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Improving the Effectiveness of UN Peace Operations: Addressing the links between Corruption and Conflict

5th October 2015

Transparency International Defence and Security (TI-DS) welcomes the publication of the Secretary-General’s report on The Future of UN Peace Operations,” and the recommendations in the Report of the High Level Panel on Peace Operations (HIPPO) and those of the Advisory Group on the Peacebuilding Architecture.

TI-DS commends the Secretary-General’s report for its focus on preventing conflict, improving accountability, and strengthening responses to misconduct. To support the effective implementation of these goals, TI-DS makes the following recommendations:

  1. Peace settlements: Measures to counter threats from corruption should be enshrined in peace settlements and the way in which the UN approaches them. Settlements that deliver effective, inclusive and accountable institutions are more likely to withstand crises and manage disputes peacefully. They will be most successful when the state institutions that result are open, transparent, and accountable to their people. The negotiations and analysis that precede a settlement should avoid focusing only on armed groups, and involve civil society and peaceful non-state actors.

  2. Conflict analysis and prevention: The Secretary-General’s report places a strong emphasis on conflict prevention, and strengthening the capacity of the UN system to identify early signs of potential conflict and enable proactive and effective responses. TI-DS recommends that UN peace operations should ensure their country analyses encompass the dynamics and drivers of corruption, advocate appropriate attention to it, and provide political support to those responsible for addressing corruption risk.

    There is a wealth of evidence pointing to a strong link between corruption and conflict. One empirical study found that once countries reach a certain level of corruption, there is a ‘tipping point’, at which a small increase in corruption can translate into a large increase in political terror, political instability, violent crime, violent demonstrations, organised crime, access to small arms and light weapons, homicide rates, and levels of perceived criminality. Some current situations clearly demonstrate how corruption has undermined security forces that should play a key role in stabilizing a conflict. TI-DS research on Afghanistan shows that pouring large quantities of financial and practical support into weak institutions can do more harm than good when there is a risk of diversion. As existing conflict analysis methodologies are developed, accountability and corruption should be taken into account as generators of conflict and instability. This issue should be considered by the new analysis and planning capacity to be established in the Secretary General’s office as well as others at headquarters and in the field.

  3. Accountability and ethical conduct: TI-DS welcomes the Secretary-General’s emphasis on increased accountability. Strong accountability mechanisms will not only protect the reputation of the UN, but also increase the effectiveness of its peace operations and ensure that they serve the best interests of the citizens they aim to protect.

    However, the need for accountability mechanisms goes beyond a focus on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, and must also cover instances involving corruption, abuse of power, and organised crime. TI-DS therefore welcomes para78 of the Secretary-General’s implementation report regarding responsible stewardship of funds and resouces, and believes that in addition to strengthening mission management capabilities, the capacity of oversight mechanisms and institutions should also be bolstered.

  4. Protection of civilians: The Secretary-General’s focus on protection of civilians is positive. As his report identifies, support to local security and rule of law institutions can contribute to civilian protection. But security forces can also prey on and extort from civilians, so measures should be taken to ensure that such support to security institutions does not fuel predatory behaviour. Part of the response should be to strengthen oversight bodies of local security forces, so that the forces’ capability to protect citizens, and accountability mechanisms that ensure they do so, are developed in parallel.

  5. Training: better training of UN personnel is key to improving their understanding of transparency and integrity issues, maintaining good conduct and ensuring the protection of civilians. TI-DS fully supports the Secretary General’s efforts to strengthen training and establish a pilot train-the-trainer centre. Values of accountability and transparency should be included in the ‘new basics’ of UN training efforts and form an element of capability-building efforts among military contingents and others involved in operations, including civilians and police.

  6. Recommendations to the General Assembly & Security Council for Decisions in 2015-16

    1. Corruption should be recognised explicitly as a driver of conflict and instability.

    2. UN country analyses should encompass the dynamics and drivers of corruption, advocate appropriate attention to it, and provide political support to those providing technical advice in the area.

    3. The values of accountability and transparency should be included in ‘new basics’ of UN training efforts, and form an element of capability-building efforts among military contingents and others involved in peace operations, including civilians and police.

    Photo: Flickr / United Nations Photo