Securitizing Money to Counter Terrorist Finance: Some Unintended Consequences for Developing Economies


  • An earlier version was presented at the international workshop, “The civil society-security nexus—facing the challenges of international terrorism and domestic resistance,” Department of Political Science, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden, May 2, 2012 to May 4, 2012.
  • [Corrections added 27 February 2015, after original online publication: grammatical changes have been made to this article to improve clarity.]


With its roots in the “war on drugs” and the criminalization of money laundering, the global initiative to combat the financing of terrorism (CFT) provides one strategy for preventing and preempting terrorist attacks. In public pronouncements, terrorist finance was named the “lifeblood” and “oxygen” for terrorism itself, thus displaying an analogy suggesting that its mere removal could bring an end to terrorism. Following the theoretical perspective of the Copenhagen School of security studies, this paper argues that national and international measures against terrorist finance constitute the “securitization” of money. By situating money as the essential component to an existential threat, it was possible to justify extraordinary measures to monitor financial transactions. These measures produced unintended consequences prompting resistance and an evolution of procedures to reduce those consequences. This paper considers two affected areas (migrant remittances and financial inclusion) and points to the potential use of financial surveillance against grand corruption.