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Country: Myanmar

May 7, 2024 – A new briefing from Transparency International Defence & Security (TI-DS) sheds light on the profound personal and societal impacts of corruption within the defence & security sectors and tells the often-overlooked stories of those who have suffered as a direct consequence. 

Betrayed by the Guardians demonstrates how institutional weaknesses, gaps in oversight, systematic abuses of power, and lack of accountability within defence institutions have a disastrous impact on people’s lives. 

Read the report 

As well as shedding light on the human impact, TI-DS makes the case for some of the key systemic steps needed to address the risk of corruption in these sectors. 

The briefing features a series of compelling personal stories from around the globe, including: 

  • Amid the chaos and destruction of civil war in Sudan, exacerbated by corrupt arms trading despite international embargoes, Mazin’s life was shattered. His brother was hospitalised after a violent robbery by unaccountable military personnel, and his family’s business was destroyed. 
  • In Myanmar, 160 civilians, including 40 children, were killed when a village was bombed by the military junta. The weapons used in the airstrike were produced from raw materials and equipment supplied from private companies operating out of Singapore, despite sanctions and arms embargoes on Myanmar.  
  • Shoja witnessed the pervasive corruption within the security sector in Afghanistan. He recounts how wounded soldiers faced amputation unless they could afford to bribe military doctors or leverage connections for better treatment. 


Sara Bandali, Director of International Engagement at Transparency International UK, said:  

“This briefing not only highlights the devastating human consequences of corruption in the defence and security sectors – it also serves as an urgent call to action.  

“The stories presented here reveal a collapse in the accountability mechanisms that are supposed to prevent the misuse of power, especially in the sector that is supposed to protect us. When these safeguards fail, a pervasive culture of impunity takes hold, disproportionately harming those with the least power. 

“By implementing robust frameworks of institutional integrity and accountability, governments worldwide can mitigate these impacts and safeguard security and human rights for all.” 


Ara Marcen Naval, Head of Advocacy at Transparency International Defence & Security, said: 

“Too often, I witness corruption being brushed off as a bureaucratic offense, with the focus on the culprits, the loopholes that let them off the hook, and the heavy economic and political toll it takes.  

“But what about the people whose lives are shattered by corruption? Especially within defence & security institutions – the very ones tasked with safeguarding us – the stakes couldn’t be higher.  

“I’ve seen first-hand how corruption betrays the trust placed in our guardians. It’s not just a crime; it’s a blatant injustice, a roadblock to development, and a flagrant violation of human rights.” 


As the international community prepares for the Summit for the Future in September 2024, TI-DS reminds that corruption is not victimless. To address corruption in the defence & security sectors, we call on governments to: 

  1. Strengthen anti-corruption measures in defence

Reinforce governance of the defence sector with integrity measures by strengthening anti-corruption laws, regulations, and codes of conduct. Transparency International Defence & Security’s Government Defence Integrity Index (GDI) provides further guidance on good practice for defence sector resilience against corruption. 

  1. Increase transparency in defence decision-making

Open up the secretive world of defence policymaking, budgets, and spending, ensuring they are accountable and bringing corruption risks and misconduct to light. 

  1. Mobilise agents of change

Encourage the active participation of civil society, international organisations and media as agents of transformation, working hand in hand to drive out corruption in defence and security. 

  1. Protect whistleblowers

Enact robust whistleblower protection systems that encourage and shield those willing to stand up and speak the truth. 

  1. Promote global anti-corruption efforts

Join international sanctions and agreements, including the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), and resist ‘defence exceptionalism’ – the idea that the defence & security sectors are exempt from normal transparency and accountability processes – in these frameworks. 



Join us at 3pm BST tomorrow (May 8) for our webinar ahead of the UN Civil Society Conference in Nairobi. The event will feature a discussion by anti-corruption champions and peacebuilders from around the world on how the upcoming UN Summit of the Future and its accompanying Pact of the Future can be a pathway to much-needed systemic change on how we view and address corruption in defence & security.

In this briefing, we showcase the experiences of people whose lives have been torn apart by corruption within the defence and security sector. Their stories are gathered from across the world, drawn from first-hand conversations with those willing to give testament, and from investigations conducted by media and international organisations. 

These stories demonstrate how institutional weaknesses, gaps in oversight, systematic abuses of power, and lack of accountability within defence and security institutions have a disastrous impact on people’s lives. We make the case for some of the key systemic steps needed to address the risk of corruption in these sectors.