fredrik Gertten, examines how kleptocracy, corruption and extractivism perpetuate social injustices breaking down the social contract of contemporary societies. The panel, organised in collaboration with U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Center at the Chr. Michelsen Institute and GRIP aimed to give deeper insights and understanding regarding pressing issues related to power inequalities and global networks of corruption schemes that exacerbate and perpetuate inequality.


What Social Contract?
“Breaking Social” delves into the concept of the social contract underpinning all societies. The film underscores the expectation that diligence and hard work should be rewarded but often falls short. It also investigates disturbing instances of global kleptocracy and its consequences, from the assassination of a journalist in Malta to shady firms providing multiple passports to the ultra-wealthy. Moreover, the film exposes grotesque examples of economic disparity, particularly in Chile, revealing how the economic elite’s refusal to abide by the social contract perpetuates these disparities.


Diverse Perspectives on Inequality and Corruption
Panel speakers with expertise in different acadmeic fields and geographical  regions brought diverse perspectives to the discussion. Elina Troscenko (GRIP) discussed the unprecedented concentration of wealth among the top 1 per cent and the role of policy choices in perpetuating these inequalities. She pointed out the link between inequality and global crises, such as violent conflicts, climate change, and political divisions.

David Aled Williams (CMI) discussed his work on corruption in the natural resources sector. He emphasised that addressing corruption is a social and political issue rather than a purely technical one and raised concerns about extractivism’s impact on resource consumption and its implications for the pressing issue of climate change.

Panel discussion. Photo by BIFF/Gudmund Arne Lilletveit

Daniela Cepeda Cuadrado (CMI) argued that corruption in Latin America is systemic, extending beyond individual acts. She expressed concern that failure to address corruption could lead to more repressive states in Latin America, mentioning the region’s history of shifting between left-wing and right-wing governments in response to corruption and inequality.

Aslak Jangård Orre (CMI) who focuses on local governance, corruption, and anti-corruption efforts in Mozambique and Angola, provided a concrete example of international corruption in Mozambique and showcased how corruption schemes are woven between such places as Mozambique, Swiss and Norway connecting the Global North and South and, once again, engaging them in exploitative relations.

Anwesha Dutta (CMI) discussed the challenges of building and maintaining democracy in a globalised world. Her insights centred around the book “Failing Forward,” an illuminating treatise dissecting the propensity of global policies to be designed for failure. Dutta shed light on the contemporary practice of celebrating failures within climate conventions, underlining the need to question the unilateral application of Western democratic principles to diverse nations. She passionately championed the imperative of comprehending democracy from a local perspective, accentuating the pivotal role of historical context and community participation, all the while advocating for a tailored approach rather than a one-size-fits-all paradigm.


A Holistic Exploration of Global Challenges
The extensive panel discussion addressed a multitude of topics spanning from corruption to inequality and their far-reaching implications across diverse regions. The overarching objective of the panel was to facilitate an enriched dialogue between the audience and the panelists, collectively embarking on a journey of exploration into the multifaceted issues portrayed in “Breaking Social”. The significance of this discussion within the academic realm lies in its potential to heighten awareness concerning global inequalities, corruption, and the critical imperative of systemic reform. The narrative calls for open dialogue as the linchpin of progress. It is only through candid conversations, nuanced understandings, and purposeful actions that we can aspire to surmount the prevailing global challenges. “Breaking Social” resonates as a stark reminder of the extensive work that remains to be undertaken to herald a world characterised by equity and justice. It is a collective responsibility, vested in the global academic community, to be the architects of this change.