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Corruption and international security: the TI toolkit

28th October 2016

We know that corruption is a threat to international security. Now we need to work out how to address it.

Corruption threatens international security, destroying the legitimacy and effectiveness of governments and the defence and security sector, hindering economic development, and providing a powerful call to arms for violent extremist movements. Fortunately the issue is gaining recognition. NATO’s Building Integrity policy, adopted at the 2016 Warsaw summit, acknowledges that tackling corruption is a core task of the Alliance, including in collective defence, crisis management, and spreading security through cooperation with partners. Similarly, the 2016 Anti-Corruption Summit Communiqué commits nations to concrete action.

The even better news is that this recognition is beginning to be mirrored at national level. The UK’s recent doctrine (JDP 05), influenced by the outcome of the mission in Afghanistan, recognises that corrupt practices could not only fatally undermine missions such as defence capacity building and stabilisation operations, but can also be made worse if intervening forces do not recognise and mitigate their impact.

This is an important step forward for NATO and its members. Without strategic recognition of how corruption can destroy any hope of achieving stability in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, or Bosnia, nothing will change when NATO forces are next called on. But it’s only the first step. Anti- and counter-corruption activity should be in the DNA of defence and security institutions rather than a series of limited and ad-hoc initiatives; new expertise, resources, and a readiness to do routine things in new ways is needed. Transparency International has found that without tailored guidelines and policies, military and civilian personnel involved in operations and security assistance may view tackling corruption as “too difficult”, or worse, “non-urgent”. And even if they do want to do something about it, lack of guidance, systematic training (individual and collective) and institutional support can make it very difficult to take action.

We urgently need solutions and Transparency International has begun work on an ‘interventions integrity toolkit’. The toolkit will provide analysis and recommendations for strategic and operational planners, implementers, and monitoring personnel involved in security assistance and military operations. It will comprise four elements:

  • UNDERSTAND: case studies explaining the links between corruption and interventions;
  • ANALYSE: analysis illustrating the impact of corruption on mission goals and at tactical, operational and strategic levels;
  • REVIEW: recommendations for mission planning and implementation;
  • APPLY: a repository of scenarios applicable to exercises, including UN and NATO training.

The content of the toolkit, including recommendations and exercise material, will be adaptable to the needs of a number of organisations, including the UN, NATO, and national policymakers and military officers. TI – Defence and Security would welcome partnerships with civilian and military stakeholders to help ensure that recommendations made are practical and immediately applicable.

For any inquiries related to the toolkit, please contact Dr Karolina MacLachlan, TI-DS Senior Research Officer (

We would like to thank the UK Army’s 77th Brigade for continuing cooperation and for the commitment to operationalising anti-corruption for the armed forces. Thanks are also due to the Building Integrity Working Group at NATO’s Allied Command Operations and the US Army’s Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute for initial feedback on the toolkit concept.

Photo: Crown copyright