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UN Should Expand Corruption Safeguards Around Peacekeeping Operations, New TI-DS Research Finds

23rd July 2019

The United Nations (UN) should further expand its work to safeguard against corruption around peacekeeping missions or risk jeopardising the success of its operations, according to new research published by the Transparency International Defence and Security Programme (TI-DS). 

UN peace operations can be an effective way to respond to conflicts, natural disasters and other crises. But the risk of not placing anti-corruption at the heart of the planning and conduct of missions threatens to undermine their success – and can perpetuate the very conflict the UN seeks to quell.

Following commitments by Secretary-General António Guterres to put transparency and accountability measures at the forefront of his proposed UN reforms, TI-DS has recommended five actions which would help enhance the effectiveness of future missions.

In a new report entitled Corruption Risks and UN Peace Operations: Strengthening Accountability to Improve Effectiveness, TI-DS has assessed these risks and identified areas the UN is struggling to fully address.

Steve Francis, Director of Transparency International’s Defence and Security Programme, said:

“UN Peacekeepers face a difficult task when being deployed to conflict zones where corruption may have sparked the very conflict they are there to quell. If the UN is serious about reducing the root causes of conflict, it should do everything possible to ensure its own operations are protected against the same corruption risks host nations are vulnerable to. Ultimately the objective of these operations is to protect civilians, provide security and establish conditions for a sustainable peace – failure to make anti-corruption a guiding principle in both a peace keeping mission’s design and delivery threatens to delegitimise what is supposed to represent a global response for good.

“Acknowledging there is a problem with corruption is undoubtedly the first step to solving it, and the commitment from Secretary-General António Guterres to improve accountability in peacekeeping operations is a welcome step in the right direction. Transparency International wants to help the UN in its efforts to reform, and our research offers clear, deliverable changes which would address the risks and strengthen those anti-corruption measures already in place. We hope the UN leadership will consider our recommendations, make good on its pledge to improve accountability and take the required steps to safeguard the legitimacy and success of future peacekeeping operations.”

The report summarises the key findings of an in-depth study which has also been published today. TI-DS drew on UN documents, secondary literature and some 50 interviews with a range of former UN officials, officials from Member States, as well as academics and community groups.

Recommendations include:

  • Adding credibility to the commitment to fight corruption by improving funding to specialist oversight offices, and staffing these internal watchdogs with anti-corruption experts.
  • Acknowledging that UN peacekeeping operations, which inherently involve a large influx of funds, resources and personnel, may create an unintended corruption risk for the host nation – and planning ways to mitigate this risk from the outset.
  • Drafting clear and unambiguous mandates in conjunction with host nations and other UN Member States to enhance the legitimacy and effectiveness of peacekeeping missions.
  • Ensuring any peacekeepers found to have engaged in corrupt or illegal behaviour are properly held to account by monitoring the steps taken against those who have been repatriated for trial or investigation.



Harvey Gavin
+44 (0)20 3096 7695
+44 (0)79 6456 0340

Notes to Editors:

The UN Security Council held its first ever meeting to address the links between corruption and conflict in September 2018. Addressing the Council, Secretary-General António Guterres emphasised these links and warned that corruption is a problem in all nations, both rich and poor.

He said UN Member States must be on the front lines of combatting corruption, adding that UN peace operations should also employ a clear anti‑corruption lens.

TI-DS is one of Transparency International’s global initiatives and is based in our London office. Through its work, TI-DS is fighting to establish global standards and hold advanced and emerging powers to account, prevent conflict and support fragile countries and address systemic corruption risks in the arms trade.

Transparency International is the civil society organisation leading the fight against corruption