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Securing Integrity, Fostering Peace: Our call to action

4th December 2023

By Josie Stewart, Programme Director

As the sun set behind rugged mountains, casting a warm glow over the bustling streets of Kabul, whispers of fear filled the air. A generation of Afghans raised with dreams of a peaceful and prosperous homeland found themselves caught in the crosshairs of political upheaval. Also in these crosshairs, the Afghan national security and defence forces. Instead of protecting these dreams, they dissolved into thin air – a ghost army made up of ghost soldiers. They made way for the return of the Taliban, who cast a shadow not just over the city but over two decades of turmoil, military intervention, international investment, and hope. Hope that Afghanistan could become secure and stable – for its people, and for the world.

That was 2021 – only two years ago. The world’s attention has moved on but the consequences of what transpired continue for millions of Afghans.

How was this able to happen, after so much effort, by so many? There is a one-word answer. Corruption.

Failure to prioritise fighting corruption as highly as fighting the Taliban, and worse, willingness to turn a blind eye, thinking that ‘we can’t afford to do anything about corruption while we’re fighting the Taliban’, helped the Taliban win.

I can’t tell you how many times I heard that line in the couple of years I spent working in Kabul, nor how much it infuriated and worried me every time I did.

Fast forward a little, and I’ve now been at the helm of Transparency International Defence & Security for a little over a year. I’m privileged to be leading a team which has already made major contributions to advancing understanding of the true nature of corruption as a security threat, the relationships between corruption and conflict, and the need to integrate anti-corruption into defence and security sectors, agendas, and approaches.

Many others have walked –are running – along this same path towards securing integrity and fostering peace. From the work of Transparency International national chapters across our global movement, through the efforts of NGO partners around the world, to the growing commitment of multilateral institutions and even, in some places, the official designation by states of corruption as a threat to their national security – the world is moving towards an understanding, at last, of corruption as a fundamental threat to the safety and security of us all.

Yet, global military spending reached $2240 billion in 2022, and conflict-related deaths around the world are at a 28-year high. These are high stakes.

And of course there is the backdrop of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which shifted attention away from what happened in Afghanistan while also exemplifying the threat that corrupt authoritarian regimes pose to international peace and security and demonstrating the impact that corruption can have on military effectiveness.

Faced with all this, it’s time to raise the bar. To push beyond agenda-setting, to come together with others to lock in progress, and to ensure real change in policy and in practice.

Our new strategy, Securing Integrity, Fostering Peace, identifies the opportunities, pathways and partnerships that will help us advance peace and stability by reducing corruption in defence and security. It sets out three global themes, for three years of action:

  1. Corruption as a security threat. We are going to champion this global agenda, joining forces with all those already on this path, and mobilising others to join the cause. Together, we are going to get this issue onto international and multilateral agendas. And as a part of this, we are going to make sure the role of corruption within defence and security sectors is not overlooked or ignored.
  2. Anti-corruption in defence, security, and arms trade decision-making. With our national chapter partners, we are going to target specific issues and risks in specific countries whose policies and practice affect security outcomes beyond their own borders. We will evidence these issues and risks, we will use our evidence to inform our advocacy, and we will influence change.
  3. Informed and active citizens driving integrity in defence and security. Corruption in defence and security isn’t a battle for a select few; it’s a cause for all who care about stability and justice. To bring corruption in defence and security out of the shadows, civil society at national level, media organisations, and communities need to be aware of the issues at stake. They need to know how they can engage, and be able to push for change. We will work with and support them to help make this happen.

We’re going to be bolder, more targeted, and more ambitious in what we do. And as we do, we want and need more allies, more partners, and more support. Will you join us in this pursuit of a more transparent, accountable, and secure future? Please get in touch with me or my team: