Corruption in Peacekeeping

Corruption in Peacekeeping
This article was part of the Briefing Book prepared for the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations by IPI and CIC.


Peacekeeping missions are seriously affected by corruption. Conflict and post-conflict environments are difficult, and the fact that corruption is often endemic in mission areas immensely complicates the work of the UN, other international organizations, and post-conflict actors generally. Peacekeeping missions may have no option but to work with local actors known to be involved in corruption in order to help stabilize a particular region. Additionally, while peacekeeping missions are expected to behave with integrity themselves, they can exacerbate the problem if they “turn a blind eye” or are unwitting accomplices through being unaware of the threat posed by endemic corruption to the mission’s ability to implement its mandate.

The likelihood of missing the significance of the threat is increased by the fact that little guidance exists and very little is done to train personnel before they deploy on mission, particularly troops and police who will come into daily contact with the population. Indeed, the complexities of international military operations, including peacekeeping, are poorly understood. In the 2013 Government Defence Anti-Corruption Index, which assessed degrees of corruption risk, the average integrity score of international military operations across 82 countries was 28%; this is telling in terms of the lack of acknowledgement countries give to corruption as a strategic issue, institutionalize operational training, operational corruption monitoring, or control contracting while on operations.

While taking a position on endemic corruption may increase the complexity in the early stages of a mission, it will pay dividends in terms of institution building and stability in the long-term, as well as potentially speeding up the implementation of mandated tasks. This is particularly true in today’s complex environments wherein corruption takes many forms and feeds into larger issues such as organized crime and terrorism financing. There is a need to ensure that peacekeeping missions have the necessary guidance and training to understand the multi-faceted ways in which corruption manifests itself in today’s crisis situations and are equipped with the necessary tools to tackle it. This objective will only be realized if the need is recognized during the development of a peacekeeping mission’s mandate.

Organizations such as Transparency International, the Centre for Integrity in the Defence Sector, and U4 Anti-Corruption Research Centre are good resources on corruption-related research, and are making headway in anti-corruption initiatives and working with governments on areas for reform. These organizations have specialist expertise in addressing corruption and produce numerous corruption-related research and guidance documents that can be helpful for peacekeeping missions and the UN as a whole. One example is Transparency International-UK’s International Defence and Security Programme’s (TI-UK DSP’s) “Corruption threats and International Missions: Practical Guidance for Leaders,” a recently published handbook for military and civilian leadership and their staff involved in planning and carrying out operations. The handbook identifies ten pathways which can enable and facilitate corruption in the mission environment and offers practical ways to mitigate corruption risks.

Moreover, using evidence drawn from many years of practical experience, TI-UK DSP’s experts facilitate training and capacity building workshops and roundtables for defense officials, armed forces, police and civil society representatives around the world, including those that deploy to international missions. Working with partner organizations, TI-UK DSP’s Building Integrity and Anti-Corruption (BI/AC) training courses have been successfully delivered to over 1000 participants from more than 26 countries. These courses would be immensely helpful to troops, police and civilians that deploy to peacekeeping missions, enabling them to identify the specific corruption risks that arise in crisis situations and learn effective ways of tackling them.