UN peacekeeping missions must tackle corruption
Failing to take account of the threat of corruption during peacekeeping operations can come at a high cost, warns a new study by Transparency International’s Defence and Security Programme. In the long run, the entire success of an international intervention can be put in jeopardy if corruption is not addressed early on in the process.
Corruption in conflict can perpetuate violence and opens the door to organised crime. Yet guidance on preventing corruption is largely absent from almost everything to do with peacekeeping. There is no general UN policy relating to corruption in post-conflict situations and peacekeeping mandates rarely, if ever, mention it. Peacekeeping training centres do not include guidance on it.
Underlying this is the cultural approach to corruption by diplomats, policy-makers and peacekeeping practitioners: corruption is not yet seen as a central or even an important issue. Take Afghanistan: only after nine years of one of the largest military interventions in history was modest international action on corruption initiated. Why did it take so long? What was the cost of this? Most officials, and certainly the international military forces, now accept that this indifference was a serious mistake. (You can find other examples of corruption in peacekeeping in our press release.)
Visit our new website to read about our new report Corruption & Peacekeeping: Strengthening peacekeeping and the UN.
That is why we are calling on the UN to end its indifference to corruption and to aggressively tackle secret dealings, the abuse of power and bribery in its peacekeeping operations. This is not an easy task. Peacekeeping forces are deployed to challenging environments where patronage networks and corruption often go unchecked. Plagued by decades of conflict and weak governance, post-conflict environments such as Haiti, Guinea-Bissau and Kosovo are often fertile breeding grounds for organised crime.
For example, officers in the police unit in MINUSTAH (Haiti) extorted money from daily paid workers, and local staff at the UN mission in Kosovo were forced to pay bribes or kickbacks to UN staff to secure employment.
In this new report, the defence team identifies 28 types of corruption that threaten peacekeeping. It also spells out ways in which the UN can play an important role in combatting corruption risk in peacekeeping operations.
The study recommends eight actions to the UN to meet the threat of corruption in peacekeeping missions, six of which are focused on developing policy, guidance and training for the UN, for Troop Contributing Countries and for the missions themselves. Another action stresses the urgent need for the UN to establish a more independent and robust oversight, investigation and whistleblowing capability.
By fighting corruption the UN, EU, NATO and other international organisations can make peacekeeping missions safer, more cost-effective and help countries transition to stability. Above all they can protect the citizens they are mandated to look after.