The UN Secretary-General’s New Agenda for Peace, released in July, makes twelve modest but achievable recommendations on how we can prevent conflict and build peace better. None of them mention fighting corruption, but that doesn’t mean it is completely off the cards. Marking United Nations Day, our evidence and advocacy officer Emily Wegener looks at how corruption can – and indeed must – be embedded in its implementation.
“Wars do end!”, Scott Straus wrote in 2012, reflecting on the fact that the number of civil wars in Africa halved between the mid-1990s and the mid-2000s. A decade on, things are looking much less positive. The number of state-based conflicts in Africa nearly doubled in the ten years following 2012, with even higher numbers of non-state-based conflicts. Globally, we saw the highest number of state-based battle-related deaths since 1984 in the last year (figures from the Peace Research Institute Oslo).
It’s clear that new approaches to peacebuilding and conflict prevention are needed. The New Agenda for Peace, one of a series of eleven policy briefs published by the UN’s Secretary-General António Guterres in preparation for his ambitious Summit of the Future in 2024, outlines the UN’s vision for a collective security system.
Transparency International Defence & Security (TI-DS) welcomes this New Agenda for Peace and embraces its strong emphasis on conflict prevention and national ownership. Moreover, TI-DS appreciates that trust, solidarity and universality have been made the three core principles for an effective collective security system. is closely linked to countering corruption, an aspect surprisingly absent from the New Agenda for Peace, prompting us to question why.
Corruption is a fundamental threat to human security. All of the ten lowest-ranking countries in the 2023 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) exhibit low to very low states of peace in the 2023 Global Peace Index (GPI), with four of them being amongst the lowest-ranking countries in the GPI too.
This trend continues in the defence and security sectors, which are often directly linked to conflict and insecurity, and closely connected with instability such as coups. 62% of the countries ranked in the ) indicate high to critical levels of corruption risks across their defence sectors. Perhaps unsurprisingly, five of the ten lowest-ranking countries on the GDI also show low to very low levels of peace according to the GPI.
Connecting recommendations with anti-corruption efforts
The core of the New Agenda for Peace consists of twelve recommendations for action. These recommendations provide significant opportunities for the integration of anti-corruption measures, by:
- Integrating anti-corruption measures into national conflict prevention strategies, to “shift the prevention and sustaining peace paradigm within countries”.
- Reinforcing commitments to SDG 16 and SDG 16.5, the Goal on peace, justice and strong institutions and its target on substantially reducing corruption and bribery, as part of accelerating the implementation of the 2030 Agenda (Agenda for Peace Action 4).
- Encouraging International Financial Institutions (IFIs) to support anti-corruption programmes as part of funding for conflict prevention, stabilization, and peacebuilding (Agenda for Peace Action 4), and advising IFIs on funding anti-corruption activities to “build a stronger collective security machinery” (Agenda for Peace Action 12).
- Empowering the Peacebuilding Commission to lead thematic discussions on integrating anti-corruption into peacebuilding as an issue affecting both peace and development (Agenda for Peace Action 12).
- Addressing the diversion of small arms and light weapons (SALW) by strengthening anti-corruption measures (Agenda for Peace Action 7).
- Including the social and economic costs of defence sector corruption in the proposed study on the social and economic impact of military spending (Agenda for Peace Action 7).
Not explicit, but a starting point
Although it fails to offer the strong language on anti-corruption, the New Agenda for Peace nonetheless offers multiple entry points for integrating anti-corruption into conflict prevention and peacebuilding. The extent to which this is done in practice will play a key part in determining the Agenda’s ultimate success.