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Josie Stewart, head of Transparency International Defence & Security, reflects on a busy week at the Tenth session of the Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption in Atlanta.


The 10th session of the Conference of the States Parties (CoSP) to the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) showed two things very clearly: the fight against corruption is receiving more attention than ever – but that attention has not yet translated into enough action, especially in defence and security.

Let’s start with the good news. The past week, I and more than 1,000 others spent six days running around a bustling conference centre in Atlanta, USA. Countries sent large delegations, and negotiations continued late into the nights. Unlike previous CoSPs, the 10th session saw significant attendance from global civil society, ensuring transparency and meaningful engagement.

And there is more good news. Thanks in part to the host country’s leadership, we saw corruption recognised as the security threat that it is. During the two days of opening remarks from participants, speaker after speaker acknowledged the impact that corruption has on stability, peace, and security, and I also had the pleasure of taking part in a panel discussion on this topic. We hope to see this sentiment reflected in the flagship resolution of the CoSP, the Atlanta Declaration, once it is published.

But here come the caveats. We all spent a lot of time admiring the problem, rehashing time and again the fact that corruption is bad, and there was a lot of preaching to the choir. Even in the many policy discussions and panel events that took place alongside the formal negotiations, where there was markedly little challenge, new thinking that could really push the anti-corruption agenda forward, or focus on concrete actions that could and should be advanced.

Without concrete actions, acknowledgement of corruption as a security threat remains just the first step to addressing it. And at CoSP10, the international anti-corruption community was a long way short of real action when it comes to addressing corruption in defence and security.

I’ve seen the effects of this first hand – and they are devastating.

During my time leading the UK Government’s anti-corruption agenda in Afghanistan, I witnessed the devastating effects of neglecting corruption. The failure to prioritize combating corruption led to the disintegration of the Afghan national defence forces as the Taliban advanced. In South Sudan, while working on defence governance reform, I saw how accountability and transparency were sidelined, allowing corruption in the military to fester.

Corruption is about money and power, and there’s an abundance of both in defence and security. Yet anti-corruption policy communities rarely have meaningful engagement with national security and defence policy communities. Until this week, there was no discussion about defence and security at the UNCAC CoSP

So now the words are there at least, what needs to be done?

We’re challenging states to examine how well their anti-corruption efforts are identifying and taking on the tough political choices that are needed in order to address corruption as a security threat, and we’re challenging states to focus on addressing corruption within their defence and security sectors as a critical aspect of their wider anti-corruption agendas. We want an agreed resolution on this in two years’ time, when the next UNCAC CoSP takes place.

We need to call corruption in defence and security by its name: a threat to human, national and international security. These words are now being spoken by many, but getting from words to actions, from acknowledgements to clear commitments, is the next challenge, and it is a challenge that we are committed to meet head on.

Integrity is the cornerstone of peace and security, writes Yi Kang Choo. Amid the delicate security challenges currently facing Taiwan, we visited Taipei to share a roadmap for upholding integrity in military operations and procurement.

Hailed as the ‘integrity experts by Taiwanese media, a Transparency International Defence and Security (TI-DS) delegation led by Head of Advocacy Ara Marcen Naval was recently invited to deliver the keynote speech at the 2023 International Military Integrity Academic Forum in Taiwan. A packed week in Taipei, the capital, saw the team encourage and support countries in the Asia Pacific region to strategically address corruption risks in their national defence and security sectors.

Above: Leading the TI-DS delegation is Ara Marcen Naval, Head of Advocacy (left centre), along with Najla Dowson-Zeidan, Advocacy & Engagement Manager (3rd from the left), Yi Kang Choo, Programme Officer (1st from the left), and Prof. Byung-Ook Choi, Transparency International South Korea (4th from the left).

Corruption represents a critical national security threat in this geo-politically sensitive region

The audience included directors from the Ministry of National Defence Procurement Office, Department of Resource Planning, Division of Defence Strategy and Resources, as well as the Ministry of Justice and the Agency Against Corruption. Companies within the defence industry were invited on the second day of the Forum.

Above: Ara Marcen Naval, Head of Advocacy of TI-DS delivering keynote speech to attendees of the forum

Our delegation was hosted by Po Horng-Huei, Vice Minister of Defence (Policy) of Taiwan. We were joined by the Integrity Defence Committee in Transparency International Korea and members of Transparency International Taiwan.

Regional trends and corruption risks

As shown in our GDI index, while Taiwan generally scores highly on institutional resilience to corruption in defence, key defence sector corruption risks in Taiwan and across the Asia Pacific region reside within military operations. Corruption in operations undermines the power of deterrence.

When defence institutions lack integrity, deterrence strategies lose credibility. When neighbouring countries perceive a nation’s military as corrupt or compromised, they might view deterrence signals as less credible, potentially emboldening them to take more aggressive actions. Given Taiwan’s security ties to the stability of the region, any perception of corruption within Taiwan’s defence sector could potentially be exploited by adversaries seeking to undermine the credibility of its defence and weaken Taiwan’s position in the region. Moreover, such perception of corruption could incentivise aggressive behaviour by others, potentially leading to territorial expansion or military provocations, with the potential to destabilise the entire region.

Defence offsets: the mutual responsibility of defence companies and governments to operate with integrity

Countries across the world are developing and implementing new policies and strategies to strengthen their national defence manufacturing capabilities in response to elevated geo-political conflict, resource competition, and changing alliances.

Rather than focusing on boosting their defence manufacturing through direct grants and contracts with local defence companies, many countries are pursuing defence offsets – a form of industrial cooperation which involves foreign defence company investments in local defence or other economic sectors in exchange for securing arms deals with buying governments. The total value of defence offsets in Asia is expected to reach US$88 billion by 2025.

Countries in Asia and Oceania, both with developed and underdeveloped defence industries, are adopting defence offsets for various purposes. For example, Taiwan seeks to introduce high-tech industries, encouraging foreign investment, promoting exports, and improving industrial structure. Moreover, the facilitating role of industrial cooperation to the remarkable success in the semiconductor industry is widely acknowledged among policy makers in Taiwan.

However, this trend is not without its corruption risks.

Former government officials from across the region have highlighted “how offsets are susceptible to corruption within a sector where bribes can represent nearly twice the contract value of procurements in any other sector.” In India, the government has been investigating at least three corruption cases.

Some defence industry representatives have even cancelled contracts due to corruption concerns in offset related transactions. This form of corruption has hurt countries’ abilities to perform critical military missions, slowed growth in local defence industries, and eroded trust in government integrity.

Against this backdrop, the Transparency International Defence and Security delegation urged companies to publicly acknowledge the corruption risks associated with offset contracting and ensure that all offset partners and projects are subject to enhanced due diligence procedures. Defence companies should be transparent about any involvement in offset projects worldwide. Moreover, government officials and departments dealing with offset projects should enhance their oversight of key risk areas, including the use of wide-ranging multipliers to assess the value of proposed or completed offset projects, and the ability for defence companies to provide cash payments or working capital to any type of local company.


Above: Prof. Byung-Ook Choi, a member of the Integrity Defence Committee in Transparency International Korea speaking on stage, sharing his concerns and recommendations on offset policies to reduce corruption risks.

Another key area of risk within the region is corruption in the arms trade and defence procurement.

Global military expenditure in 2022 was $2.2 trillion – 3.7 per cent more than the previous year. China’s military spending rose last year for the 28th consecutive year, to reach $292 billion. Military spending in Taiwan is also rising, driven by concerns about regional security.

These increases in spending on defence, alongside the scale of corruption risk in the defence sectors of arms exporting and importing countries, brings increased risk of distorted defence spending priorities and military acquisitions, imbalances in the distribution of military capabilities, corruption-enabled arms diversion, and diminished military capability. Corruption in defence procurement can undermine the quality and reliability of military equipment and infrastructure, jeopardising the safety and operational effectiveness of armed forces during potentially critical situations.

To manage these risks, increases in defence spending must be accompanied by corresponding improvements in transparency and defence governance.

Above: Hybrid Regional Meeting between TI-DS with TI Chapter Representatives from Taiwan, South Korea, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

Looking ahead

Our visit to Taiwan exposed us to the dedicated efforts of the Taiwanese government to uphold transparency and integrity standards in their defence and security sectors. However, as is often the case in countries with high military expenditures and national security pressures, it remains possible for the full extent of the risk of corruption, or the perception thereof, to be overlooked. This risk has the potential to significantly impact a nation’s defence readiness and deterrence, Taiwan included.

Therefore, the need for continuous improvement is paramount. Addressing corruption risks within the defence sector is not an ethical obligation; it is a strategic imperative for Taiwan’s security, reputation, and stability. By actively working to eliminate corruption risks, Taiwan can continue to bolster its defence capabilities and contribute to regional stability, whilst at the same time setting an example for other countries in the region and beyond.

Proactive regional cooperation to promote defence integrity

In the margins of the Integrity Forum, we took the opportunity to convene and strengthen our alliances for more robust regional and global advocacy with Transparency International Chapter representatives in the region including South Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Taiwan.

By aligning regional priorities and interests with our chapter colleagues, we eagerly anticipate more countries stepping up as champions against corruption within their national defence sectors, emulating Taiwan’s example and igniting a contagious movement of heightened integrity and security throughout the region. We’ll continue to emphasise that civil society organisations like Transparency International Defence and Security are allies in this ongoing, challenging, and profoundly important struggle to instil integrity in defence and security and create a safer world for all.


Yi Kang Choo is Programme Officer at Transparency International Defence and Security.

Responding to the reported coup in Gabon, Josie Stewart, Director of Transparency International Defence and Security, said:

This is the eighth coup in Central and West Africa in the last three years.

Corruption in the security sector has long fuelled insecurity across the region.

It has been inadequately addressed through security sector reform.

The consequences for the social contract and governance are severe.
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The deposed Niger government’s efforts fighting corruption contrast markedly with the neglect shown in neighbouring Burkina Faso ahead of the previous coups which rocked the region. Transparency International Defence and Security’s Mohamed Bennour, Michael Ofori-Mensah and Denitsa Zhelyazkova compare the collapse of the two nations and show how ECOWAS can reinforce democracy in the region.

Upon his election as chair of the West African regional bloc ECOWAS last month, Nigeria’s new president Bola Tinubu made plain his intentions to champion democracy in efforts to arrest the spate of military uprisings that have disrupted the region in recent years.

It wasn’t long however before another arrived, this time in Niger. ECOWAS swiftly threatened military intervention. ECOWAS and other power brokers traditionally tend to respond to events of this kind with talk of zero tolerance and sanctions – tough words but sentiment that, too often, is accompanied by minimal analysis of the root causes.

Transparency International in Niger are among the civil society groups that have observed a trend leading to coups in their country: the discovery of lucrative natural resources. In November, the Niger-Benin pipeline, the largest in Africa, is due to start exporting crude petroleum for the first time. This will multiply Niger’s crude exports by five, with an expected GDP increase of 24 per cent. Before this, the discovery of uranium in 1974 coincided with the overthrow of Niger’s leadership. Then an oil boom in 2010 was swiftly followed by another coup.

The resources vary but the outcomes follow a pattern.

The removal of Niger’s president Mohamed Bazoum has been lamented by our colleagues on the ground. This is because he had been showing willingness to step up to the long-ignored challenge of confronting corruption in the country.

Supporters of Bazoum protested in the street against the coup, together with CSOs and unions. Some have expressed their scepticism about the military being able to solve the governance challenges and issues of insecurity faced in the country.

The scepticism is driven by the fact that Niger’s security had been progressing better than in neighbouring countries, with fewer terror fatalities than those recorded in Mali and Burkina Faso.

There have been counter protests in Niger. Yet Bazoum had only been in power for two years. ANLC, (Transparency International’s chapter in Niger) had enjoyed political support from the president and parliament for the adoption of an anti-corruption law, central to addressing risks in defence and security and other sectors. This law, if and when implemented, will protect informants, witnesses, experts and whistleblowers. It will also criminalise bad practices common in Niger, such as the over-invoicing of public contracts and refusing to declare assets of civil and military figures.

Contrasting situation in Burkina Faso – decline and lost trust

The strides that had been made in Niger contrast with the decline seen in Burkina Faso, which until last week had been the nation that had suffered a coup most recently. There, a failure to secure enough resources for the army put paid to its elected leaders. Endemic corruption within the security forces contributed to the eroding of the perceived legitimacy of authorities. Public trust in government was lost. Several reports from Transparency International Defence and Security have shown how this creates dynamics for the expansion of non-state and extremist groups.

Corruption is not a victimless crime. In April, 44 civilians were killed by terrorist groups in north-eastern Burkina Faso.  Later that month, a further 60 were killed by men in national military uniform in the northern village of Karma.

Ironically, Burkina Faso was considered immune to the regional spread of violence until relatively recently. Almost overnight, the land-locked state found itself a focal point in the expansion strategies of various extremist groups when a Romanian citizen was abducted in Tambao on Burkina Faso’s north-east border with Mali and Niger in 2015.

Ever since, terrorist groups, including the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), the al-Qaeda-affiliated Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM), and the Burkinabe-founded Ansarul Islam have been exploiting an unresolved socio-economic crisis amid endemic corruption.

At a summit in February, the African Union announced that Burkina Faso and Mali will remain suspended from the continental bloc. Adding more pressure to the countries’ leadership, ECOWAS also extended existing sanctions on both countries, “reaffirming zero tolerance against unconstitutional change of government“.

Sanctions can be a useful tool. They deliver a clear stance against illegal and undemocratic change of power. However they do not offer lasting solutions to some of the core issues behind the takeovers. And they can risk exacerbating grievances and harming the most vulnerable groups.

In order to build a democratic and secure future in Burkina Faso, corruption in the defence sector must be tackled. There must be a focus on pragmatic reforms to ensure, and safeguard, transparency, accountability and efficacy. And civil society must be involved in the process. Our Government Defence Integrity Index provides evidence supporting arguments that the more open to civil participation and transparent a government is, the higher the level of institutional resilience to corruption.

Until last month, Niger had what Burkina has needed. National civil society was engaged with both government and the military, working for greater transparency and tackling defence sector corruption.

Now, our colleagues in Niger have called for “the immediate restoration of a civil regime supported by inclusive governance and the preservation of civic space. These measures are essential to maintain the principles of transparency and accountability that we defend.”

Not for the first time, as the international community scrambles to respond to events in the country, and watches as they continue to unfold, we have been reminded that corruption is a fundamental threat to security. Access to and control over natural resources drives power struggles that extend beyond country borders. Only driving out corruption will suffice to break the cycle for all those suffering in the Sahel.

Transparency International Defence and Security Director Josie Stewart said:

We welcome the report of the UK Foreign Affairs Committee’s inquiry on private military and security companies (PMSCs), to which we gave evidence. We are particularly pleased to see the recommendation that the UK should include, as a key criteria for assessing UK security partnerships, “the level of willingness on both sides to uphold transparency and standards of good governance”.

This is essential to mitigate risks of corruption, conflict, and insecurity. We are disappointed however not to see more focus on addressing regulatory oversight of the global PMSC industry. A draft UN Convention on Regulating PMSC Activities has been the subject of international debate since 2011, yet no meaningful progress has been made. As a minimum, the UK should adopt our recommendations on PMSC beneficial ownership, contract and export transparency. This would help set a standard for PMSC oversight and accountability, as well as protect the UK’s domestic PMSCs from being tarred with the same brush as malign groups like Wagner.
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By Ara Marcen Naval, Head of Advocacy at Transparency International Defence and Security

The latest NATO gathering, staged earlier this week [June 11-12], represented a crucial opportunity for militaries to address the challenges facing the Alliance and strengthen deterrence and defence. Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine provided the backdrop. This landscape should also galvanise us to address a further challenge that must not be ignored. Corruption in military operations and other defence governance issues, including procurement and military expenditure, can lead to money intended for the frontlines being lost and, as history has taught us, undermine the very security goals the Alliance seeks.

Allegations surfaced earlier this year that the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence was planning to overpay suppliers for food intended for troops. The scandal prompted hearings in the Ukrainian parliament and investigations, ultimately leading to the passing of legislation enhancing transparency in defence procurements.

This law requires the publication of core information about direct contracts. Although there are still challenges in ensuring full and timely disclosure of this information, Ukraine took a bold step towards greater transparency, particularly in the midst of ongoing conflict.

It is essential to fight corruption during times of war. It can be risky to do so – to draw attention to corruption, and to mess with the interests and incentives of key actors in the theatre of war. But the risks of not doing so – or of putting it off until later – are far greater. Failure to tackle corruption during war guarantees that it will flourish. And when it does, it will defeat the prospect of moving on from conflict to stability and security.

Delivering on deterrence and defence

During this week’s NATO Summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, leaders gathered to tackle the challenges facing the Alliance. Ukraine was one. Another was the imperative to strengthen deterrence and defence.

For those who are not familiar with military terminology: deterrence is a strategy that involves convincing your adversary not to attack by making them understand that their objectives will not be achieved through such an attack. Defence becomes necessary when deterrence fails.

Strengthening both deterrence and defence depends on improving the governance of the defence and security sector, with a particular focus on strengthening resilience against corruption.

An army plagued with corruption, such as soldiers accepting bribes, governments misusing military expenditure, and officials making decisions influenced by personal gain, will not be able to win a war – and it will not be able to deliver on deterrence. It will be perceived as an enemy that can be easily defeated.

An army that is unpaid, under-fed, and under-equipped due to embezzlement and black-market activities of senior officers, will not be able to protect its citizens and territory. Corrupt defence and security forces increase the vulnerability of states to external and internal aggression – they are not able to deliver on defence.

Our 2020 Governance Defence Integrity Index revealed that 14 of the then 22 NATO member states did not address corruption in their military doctrines. This means that corruption is not considered a strategic issue in the military operations of 63 per cent of then-NATO members, and there are no guidelines on how to mitigate associated risks. This should be a sobering fact for NATO leaders.

What good looks like

Defence institutions must integrate the fight against corruption into military doctrines, conduct corruption risk assessments, implement effective anti-corruption mechanisms, enhance oversight, and close the gaps that allow for wrongdoing. Additionally, increasing transparency in defence budgets, spending, and procurement, protecting whistleblowers, and engaging with civil society to assess corruption risks are all vital steps towards achieving deterrence and defence.

Our Governance Defence Integrity Index sets a global standard. As NATO leaders head home from the summit, they should be thinking about how well their defence and security sectors meet this standard.

Responding to the opening of the the United Nations Human Rights Council session on Myanmar, Transparency International Defence and Security Director Josie Stewart said:

At least US$1 billion in arms and materials to build weapons have entered Myanmar since the military coup in 2021. Not only does this point to a lax enforcement of existing arms embargoes and the insufficiency of the non-binding UN Security Council resolution in place. It also points to the role of corruption in fuelling serious human rights violations.

As the newest report by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar shows, Myanmar’s arms imports are largely financed by the revenue generated by and siphoned away from state-owned mining enterprises. Offshore accounts in countries such as Singapore and Thailand held by the military junta as well as bank accounts used by arms dealers in these countries have facilitated arms deals.

Ahead of the upcoming discussions at the Human Rights Council on Myanmar, Transparency International Defence and Security urges countries to strengthen their legislation to better target the illicit financial flows that enable arms transfers to Myanmar to ensure that arms embargoes are no longer circumvented, and the junta’s capacity to commit human rights violations is curtailed.
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Responding to the risks of corruption and to peace posed by defence deals being discussed at an Oslo conference this week, Transparency International Director of International Engagement Sara Bandali said:

Scores of arms manufacturers and brokers have descended on Norway this week to discuss a controversial aspect of the global arms trade: defence companies’ side agreements with governments to win major weapons contracts (offsets). Norway, the UK, and other European countries are rapidly updating their defence offsets or industrial cooperation policies to strengthen European weapon supply chains and support Ukraine.

While we understand the push to strengthen European defence capabilities, the increased use of defence offsets presents significant corruption risks with policies that are overly flexible and lack critical transparency and government oversight. Defence companies, brokers, or government officials have used defence offsets as a key vehicle for bribes, which have resulted in the purchase of faulty or inappropriate equipment or the embezzlement of government funds.

Transparency International Defence and Security is concerned about these trends. We encourage government officials and defence companies attending the conference to discuss ways to encourage more transparency and effective oversight of defence offsets to help prevent corruption and its adverse effects on peace and stability.
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Responding to fresh data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) demonstrating record global military spending, Transparency International Defence and Security Director, Josie Stewart, said:

New SIPRI data has revealed that the total global military expenditure increased by 3.7 per cent in real terms in 2022, reaching a new high of $2240 billion.

This increase in spending – coupled with our Government Defence Integrity index’s finding that nearly two-thirds of countries face a high to critical risk of corruption in their defence and security sectors – should be cause for concern for governments around the world.

To ensure that military expenditure is contributing to security rather than corruption and abuse, governments should strengthen transparency, accountability, and oversight in the defence sector, providing for adequate scrutiny from lawmakers, auditors, and civil society.

Transparency is the best way for states to ensure that military spending is used effectively to enhance security.
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A working group of the United Nations assembled in Geneva, Switzerland on April 17, 2023 to evaluate and negotiate regulation of private military and security security companies (PMSCs).

Transparency International Defence and Security Head of Advocacy Ara Marcen Naval joined and delivered the following statement:

Mr. Chairperson rapporteur, distinguished delegates,

I stand before you today at this crucial discussion to bring to your attention, and consideration, the corruption risks linked to the activities of Private Military and Security Companies (PMSCs) with a sense of urgency and resolve.  PMSCs can play an important role in government efforts to enhance security, but they often operate in secret and outside standard transparency and accountability structures.  This dynamic provides a permissive environment for corruption and conflict to thrive and deprives governments and its citizens of financial resources and security.

The Defence and Security Programme of Transparency International welcomes the progress made in the revised draft and the changes made to include references to the Convention Against Corruption and Convention against transnational crime. These references are important steps towards policy and legal coherence and to ensure that the efforts to regulate the activities of PMSCs align with the international legal obligations in relation to corruption and transnational organised crime.

Corruption and the unchecked actions of PMSCs have far-reaching consequences, eroding the rule of law, undermining human rights and security, and threatening the legitimacy of governments.  It corrodes public trust, undermines democratic institutions, and creates a culture of impunity that breeds more corruption. It can also weaken the fabric of societies, divert resources meant for development, and perpetuate inequality and injustice.

Transparency International has identified dozens of cases in which PMSCs are suspected of involvement in corruption and fraud.  Some of the most concerning cases involve PMSCs colluding with government officials to inflate threat perceptions to win or sustain contracts.  In one case, this action led to excessive use of force against protesters resulting in unnecessary injuries to civilians and security forces. 

Transparency International has also raised concerns about some of the practices of PMSCs failing to disclose conflict of interests that could undermine government decisions, or even threaten national security.

In some cases multinational PMSCs have fuelled corruption by requiring local partners to pay kickbacks for participating in government funded contracts. 

In these cases, the opaque arrangements prevalent in the sector make it extremely difficult to ascertain chains of command, responsibilities and levels of coordination among the different security actors, and undermine monitoring efforts and accountability. Furthermore, it is usually difficult to find public confirmation of the nature of the contract and the identity of subcontractors in the event that they are hired.

We hope that during the discussions on the potential instrument, the distinguished delegates will confront the implications corruption has and the abuses of PMSCs head-on and work together to prevent, detect, and punish corruption in all its forms. Transparency and reporting are the greatest steps that states can take to allow for effective monitoring and oversight of private military and security companies and other actors providing security services in order to effectively prevent, address and remedy any abuses committed.

Distinguished delegates, the stakes are high. The impact of corruption and the actions of PMSCs are felt by communities around the world, often with dire consequences for the most vulnerable among us. The fight against corruption and the responsible use of PMSCs requires our unwavering commitment and concerted and holistic action. Thank you.
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The victims of human rights abuses associated with private military companies (PMCs) are often left with no access to justice because of the lack of transparency in PMC contracts.

At the latest International Anti-Corruption Conference in Washington, the UN’s independent expert on mercenary groups, Dr Jelena Aparac, elaborated in this short video why action is needed.







A forum tracking progress towards the 2030 sustainable development agenda has been taking place in Niger this week. With matters of security preoccupying policymakers and the public across the region, the moment has come for commitments made by United Nations members to be translated into action.

The aim of the ninth Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development is to take stock of how far countries have progressed towards the implementation of five of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), an ambitious set of development targets to be met by 2030.

However Goal 16, “Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions”, is not part of the review, although the security challenges facing countries including Niger, Nigeria and Mali should serve to remind delegates of the urgent need to address corruption-related risks to defence and security.

Goal 16 includes commitments to fight corruption, increase transparency, tackle illicit financial flows and improve access to information to achieve peaceful societies. Without meaningful action to reduce corruption, little progress will be achieved in the five SDGs selected for discussion: Goals 6 (clean water and sanitation); 7 (affordable and clean energy); 9 (industry, innovation, and infrastructure); 11 (sustainable cities and communities); and 17 (partnerships for the Goals).

Corruption, organised crime, the use of illicit financial flows to fund terrorism and violent extremism and forced displacement of people threaten to reverse much development progress made in recent decades. Mali is a case in point. Impunity to corruption, terrorism, drug trafficking and other forms of transnational organised crime undermine stability and development.

In Nigeria, where high-profile elections have been fought in recent days, memories of the deadly End SARS protests continue to linger.

Elsewhere conflicts and instability add to natural disasters, causing untold human suffering. Our ability to prevent and resolve conflicts and build resilient, peaceful and inclusive societies has often been hampered by endemic and widespread corruption.

We must take action and do so by embracing a “whole-of-society approach,” fostering dialogue, cooperation, and partnerships between state and non-state actors to promote transparency, accountability, and effective oversight, in line with Goal 16 of the SDGs.

Failing to take action on SDG 16 following the forum would be a missed opportunity, especially when coordinated efforts and commitments are needed from states in and out of Africa, to address the complex problem of corruption and its threat to human lives.


Jacob Tetteh Ahuno, Projects Officer, Ghana Integrity Initiative; Mohamed Bennour, Transparency International Defence and Security Project Manager; Ara Marcen-Naval, Transparency International Defence and Security Head of Advocacy; Bertha Ogbimi, Programme Officer, CISLAC; Abdoulaye Sall, President of CRI 2002


Image: Lagos, Nigeria, during the End SARS protests of October, 2020.