Skip to main content

Transparency International Germany: Corruption is a blind spot in international security policies

A study from Transparency International Germany identifies corruption as a key threat to stability and peace.

Short-term rationales often entrench corruption into the very fabric of how countries work, warns Transparency International Germany. At the 50th Munich Security Conference, the anti-corruption organisation is launching a study that stresses how corruption hinders stability in post-conflict states and undermines peace worldwide.

The study “Corruption as a Threat to Stability and Peace” shows a robust connection between corruption risk and violent conflict (click here for table). It also finds corruption can pose a direct challenge to international operations and their peace- and state-building activities.

The need to actively tackle corruption is apparent in many regions (notably Afghanistan, Kosovo, and West Africa) and for multilateral organisations (UN, EU, NATO) included in the study. Yet corruption has only begun to be taken seriously over the last few years as its effects have become apparent in environments such as Afghanistan, where citizens had to pay ca. $2.5 billion in bribes in 2009 (roughly a quarter of the country’s GDP in 2010).

“International actors have neglected the importance of fighting corruption far too long. To accept corruption as a remedy for short-term stability creates the foundation for long-term instability and renewed conflict. Actors such as the European Union have to further integrate approaches to good governance, rule of law and anti-corruption in their peace operations,” explains Edda Müller, Chair of the Board of Transparency International Germany.

Transparency International Germany and the Transparency International Defence and Security Programme call for an active exchange of ideas on approaches to tackling and preventing corruption in international missions in fragile and conflict countries. They also call on setting the tone from the top by raising the topic high in the agenda of multilateral organisations, and by implementing lessons learned and guidance.

“The international community has yet to confront corruption. The case of Afghanistan shows that corruption threatens mission success and sustainable security. Organisations must give proper attention to the issue in future interventions and develop robust policy, training and doctrine” says Mark Pyman, Director of the Transparency International Defence and Security Programme.

The increasing engagement of the European Union in Sahel Africa underscores the need to move forward with regard to anti-corruption, especially when building defence institutions. Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, member of Transparency International’s Advisory Council and former UN Special Representative to West Africa, explains: “For many reasons, but chiefly the weaknesses of Sahel countries’ own political and security institutions, these states are insufficiently prepared to successfully confront the current interlinked threats, among them pervasive corruption and nepotism.”

High Aid Inflows and Subcontracting Are a Special Corruption Risk

The study unveils a vicious circle in which huge aid inflows and informal social service delivery by NGOs often revives patronage power of local elites, who in turn become gatekeepers to aid and services. Blinded by “quick wins”, international actors ignore the ability of a country to absorb aid in a sustainable way. Greater coordination among international actors is necessary to tackle this issue.

The study also finds that the use of private security companies to protect bases and projects has increased the risk of corruption and accelerated the decentralisation of power. These contractors can become muddled with organised crime and might not adhere to the same anti-corruption standards as state or public sector actors. Widespread subcontracting practices also add to the risk of corruption.

For the full study "Corruption as a Threat to Stability and Peace“ click here

For a shorter policy paper "Corruption as a Threat to Stability and Peace“ in English click here

For a shorter policy paper "Corruption as a Threat to Stability and Peace“ in German click here

About the Study

Exploring the complex relationship between corruption, instability and conflict helps to examine the roles that external security actors can play in addressing corruption in diverse environments. For instance, in Kosovo international disagreement over the political and legal status of the territory has for a long time entrenched the territorial division of Kosovo and structures of criminal governance where corruption is rife (and net official development assistance was $657 million in 2011). In West Africa the burgeoning narcotics trade has fuelled transnational organised crime. The rise of the first “narco-state” in Guinea-Bissau builds on criminal patronage networks. The annual cocaine trade through the country is estimated four times higher (over $4 billion) than the official GDP (about $1 billion). The study is part of the project “The Corruption Threat to the Security and Stability of Fragile States – Towards a Better International Response” which is supported by the Robert Bosch Stiftung. The launch of the report is the starting point of further initiatives to spark a discussion among relevant stakeholders, and raise awareness within the broader public in the next months.

For any press enquiries please contact

Prof. Dr. Edda Müller, Chair of the Board
Dr. Christian Humborg, Managing Director

Transparency International Deutschland e.V.
Phone: +49 (0)30 – 54 98 98 0
Email: [email protected]

Supplementary downloads