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Press release | Transparency International: Corruption threatens the success of international missions

Transparency International: Corruption threatens the success of international missions
Anti-corruption NGO publishes handbook for military and civilian leaders

London, 30 September | Transparency International UK (TI-UK) today published guidance for reducing corruption on international interventions. It called on mission leaders and civilian and military officials to include anti-corruption in policies, doctrine, and plans for international interventions, such as military and humanitarian interventions, saying that they will only succeed if this problem is addressed.

Press release | Transparency International: excessive secrecy increases corruption risk in defence and security

New study finds that classified information laws often lack safeguards to protect accountability

Jakarta, 11 September – Too often, governments keep information about defence and security secret from the public, citing national security concerns. A new report from Transparency International UK’s Defence and Security Programme calls for better legislation that balances national security concerns with the public right to access information.

Photo: U.S. Army / Flickr.

Major General D. A. Hook CBE, Royal Marines (Retired) | 06/10/14

I went to Afghanistan in 2008 as the Deputy Commander of Regional Command (South), an area that includes Kandahar, Uruzgan, Zabul and Daykundi. Before I left, we only had one discussion of corruption during pre-deployment training, and we concluded that dealing with corruption was an important issue. But when we got our Operation Order, which gives tasks to leaders on the ground, corruption was not in it. This meant that we were not really required to address the problem of corruption, or to put our resources towards reducing it. In our view, the military had little to do with corruption—we saw it as part of the civilian effort.

When I returned to Kabul 2 years later, ISAF—and I—had finally grasped that corruption was undermining the success of the mission in Afghanistan, and ISAF had instituted initiatives to address the problem. There were two main developments: SHAFAFIYAT, an ISAF task force aimed at reducing corruption in Afghanistan generally, and Task Force 2010, which focused on anti-corruption in contracting. Both organisations had mixed results, but were a belated acknowledgement that everyone, including the military, had an important role to play in addressing corruption within Afghanistan.

It is clear to me now that if both of these organisations had been established at the start of the ISAF campaign, they would have made a more significant contribution to fighting corruption—and therefore to the success of the campaign.

Military officers and planners are now comfortable with the military and political aspects of counter-insurgency (COIN) campaigns, but it is only recently that they have come to appreciate that understanding and addressing corruption is an essential component of any campaign plan. Failing to address corruption undermines the credibility and legitimacy of an international mission. Corruption has a devastating effect on the wellbeing of local populations, reducing their support for the international mission and for the government the mission supports. For example, if a mission backs highly corrupt local leaders or interlocutors, who use the mission to bolster their own wealth and position, it can inadvertently undermine government and mission credibility.

The Defence and Security Programme of Transparency International UK has produced a new handbook, Corruption Threats and International Missions: Practical guidance for leaders. It is a must-read for civilian and military practitioners who will be undertaking and managing operations in complex contemporary operating environments. The new handbook articulates the threats corruption poses to campaign credibility, legitimacy and accountability, explaining how and why a political commitment to reducing corruption is key to achieving campaign objectives. Most importantly provides practical tools enabling leaders to implement a more comprehensive approach to mission design and avoid some of the pitfalls related to corruption.

Understanding the risk of corruption, and the pathways through which corruption happens, should be a starting point for all those involved in planning international interventions. This threat should be integrated into campaign design and mission planning. Corruption Threats and International Missions offers a comprehensive set of questions to be asked during mission preparation to ensure that corruption issues are captured in the planning process and campaign design, as well as ways to monitor and track them during mission execution to avoid entrenching corrupt practices and exacerbating their influence.

If we are serious about learning from our recent campaigns, it is imperative that we all get a better understanding of how corruption has an impact on a mission’s credibility, legitimacy and outcomes. Failure to do this will condemn future operations to making the same mistakes again.

About David Hook: Major General David Hook CBE QCVS (Retired) served for 33 years in the Royal Marines. He deployed on operations and commanded in every rank and spent 27 months in Afghanistan, between 2008 and 2011. He has seen training and operational service around the world as well as appointments in the UK Ministry of Defence dealing with strategy, policy and resources, and was a key player in the UK Strategic Defence and Security Review in 2010/11.

02/10/2014 | Leah Wawro, Advocacy & Communications Lead

On Tuesday, September 30th, we launched our new handbook, Corruption Threats and International Interventions: practical guidance for leaders, at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies at the National Defence University.

Read more: VIDEO: Peacekeeping and Corruption: Taking Stock and Best Practices

21/07/14 | Yerevan

Representatives of the Armenian Ministry of Defence, Armenia's Transparency International Anticorruption Center Armenia (TIAC), Transparency International UK, and the UK Ministry of Defence gathered for two days in Yerevan to discuss mechanisms for building accountability and integrity in defence establishments.

There were three main aims to the event: first, to initiate a discussion on how the Ministry of Defence and civil society can work together to address corruption risks; second, to share information about the work that the Ministry of Defence and TIAC have done in this area; and third, to decide on areas of potential joint work for the future. The event also served as a professional development opportunity for TIAC on defence and military accountability.

The Ministry of Defence presented the Armenian defence sector reforms and Armenia’s commitments under NATO's Building Integrity Initiative.

TIAC introduced its findings of their corruption risk assessment study, which placed Armenia among countries where corruption risks are high.

The UK Ministry of Defence and TI-UK introduced international experiences of defence sector accountability and cooperation between the ministries of defence and civil society.

The Ministry of Defence of Armenia and TIAC discussed actions that are needed to improve the transparency and accountability of the defence sector. They also identified four areas that are important to both the Ministry of Defence of Armenia and TIAC, where the Ministry could rely on expert support of TI-UK and TIAC. Those areas include:

  1. Reviewing and strengthening whistleblower protection and complaints mechanisms;
  2. Suggesting improved practices for parliament’s access to defence budgets and oversight of the sector;
  3. Providing input on the draft law on Public Sector Information Protection;
  4. Improving procurement regulations and good practice.

Read more on the Armenian Transparency International Anticorruption Center site.



Earlier this month, African leaders and President Obama met in Washington, DC, for a major summit. Corruption was on the agenda, and so was security—two deeply interconnected issues. Two initiatives emerged: a new Security Governance Initiative with a dedicated $65m USD, and a pledge to provide $110m for peacekeeping efforts on the continent over the next three years.

The focus on security governance is important and this initiative is a good first step—corruption in this sector has often been ignored, or seen as inevitable.

But in order for these initiatives to contribute to peace, good governance, and public trust, throwing money at the problem isn’t enough. As the case of Afghanistan has shown, an influx of funding without accountability mechanisms can even do more harm than good.

So with the creation of the Security Governance Initiative and peacekeeping funding, here’s what policymakers and planners should keep in mind:

  • Guidance should be developed that targets reducing corruption risks on peacekeeping operations, and training, capacity-building, and oversight should be put in place.

  • The initiative should be used to push for greater transparency in defence budgeting and a reduction in off-budget spending.

  • Within security governance, the full spectrum of defence and security sector corruption risks should be taken into account—this shouldn’t just be about soldiers asking for bribes, but also corruption in international arms contracts.

  • Legislative and civil society oversight of the defence and security sector should be included as a component of the initiative’s work. It’s vital to build the capacity of security forces, but those that they’re accountable to—their citizens—should ultimately be the ones to hold them to account.

TI is currently assessing the corruption risks in the defence sectors of all 54 African countries, for the next round of the Government Defence Anti-Corruption Index. This assessment will enable TI, other NGOs, and national defence establishments to reduce corruption risks in this challenging sector. TI plans to work in close coordination with national governments, defence establishments, and civil society in ten African target countries to improve their ability to address corruption vulnerabilities.

Why is corruption a concern? Corruption can mean that arms are diverted and end up in the wrong hands—arms sold to Libya, for example, have moved south to multiple conflict zones. The links between conflict and corruption are clear—corruption impoverishes and disenfranchises populations, leading to public anger and instability; it weakens defence and security forces, often meaning that they don’t get the equipment they need and adequate salaries for soldiers; and it ruins the legitimacy of government.

Improving security sector governance won’t be a speedy process, but sustainable peace won’t be built without it.

Mark Pyman, Director, Defence and Security Programme, Transparency International UK
Lecture delivered on Monday 23 June, at the London offices of Norton Rose Fulbright

Read more: Speech: Strengthening international security against the threats from corruption

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