• Broad anti-corruption programs are the wrong approach

    The Corruption in Fragile States Blog welcomes back Mark Pyman, founder of the sector-based corruption reform website He has blogged previously on this site on the unhelpful nature of anti-corruption research, and in a follow-up post.

    In countries enduring high levels of corruption, whether related to conflict or instability, it is easy to see endemic corruption as something overarching, requiring similarly broad reform strategies.  However, my experience in Afghanistan suggests the opposite; anti-corruption strategies need to be tailored to the specific enablers and drivers of each particular sector.

    I first went to Afghanistan in 2009, working on corruption reform in the Afghan Defence Ministry and with the Afghan National Defence Forces. I later served as one of the three international Commissioners of the Afghanistan Joint Independent Anti-Corruption Monitoring and Evaluation Committee, otherwise known as “MEC,” from 2015 until November 2017. Through the MEC role I met and interviewed many of the ministers of the government of President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah. MEC carried out detailed independent reviews of the corruption reforms of many of these ministers, examining in some depth what they were – or were not – doing to reform their ministries.

    At the beginning of this period, 2015, most of the ministers were regarded by both citizens and external observers as highly corrupt. MEC’s reviews also found this to be so. For example, the plan of the Ministry of Haj and Religious Affairs had no substance, no commitment behind it and no significant actions were being taken. The plan of the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology was a charade, with no plans for how to ensure transparency in revenue collection, principally from a new 10% mobile phone tax, and a huge amount of money missing. Even the Ministry of Finance anti-corruption plan had been developed largely to satisfy the requirement to have a document to show to the international donor community, rather than to address corruption.

    Things improved in late 2016/early 2017 as the political standoffs within the government reduced and many ministers were replaced. Afghan colleagues estimated that 60% of the ministers (we counted 19 out of 32) had reputations as well-intentioned reformers at that time. But however well inclined, it is almost impossible for a minister to avoid some degree of corruption. All prospective ministers have to be confirmed in their official position by Parliamentary approval, and this hurdle is routinely used by MPs as a device to extract large obligations from candidates. The MPs are well known to be highly corrupt: one of my colleagues estimated that of the 249 members of the lower house (Wolesa Jirga), only 8 were seen as largely non-corrupt. No minister can expect to get through this approval process unscathed.

    Nonetheless, this does not stop ministers from working hard to have a positive impact against corruption in their ministry: either from a genuine desire to see improvement, or because they were being pressed hard by the president or chief executive to deliver promised improvement. My observation was that many of these ministers had thought hard about how to reduce corruption in their ministry/sector and were implementing well-chosen strategies.

    What was most interesting – and the principal reason for this blog – was how greatly the chosen strategies differed from one ministry to another and the extent to which they were prioritized. Here are five examples:

    • In the Transport Ministry, the revenue comes mostly from a levy on trucks crossing each city entrance, each province and each national border crossing point. About 80% of this levy was being diverted corruptly. With the arrival of the new minister, a strategy was put in place that targeted the key border crossing form. The existing document was a perfect design to enable corruption. The new minister put in place a more tamper-proof form, genuine monitoring and a focus on credible returns from each crossing point.
    • In the Ministry of the Interior, the new minister understood the disastrous state of the ministry and the lack of even the most basic controls. Budgeting and accounting was in a shambles. On the HR side, staff routinely discussed their personnel files with MPs so that the MP could pressure the minister to upgrade the position and/or salary of the person in return for both money and loyalty from the candidate. That minister concluded that his core anti-corruption strategy could only have two elements: getting a competent finance department and ensuring that personnel files were kept confidential and internal.
    • The plan at the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation focused on one major priority, addressing the legal ambiguities of the laws related to land distribution. They planned a quick abrogation of Land Distribution Law of Afghanistan, a poor law that has facilitated corruption in the process of land distribution.
    • The Ministry of Public Health took yet another approach, a broader one encompassing reform of the regulation and import of drugs along with hospital and ministry reforms. As an integral part of their strategy, they also championed a publicly available independent quarterly monitoring of reform progress in health.

    These examples show the variety of the reform measures and make clear how they were highly specific to each ministry. They illustrate why attention to corruption reform within sectors is so important. Each sector has its own challenges, its own common language and common concepts, its own “rules of the game”; most share a conviction that their sector is quite different from every other.

    Perhaps most important of all, the political economy differs substantially by sector, from education to mining to health, and so forth. The political context and political elites, even in situations of entrenched corruption, are rarely homogeneous, allowing differing corruption reform to be envisaged.

    Of course, not everything is sector-specific. There are key cross-sectoral areas that do need particular attention in Afghanistan, notably public procurement, the civil service and justice. Each of these has been the subject of very specific anti-corruption reforms.

    I encourage all public officials, politicians and anti-corruption reformers to pay more attention to this sectoral approach: disaggregating the corruption types in each sector, directly addressing the political feasibility of each one, paying most attention to narrow strategies that would be more likely to succeed within each sector and considering the implications for what constitutes success. The website brings together reform knowledge and experience across multiple sectors to help advance this policy.

    About the author

    Dr. Mark Pyman is an experienced advocate, scholar and practitioner at the forefront of untangling the nexus between corruption and insecurity worldwide. He is currently one of three International Committee Members on the Afghanistan independent Anti-Corruption Committee. For the previous eleven years he led the global Security and Defence Programme at the NGO Transparency International. This groundbreaking programme worked on the ways that corruption undermines countries, especially in relation to security and conflict. He has led the team’s field work in over 30 countries, including Afghanistan, Bulgaria, Burundi, Colombia, Georgia, India, Kenya, Latvia, Lebanon, Norway, Palestine, Poland, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, UK and the USA.

    His work has been instrumental in shaping the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty (2013), in influencing NATO policy and operations in respect of counter-corruption, in shaping the military doctrine of several countries, and in policy forums such as the Munich Security Conference. He has also led the development of techniques for evaluating the corruption vulnerabilities of all the world’s defence companies. His last publication for TI in 2015 reviewed the 165 largest defence companies worldwide in an analysis that is viewed by the industry as the most authoritative analysis available.

    He has authored or supervised some sixty publications. He has also supervised detailed reports analysing the defence corruption vulnerabilities of 120 countries.

  • Three Reasons Why Actors Working in Fragile and Conflict-Affected States Must Stop Ignoring Social Norms

    By Diana Chigas and Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church

    As OECD Knowledge Partners, we originally presented these ideas at the 2019 OECD Integrity Week.

    Those of us who work to stop abuse of power – in the form of corruption, criminal activity, violence, state capture, etc. –  are increasingly recognizing that social norms are key to achieving sustainable behavior change.  We assert that in fragile and conflict-affected states (FCAS) social norms — the mutual expectations about what is typical and appropriate for members of a group — are even more important. Given their critical role in driving behavioral choices, programming that ignores social norms can have serious negative consequences.

    Why social norms are more important in fragile and conflict-affected contexts

    Working in “fragile” and conflict-affected states (consider Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic (CAR), Ukraine, and Afghanistan, to name a few) means working in contexts where society is fragmented, or destabilized by violent conflict.  Identity groups are divided, hostile and distrustful. Power and politics are highly contested, often violently, and even if there is a peace agreement or constitution, it does not (yet) reflect a social contract based on shared principles and values or a common vision of what the state ought to be. And in many of these contexts, government institutions are either a battleground for inter-group competition and conflict, or a source of exclusion and grievance.

    In our work in these environments (DR Congo, Uganda, CAR and elsewhere) we have observed that social norms have a significant influence on people’s behavior. We have wondered why they seem to influence people’s behavior even more there than in more stable contexts. Based on our own peacebuilding experience, we think there are three factors at play:

    1. The sanctions are harsher.

    Conflict enhances intra-group cohesion and solidifies an “us vs. them” mentality that breeds distrust, fear and, at the extreme, dehumanization of the “other.” So not only are people likely to be more “loyal” to their group, but the social sanction for being “disloyal” (i.e. breaching a social norm held by the group) is likely to be stronger. In our experience, many of the people who breach social norms, especially those involving any interaction with the “other,” are branded as traitors, ostracized, threatened, and sometimes attacked or killed. As a police officer in Central African Republic told us, “if someone asks for a service, you are required to do it, even if it goes against your own ethics. To refuse is to put in opposition, and this can be dangerous.” Indeed, it can be life-threatening.

    2. The consequences of being sanctioned are more serious.

    Ostracization, harm to reputation, diminished support — all common sanctions for breaching social norms — have far more serious consequences in FCAS because membership in the group in these contexts can be critical for survival. When resources are scarce (due to war, lack of investment, etc.), and the government does not or cannot provide security or services, and can even be the perpetrator of violence threatening the group (think, for example, Syria or Afghanistan), people have to rely more on their networks for basic human needs: food, shelter, safety, healthcare.  The vital nature of group membership is so entrenched in CAR, there is a Sango proverb for those who are left out: “Pity the man who is alone.”

    3. Social norms provide some order and predictability.

    Social norms and traditional practices help to provide some semblance of order and security. Having a sense of what others will do and what you should do can offer a modicum of predictability in a place of constant uncertainty and insecurity.

    Three consequences of ignoring social norms 

    If social norms play a significant role in determining behavior in FCAS, then what happens if anti-corruption programming ignores them? We offer three initial thoughts from our research which suggest the implications for programming are quite profound.

    1. Undermining effectiveness of integrity promotion efforts

    Ignoring social norms can undermine the positive momentum generated by good work in other areas. Let’s take corruption in the Ugandan police and judicial system as an example. In 2011 Global Integrity gave Uganda a 98/100 (very strong rating) for its legal framework, yet corruption in Uganda remains very high. As this image from our systems analysis of corruption in the criminal justice system in Uganda (2016) shows, robust oversight, and legislative and professional capacity-building initiatives to increase the integrity of the police, were undermined by peer pressure to conform with corruption in the workplace, and the accompanying social and professional ostracism (e.g., being posted to a remote area) if one did not.

    2. Exacerbating corruption itself

    We have seen that ignoring social norms can actually backfire — i.e., make corruption worse! There is substantial evidence in social norms theory that awareness raising, for example through campaigns about how bad corruption is, can call attention to the behavior and make it worse by creating the impression that the behavior is ubiquitous. However, this is not the only way social norm ignoring programs can cause harm. Consider the example of the Ghanaian government’s program to reduce petty corruption among traffic officers by increasing salaries. (Note that Ghana is not a very fragile state). The result: an increase in bribes demanded. The study does not offer concrete reasons why this happened; however, we posit that a contributing factor was the public nature of the policy change, which increased kin’s demands on the police officers who felt required to conform due to the norm of looking after one’s family.

    Finally, an even worse example: police reform in CAR, in which international donors have invested significantly, especially in capacity building (training, vehicles, equipment, etc.). Here the injection of resources, coupled with the social norms of “get what you can now” and “pay up or else,” actually enhanced these actors’ capacity to abuse their power — and in the case of the police, to extort people more effectively.

    3. Endangering people’s lives

    “They are going to burn my house down and come after me.” These are the words of one judicial official in CAR commenting on why he cannot resist corruption. In FCAS it can be dangerous to be the “first mover,” or to deviate from a social norm. Fear of reprisal from those considered part of “your group” or from armed group members connected to institutions can exert a very powerful pressure on people. Efforts to support “positive deviants” or “trendsetters,” or to address social norms in a professional organization (like the police), without considering the secondary, yet powerful, indirect norms, can expose participants to danger.

    Does this mean that social norms are the key to changing corrupt behavior?

    We would say yes and no. Social norms, even in fragile and conflict-affected states, are not the only factor influencing corrupt behavior.  But they are powerful, and ignoring them or misunderstanding them not only stymies effectiveness but can make matters much worse.

    This does not mean “do nothing.” It does mean that we need to think about alternatives to working around conflict and fragility (i.e., ignoring the differences in the context). We need to develop better approaches to understanding when and how to work to change social norms in these contexts. When that is not possible (or at least not possible within the relevant time frame), we must work to mitigate the negative side effects. And this needs to happen in the context of multi-prong change efforts, where social norms are but one facet.

    About the authors

    Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church is Principal at Besa: Catalyzing Strategic Change, a social enterprise committed to catalysing significant change on strategic issues in places experiencing conflict and structural or overt physical violence. She has significant experience working on anti-corruption and state legitimacy in the DRC and Uganda. As a Professor of Practice, she teaches and consults on program design, monitoring, evaluation and learning. Cheyanne is also the Corruption in Fragile States blog series editor.

    Diana Chigas, JD, is the Senior International Officer and Associate Provost at Tufts University and a Professor of the Practice of International Negotiation and Conflict Resolution at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Diana has worked with governmental and non-governmental organizations on systemic conflict analysis, strategic planning, and reflection and evaluation to improve the impact of peace programming. Diana has over 25 years’ experience as a facilitator and consultant in negotiation and conflict resolution, as well as supporting and evaluating social change programming in conflict-affected countries. Her interest in corruption emerged from her experience supporting peacebuilding programming, where corruption has consistently been a key factor hindering effectiveness and driving conflict.

  • Anti-Corruption Programs — Know Your Crowd!

    By Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church & Diana Chigas

    Social norms exist within a group. They represent mutual expectations, not just common beliefs, within the group about what is the right way to behave in a particular situation. And it is the approval, disapproval or other social sanction from the members of the group that helps ensure compliance with the norm. Therefore, understanding the group — who is in and who is out — matters for programming. If we believe that social norms should be part of multi-faceted anti-corruption programming, then we need to know how to identify and change social norms, which includes determining who is in the group.  But what do we know about identifying the group? 

    Social norms literature provides surprisingly little concrete guidance on what constitutes a group or how to identify who is in the group, although references to the role of the group (or “reference group”) abound. Yet how can one effectively target an intervention if one doesn’t know what the boundaries of the group are? With this challenge in mind we have mined the theory and practice literature in an effort to provide more clarity.

    What is not a characteristic of a reference group?

    The literature offers more on what is not a characteristic of a reference group than it says about what is necessary to be deemed a group, so we will start there. 

    There are no geographic, size or formality requirements for a group. Group boundaries are not necessarily defined by:

    Formal Nature: Groups do not have to have formal structures. While a group can exist formally (e.g. a committee or staff of a non-profit), it is also possible for a group to be a loose set of people with a common affiliation.

    Geography: Groups are not necessarily based on physical proximity. Groups may overlap with geographic boundaries, like the residents of a village, yet it is also possible that the group is physically spread out, like people in a diaspora.

    Size: Groups do not have to be limited in number. Social norms can exist among a handful of people who self-identify as important to each other or among millions as in the case of a social norm that is held by the majority of citizens in a country.

    What is important in determining who is in the group? 

    The literature coalesces around one key characteristic of reference groups for identifying, understanding and influencing social norms:

    The group is important to the individual and vice versa

    A key characteristic is that the people in the group matter to the individual. In other words, the individual needs to care about the opinion or perspective of the people in the group in order for the potential positive or negative sanction to have an impact on their behavior. 

    We believe that is not sufficient to define a group. In addition, the individual also has to matter to the group. While this is not emphasized in the literature, we believe that it is not enough that the person care about the group; the group also has to see the person as one of theirs. Given that social norms are mutual expectations there must be a reciprocity in the relationship; the other members of the group also need to care how the individual behaves.  Therefore, we suggest that the sense of belonging — both by the individual toward the group and the group toward the individual — is important to the mutual aspect of expectations that characterize social norms. 

    Once a member of a group, not always a member: the importance of a group to a person can change, resulting in the degree of influence of the group’s norms increasing or decreasing. Different groups may be more or less important to people at different stages of life, for instance. For anti-corruption practitioners, this means monitoring group influence could be an important part of understanding the context.

    People belong to many reference groups

    People are members of many different groups (with different social norms, sometimes overlapping) at the same time. The question for someone trying to change social norms is which group matters for the behavior that we wish to change.

    As an example, consider a colleague of ours who is a judge in Kampala. A few years ago she was on maternity leave, and during that time she was part of many groups, all with different and overlapping social norms. She could see herself as part of:

    • a group of mothers with babies in her neighborhood (no formal structure, geographically based, importance of group will likely diminish over time),
    • a fundraising committee for a nonprofit that provides menstrual products to schools (formal structure, not geographically dependent, influence will remain as long as participating in committee)
    • as a parent at her older child’s school (no formal structure, somewhat geographically dependent, influence will likely diminish when child leaves school)
    • her university alumni association from her LLM in the United States (formal structure, not geographically based and will continue in influence as long as she feels connected)
    • her profession (judges) (formal and informal structure, not geographically based, and continuing influence), as well as her courthouse (geographically based, defined boundaries, influence as long as she is in the particular district)
    • as a female judge (no formal structure, not geographically based, importance lasting as long as she identifies with other female judges)
    • her family or clan (informal structure, not geographically dependent, long lasting importance)

    The group is salient in the particular situation where the behavior happens

    If we belong to many reference groups, and if those groups have different internal mutual expectations, then which group impacts one’s behavior in a particular situation? The literature suggests that in order to influence individuals’ behavior through social norms, the group needs to be salient to the situation where the behavior occurs. Salience is frequently referenced, but without much clarity as to what it means. 

    Our interpretation is that the group’s norms will be influential when the group itself is relevant to the situation and behavioral choices at hand. In a professional context, for instance, the mutual expectations of your ‘friends back home’ (i.e. a reference group amongst many) may not be seen by an individual to be relevant to the context.

    For instance, consider an economics professor who has been a member of the same small university department for 20 years. She lives in a place where bribery is common, particularly among the police service. She is considering offering a bribe to have her son released from police detention on what seems to be a fair charge. If this professor’s academic department had a strong social justice lens and her colleagues advocated for fairness in the rule of law, this could influence her away from offering a bribe. The bribing behavior would be contrary to the mutual expectations of what was the right behavior in this group. Due to the culture within the economics department around these issues, they become salient to this situation.

    While the physical presence of members of the group can matter, in that if they are physically present in the situation it could strengthen the influence of the norms on behavior, presence is not required. It is asserted in the literature that the likelihood of the group learning of the behavior can be sufficient to influence behavior.

    We feel there must be more known about what constitutes salience. When reference groups have competing mutual expectations and both could be seen as relevant to a particular situation, which one influences the behavior? How do we know which group’s norms play the stronger influence?

    Assistance appreciated

    Did this description help or hinder your understanding? Are there ways we could make it easier to follow? How about more useful?

    Do you have materials that offer guidance on what constitutes “the group” when it comes to social norms? If so, please put them in the comments section so that everyone can benefit. 

    About the authors

    Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church is Principal at Besa: Catalyzing Strategic Change, a social enterprise committed to catalysing significant change on strategic issues in places experiencing conflict and structural or overt physical violence. She has significant experience working on anti-corruption and state legitimacy in the DRC and Uganda. As a Professor of Practice, she teaches and consults on program design, monitoring, evaluation and learning. Cheyanne is also the Corruption in Fragile States blog series editor.

    Diana Chigas, JD, is the Senior International Officer and Associate Provost at Tufts Universityand a Professor of the Practice of International Negotiation and Conflict Resolution at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Diana has worked with governmental and non-governmental organizations on systemic conflict analysis, strategic planning, and reflection and evaluation to improve the impact of peace programming. Diana has over 25 years’ experience as a facilitator and consultant in negotiation and conflict resolution, as well as supporting and evaluating social change programming in conflict-affected countries. Her interest in corruption emerged from her experience supporting peacebuilding programming, where corruption has consistently been a key factor hindering effectiveness and driving conflict.

  • Best of 2018

    Happy 2019 from the Corruption in Fragile States Blog! As we look back over the past year, we realize just how much has happened on the blog. In addition to a new web home with the Henry J. Leir Institute at The Fletcher School, new team members, and a substantial increase in subscribers, we have also added 9 posts, with 4 from guest bloggers, bringing our total posts to 65. Check out our thematically organised complete list of posts.

    As we reflect on the year and how to improve (feedback always welcome), we wanted to share with you the most popular posts of 2018. We considered this from two perspectives – most readers and most time spent reading. While neither metric is an exact computation, here are our top five posts in each category. 

    Top five by number of readers 

    1. The elementary problem that undermines social change programming: A word of warning to anti-corruption practitioners This post explains what trips up most practitioners when they want to program around social norms. Written by Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church and Hope Schaitkin, it focuses on the particular confusion between social norms, attitudes and behaviors.

    2. When your project’s success gets a “so what?” in response Written by Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church, this post reflects on the difficulty of framing success for an anti-corruption project when sector-specific outcomes are the priority. Based on an exchange with a rule of law donor, this post reflects on why a decrease in corruption was effectively dismissed as a valuable result.

    3. Why we need to kill the ‘corruption is cancer’ analogy Guest contributor Professor Paul Heywood offers three stinging critiques on why we need to stop using the well-worn corruption is cancer analogy. It will make you think twice before using a medical analogy to corruption again.

    4. When not to call a spade a spade: The importance of quiet anti-corruption initiatives This example from a library construction community development project in Haiti, argues that an indirect approach to anti-corruption may sometimes be more effective, not to mention safer. Written by guest contributors Sabina and Louino Robillard, they tell of their experience using an innovative but quiet approach to engage with corruption dynamics.

    5. Corruption that kills: How corruption is undermining peace and democracy in Mexico In this post, written shortly before Mexico’s recent election, Talia Hagerty and Carlos Juárez of the Institute for Economics and Peace explain why corruption is testing peace and democracy.


    Top five by time spent reading

    Readers spent between 4-5 minutes on average reading each of these posts. Starting with the post that received the longest average duration, these are the top five by time spent reading for 2018. (We are aware that the length of the post will impact how long someone spends on the page, and we did not control for that issue in our ranking.)

    1. The elementary problem that undermines social change programming: A word of warning to anti-corruption practitioners This post explains what trips up most practitioners when they want to program around social norms. Written by Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church and Hope Schaitkin, it focuses on the particular confusion between social norms, attitudes and behaviors.


    2. Why we need to connect peacebuilding and illicit financial flows: A global approach for a global problem. This post makes a strong case for organizations working in peacebuilding and illicit financial flows to step out of their silos and recognise how the two fields are related. The post’s author is someone who bridges both fields: James Cohen, currently Director of Programmes and Engagement at Transparency International Canada.

    3. When your project’s success gets a “so what?” in response Written by Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church, this post reflects on the difficulty of framing success for an anti-corruption project when sector-specific outcomes are the priority. Based on an exchange with a rule of law donor, this post reflects on why a decrease in corruption was effectively dismissed as a valuable result.

    4. Why we need to kill the ‘corruption is cancer’ analogy Guest contributor Professor Paul Heywood offers three stinging critiques on why we need to stop using the well-worn corruption is cancer analogy. It will make you think twice before using a medical analogy to corruption again.

    5. What worked: Fighting corruption through collective action This post summarized the key insights from the Final Review of Kuleta Haki, an anti-corruption program in the DRC based on a collective action strategy. Synthesized by Kiely Barnard-Webster, the post explains what the Final Review found to be effective in the strategy, and helpfully links to other posts describing the theory of change in detail along with the monitoring methodology and original corruption analysis.



    For 2019 we will do our best to continue to challenge the status quo, offer new approaches, spur discussion and reflect critically and transparently about our work in this field. Join our mailing list to be kept up to date on new material and be in touch if you would like to be a guest blogger.

    About the author

    Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church is Principal at Besa: Catalyzing Strategic Change, a social enterprise committed to catalysing significant change on strategic issues in places experiencing conflict and structural or overt physical violence. She has significant experience working on anti-corruption and state legitimacy in the DRC and Uganda. As a Professor of Practice, she teaches and consults on program design, monitoring, evaluation and learning. Cheyanne is also the Corruption in Fragile States blog series editor.

  • Changing Social Norms: What Anti-Corruption Practitioners Should Read

    By Hope Schaitkin

    New material on social norms change seems to be appearing every week. It can be hard to keep up with it, let alone adapt an ongoing program based on new insights. Here is our short list of recently published and evidence focused must-reads, building on our 2017 select set of resources on social norms and corruption. 

     This past summer, the Corruption, Justice and Legitimacy team dug back into the literature to see what insights we could glean on how to actually go about changing social norms. We wanted to know whether those studying social norms – either as academics or as social norm change practitioners – had coalesced around concrete strategies used to shift harmful social norms.

    Our review found that overall, authors do not yet agree on the broad theories of change around social norms, or the key elements that make up a successful change intervention. While our literature revealed several “don’ts” in social norm change practice, we had a harder time elucidating concrete and clearly evidence-based social norm change “dos” that could be or have been applied and tested in the anti-corruption space.

    The below categories present recently published (2014-2018) literature that offers some lessons to be applied to social norm change programming.

    Changing a social norm requires a social approach

    We define social norms as the mutual expectations about what is appropriate and typical behavior within a group. But too often, social norm change programming assumes that changing a social norm can occur at the individual level.

    These two pieces on social norm change helped us to understand the truly social nature of both social norms and the strategies used to change them. Though these are not social norm change program evaluations, they do make use of evidence from social norm change programming to draw conclusions on what works.

    Messaging around social norms is complicated

    Using messaging campaigns to deliver social norm change is relatively common. This messaging can be implicit (think a radio soap opera showing citizens rejecting requests for bribes) or explicit messaging (think posters citing that “people in this town do not tolerate police corruption”).

    While messaging can be a useful part of a social norm change intervention, it is by no means a silver bullet. There are essential nuances around social norm change messaging that are often missed during campaign or program design. These resources helped us to conceptualize key elements – and often missteps – of social norm messaging campaigns,

    Some norms may be easier to change than others

    Intuitively, we know that social norms can be more or less entrenched depending on the context. New literature however is starting to explore what factors make norms more resistant to change.

    Understanding the systems holding a social norm in place is necessary for designing social norm change programming that works, and for dialing up the elements of your programming that can address these dynamics head on. These resources helped us to understand what might make a norm stronger (or more resistant to change), or what target groups might be most relevant when designing a social norm change intervention.

    Examples of effective social norm programming and their evidence

    For examples of what good social norm change programming can look like, refer to the following. If your work is not on this list and you think it should be, please get in touch. Notably, examples of aligned theory and practice largely come from the public health and gender equity sectors, though we believe their lessons are applicable to anti-corruption programming in fragile states.

    New material on social norms change?

    We do our best to stay current with the newest materials. Your help with that is most appreciated. Please use the comment section below to link to your latest work, or material you have found useful.

    About the author

    Hope Schaitkin recently graduated from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, where she received her master’s degree in gender analysis and human security. Hope’s master’s thesis analyzed the conflict implications and economic benefits of a proposed infrastructure project in Helmand, Afghanistan. Before Fletcher, Hope worked for an international development contractor in Boston, MA and in Kabul, Afghanistan. Hope received her Bachelor’s degree from Tufts University, where her thesis focused on the environmental impact of Chinese development assistance in sub-Saharan Africa. Hope is currently completing an internship in gender and M&E with Mercy Corps Timor-Leste.

  • The Elementary Problem That Undermines Social Change Programming: A Word of Warning to Anti-Corruption Practitioners

    By Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church and Hope Schaitkin

    There is increasing interest in understanding the role social norms play (or see here or here) in maintaining corrupt patterns of behavior. Research from other fields has shown that social norms can act as the brake on behavior change, thus acting as the block to enduring change. While less is known about how to integrate social norm change into effective anti-corruption programming, other sectors are advancing this practice and anti-corruption practitioners can benefit from what they have learned.

    Over the past few months we have doubled down on our efforts to review social norms change practice literature, e.g. evaluations and case studies. (If you are involved in an anti-corruption effort that targets social norms, please be in touch.) In reflecting on all of the material we gathered, it became apparent that there is one elementary yet existential pitfall that many programs, regardless of the field, have fallen victim to. 

    Interventions regularly confuse social norms with attitudes or behaviors

    Interventions that aim to shift social norms are unintentionally targeting the wrong thing in their intervention design, and subsequent monitoring and evaluation. Our review found that attitudes and behaviors are commonly being mistaken for social norms. As these are different types of change, they require different strategies if we are to be effective.

    Like many other fields, the study of social norms does not have a commonly accepted working definition. For the Corruption, Justice and Legitimacy project, we define social norms as the mutual expectations about what is appropriate and typical behavior within a group. These expectations flow from beliefs about what others do, and beliefs about what others think we should do. Enforcement of expectations of what behavior is “right” is predominately done through social punishment and reward. The anticipation of social punishment or reward can also create or reinforce these behavioral patterns, even if the punishment and reward never comes to pass. (Our definition has evolved since we started looking at social norms, so maybe it is more accurate to say our definition at this time.)

    For example, a typical pattern of behavior that is seen in fragile contexts involves civil servants requesting bribes. This could be enabled by the civil servant’s perception that their family expects that they provide for them (a belief about what others expect me to do) and their opinion that everyone in their department is doing the same (a belief about what others do). The civil servant could also fear the consequences from their supervisor if they stop requesting bribes, and feel the positive reinforcement of their family’s pride in their ability to generate income beyond their salary.

    It follows then that to change a social norm, an intervention must shift one (or ideally both) of these types of beliefs. However, these beliefs, about what others do and what others think we should do, are not attitudes nor behaviors. Changing these beliefs requires a distinct intervention from one which aims to change attitudes or behaviors.

    Attitude beliefs are not the same as the beliefs that make up social norms

    We understand an attitude to be an individually held belief or judgement (e.g., favor or disfavor) about something or someone. Unlike social norms, attitudes are not primarily socially constructed – they are not contingent on expectations about what others do or think. In a simple world, attitudes would have a direct influence on our behavior – if I felt that requesting a position for my nephew was a bad thing to do, I would not do it. But research shows that attitudes can be constrained by social norms – if I felt that requesting this position was a bad thing to do, but I felt the pressure of social expectations and the threat of sanctions, I might do it anyway. This bears repeating: people will do things they do not agree with when faced with a sufficiently strong social norm. To steal from a great business strategy line: social norms eat attitudes for breakfast!

    Importantly, attitude change alone does not create social norm change and, in fact, may not even be necessary to achieve social norm change. For example, after an anti-corruption training, I may dislike the practice of requesting bribes because I believe that it is unprofessional (attitude change). However, I may continue to engage in the practice because I think that everyone else is doing it, and I think that others think I should (no social norm change).

    Behaviors are the effect of social norms, not the same thing

    Behaviors are also not synonymous with social norms. A behavior is what an individual actually does. The act of paying a bribe, giving preferential treatment to family or demanding sexual favors in return for a promotion are all behaviors. A social norm can be the cause behind the behavior, along with numerous other factors.

    A social norm can create or reinforce a pattern of behavior, as the social norm represents the mutual expectations around what behavior is typical and appropriate within a group. For instance, a pattern of behavior around giving preferential treatment to family (i.e. favoritism) can be held in place by a norm around providing for the family. Fear of familial disapproval could further prevent an individual from refusing to engage in favoritism.

    Importantly, targeting individuals in an effort to change their behavior does not always ripple back to influence the social norm itself.  In some instances, it may even be impossible to achieve enduring behavior change if the social norm remains untouched. Where this gets confusing is that changing the behavior is likely the real objective of an intervention, but we have to view the social norms change as a means to a sustainable end.


    An anti-corruption example of conflating social norms, attitudes and behaviors

    Even though we have not been able to find a substantial number of anti-corruption programs that target social norms, we believe that the anti-corruption field is as prone as others to this elementary but critical mistake. Our review found that, when looking to change social norms, those in the anti-corruption space often try to reduce the frequency of a corrupt behavior, or the extent to which a corrupt behavior is acceptable (regarded with a favorable or neutral attitude).

    However, this approach misses the “social” piece of “social norms.” By focusing exclusively on behavior and attitude change, practitioners lose sight of the need to change beliefs about what others do (expectations of what is typical) and beliefs about what others think we should do (expectations of what is acceptable). In doing so, these anti-corruption interventions potentially fail to create and then measure social norm change.

    For example, a 2011 literature review presented case studies of 16 social norm-focused anti-corruption interventions. While these interventions did indeed aim to change what was acceptable or typical for their target groups, it is unclear from our reading whether these interventions aimed to change beliefs about what is typical for others, or beliefs about what others think is acceptable behavior. Further, the way these interventions measured “impact” focused on measuring attitude and behavior change, and failed to measure or illustrate whether perceptions or expectations actually changed.

    One such case study presented in this review was the Culture of Lawfulness program in Colombia – a frequently cited example of an anti-corruption intervention which aimed to change social norms. The program is described to focus on structural change (create a group of public and private leaders), attitude change (honesty and transparency are believed to be beneficial to society), and knowledge change (increase understanding of the “rule of law” concept).

    Don’t forget: ignoring social norms can make corruption worse

    While targeting the wrong thing – an attitude or behavior rather than a social norm – is the most common pitfall, we don’t want anti-corruption practitioners to forget that there are other pitfalls. Namely that when it comes to social norms, not all awareness is good awareness. As we described in a previous post, awareness raising campaigns can make the socially negative behavior even worse. For instance, by creating the perception that “everybody does it” or that “corruption is bad” the messaging can create a magnet for the negative behavior, allowing others to justify their own negative actions based on that assumption. This can make the problem you are trying to address even worse.

    Watch this space

    Forthcoming in late October, the newest publication from The Corruption, Justice and Legitimacy project unpacks social norm theory for a busy anti-corruption practitioner.

    About the authors

    Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church is Principal at Besa: Catalyzing Strategic Change, a social enterprise committed to catalysing significant change on strategic issues in places experiencing conflict and structural or overt physical violence. She has significant experience working on anti-corruption and state legitimacy in the DRC and Uganda. As a Professor of Practice, she teaches and consults on program design, monitoring, evaluation and learning. Cheyanne is also the Corruption in Fragile States blog series editor.


    Hope Schaitkin recently graduated from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, where she received her master’s degree in gender analysis and human security. Hope’s master’s thesis analyzed the conflict implications and economic benefits of a proposed infrastructure project in Helmand, Afghanistan. Before Fletcher, Hope worked for an international development contractor in Boston, MA and in Kabul, Afghanistan. Hope received her Bachelor’s degree from Tufts University, where her thesis focused on the environmental impact of Chinese development assistance in sub-Saharan Africa. Hope is currently completing an internship in gender and M&E with Mercy Corps Timor-Leste.

  • Why We Need to Connect Peacebuilding and Illicit Financial Flows: A Global Approach for a Global Problem

    By James Cohen

    In the spring of 2016, while working at the US Institute of Peace, I was part of a well-attended meeting to discuss corruption and fragile states. At the head of the table were high ranking officials and academics. Around the table was largely the usual cast of characters from the State Department, and NGOs like Oxfam and Sentry. We were lucky enough to get someone from the Treasury Department as well. But what was truly interesting is that in the brief time we had to talk, there were a lot of theoretical remarks along the lines of, “This is how the FBI should trace illicit money trails.” Once nearly everyone had taken their turn, one person raised his hand and said “Hi, I’m from the FBI, and here is exactly what we can and can’t do.” The conversation dramatically shifted because we weren’t talking in the abstract anymore: we were hearing specifically the challenges and opportunities the FBI had to “follow the money,” including tracing money coming into the US and other global financial centers, and FBI cooperation with counterparts overseas.

    That meeting was a short hour and a half, and there appeared to be an appetite for more. I discussed the meeting with relevant people in D.C., and even Ottawa, who couldn’t attend, and stressed the importance of keeping the conversation going with others who were there. Bringing practitioners together on a regular basis for open conversation on how they can work together is needed to address the complex nature of conflict and corruption, especially at a global scale. Unfortunately, however, as far as I know there hasn’t been much follow up. These sorts of open discussion meetings, as opposed to panel presentations, are disappointingly few and far between as it seems the peacebuilding community generally does not appreciate the interconnectedness of corruption within fragile states. I would argue that this is especially true on the specific issue of illicit financial flows. Why is this and what needs to be done about it?

    Illicit financial flows, state fragility, and peacebuilding

    Money and conflict go hand in hand, whether money started the conflict or keeps it going. This is why it is important for the peacebuilding field to collaborate with the illicit financial flows field: to factor in how money gets in and out of a conflict.

    As I once heard, we can’t address a regional problem with a national solution. When it comes to illicit financial flows, however, even looking at a problem regionally can be too narrow. In order for kleptocrats to stash their stolen funds, criminals to launder money, terrorists to finance operations, and arms dealers to bust sanctions, states and financial institutions need to be willing to overlook their activities. Since the release of the Panama Papers, even elected officials in Western countries who thought all secrecy jurisdictions were Switzerland or tropical islands are coming to understand that their own countries are secrecy jurisdictions. In Canada, the term “snow washing” was being used by overseas intermediaries to potential clients, essentially saying: place your dirty money in squeaky clean Canada, and thanks to our opaque rules on beneficial ownership transparency, it will be cleaned like the pure white snow. In terms of tangible links between conflict affected countries, there is extensive evidence of financial flows out of South Sudan to Ugandan and Kenyan real estate, from DRC and other hot spots to London banks, and from Afghanistan development funds to Dubai real estate, to say nothing of the international criminal and terrorist networks cleaning money in key global financial hubs.

    What do Vancouver, Dubai, Kampala, and London have in common? Dirty money stashed in property.

    In recent years, steps have been made to plug the loopholes that allow for money laundering, namely addressing beneficial ownership transparency. The 2014 G20 commitments to beneficial ownership transparency set a benchmark for greater transparency, which some countries are thankfully working toward meeting. Most notably, the United Kingdom has led transparency efforts by establishing a public registry of corporate beneficial ownership information, even extending registries to UK overseas territories, and now introducing legislation on unexplained wealth ordinance. As an example of the usefulness of these tools for peacebuilders, the corporate registry was used by civil society investigators to identify an individual involved in a UK registered company that was facilitating sanction busting arms exports to South Sudan. The European Union’s Anti-Money Laundering Directive 5 may well establish public registries as the global standard, as all 27 EU members are now required to establish such a registry for companies (though not trusts). Canada and the US need to play catchup with our European partners.

    Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland has started taking aim at corruption and conflict.

    While progress continues in fits and starts in cracking down on the tools enabling global illicit financial flows, how well are the advocates for beneficial ownership transparency and improved anti-money laundering connecting with the peace and security sector? Advocates are certainly making their case. In the US, the military is an ardent supporter of beneficial ownership transparency, and a number of US politicians are citing anti-terrorism as a security goal. In Canada the security argument is a little less prevalent, but Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland has flagged the need to address shell companies used by North Korea for sanctions busting. Finally, across a growing number of countries, the Magnitsky Act is establishing targeted sanctions as a tool to address the connection between human rights violations and corruption.

    There are also organizations who are pushing the research on illicit international financial flows and conflict to the front of their work, such as Global Witness, the Sentry, the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, and of course this blog: Corruption in Fragile States.  It was encouraging to see the connection of conflict and corruption raised at a recent UN Security Council debate, however, the conversation did not appear to yield tangible results and was even rebuffed by a some delegates.

    Connecting the practitioners

    In terms of connecting these organizations and advocates with practitioners in peacebuilding contexts, I have experienced a lag, which is articulated by recent US Department of State turned Carnegie Endowment Fellow Abigail Bellows. As she writes, “Within the Department of State and USAID themselves, the cause of anticorruption has historically been buried at the expert level, with inconsistent senior-level attention.” She makes a number of recommendations on expanding the anti-corruption programmatic toolkit, including noting that the US intelligence community could scale up the collection of information on kleptocrats and their networks, sharing this information through classified memos.

    This sharing could be extended to other peacebuilding partners, namely UN missions, granted that secure and trusted communication channels are established. Additionally, lines of communication should be open between peacebuilding units in the UN and financial regulators around the world for sharing observations on the ground and information on suspicious transactions in places like London, New York, Paris, Geneva, and Dubai. This global-local partnership is a large factor in the success of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists’ ability to create an impact with the Panama Papers. Local journalists were able to add context and verification to the massive quantities of data.

    Are new lines of communication needed between peacebuilding operations and financial centers?

    Overall, more peacebuilding country assessments should incorporate analyses of financial flows and the illicit economic interests of elites into their analysis as well as recommendations on whom peacebuilding units should partner with outside of theaters of operation. Training for peacebuilding staff on global illicit financial flows would also help the effort.

    Finally we come back to more in-person collaboration. It will be important to provide more opportunities, like the meeting I attended back in 2016, for open discussion to hear from a range of actors who normally are not seated together. These sorts of meetings allow for learning what each person’s organization or division can offer, testing assumptions, and even brainstorming how best to use tools like targeted sanctions and asset freezing. If we’re going to take on illicit financial flows as a driver of conflict, keeping our thinking and collaboration contained does us no favors.

    About the author

    James Cohen is Director, Programmes and Engagement at Transparency International Canada. James’ career has included programme management and design, training, and research for organizations including the United States Institute of Peace, the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies, the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces, and Transparency International Defence and Security Programme. James holds a Masters from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva and a Bachelor of Social Science in Political Science from the University of Ottawa.

  • When Not to Call a Spade a Spade: The Importance of Quiet Anti-Corruption Initiatives

    By Sabina Robillard with Louino Robillard

    Corruption is a complex adaptive system – it does not stay still while being attacked, but rather evolves to survive in the face of new constraints and barriers.

    Many anti-corruption campaigns aim to target corruption directly and publicly. They are clear in their mission and have project titles that include the words “anti-corruption.” This directness is important in many respects, but being so visible makes it easy for people in power to applaud these initiatives in public – and to avoid them, or even undermine them, in private. By the time the project reports are written, the systems that facilitate corruption will have shifted, adapted, and survived.

    So there is an argument to be made for combatting corruption quietly – through projects that no one would recognize as being anti-corruption. These projects serve as Trojan horses to help anti-corruption measures slip past gatekeepers and power brokers, and perhaps stand a greater chance of surviving and planting the seeds of change.

    In late 2016, Louino ‘Robi’ Robillard was not expecting to embark on an anti-corruption campaign. Robi is a community organizer from Cite Soleil, which is Haiti’s largest ghetto. Because of decades of gang activity in the area, Cite Soleil has been marginalized economically and socially by the rest of Haitian society, resulting in widespread poverty and stigma.

    An informal ceasefire that began in 2016 provided a window for civil society in Cite Soleil to take on initiatives that would be more challenging in times of active conflict. A youth club in Cite Soleil called FACHaiti decided they wanted to build a library to provide a much-needed community space for young people to read. They approached Robi for help with fundraising, but Robi pushed them to first pitch their idea to residents of Cite Soleil – the vast majority of whom lived on less than 2 US dollars a day – and see what they would contribute. They called the initiative Konbit Bibliyotèk Site Solèy.

    In Cite Soleil, development projects have long been used as a vehicle for corruption and money-laundering. Projects are often routed through politicians, fixers (called abolochos), and gangsters, each of whom takes a cut from projects to fund illicit activities. This is common knowledge in Cite Soleil, making residents skeptical of most projects. In order to help Cite Soleil’s residents overcome their distrust of development projects – even local ones – Robi proposed a campaign of total transparency. Each donation – no matter how large or small – would be photographed and posted on the Konbit Bibliyotèk Site Solèy Facebook page. Then, every Sunday, the money and books would be counted in public at the community radio station and posted on Facebook. Anyone was welcome to supervise the weekly count and compare it with the photographs posted of donations. The campaign became wildly popular, and within the first six weeks, over a thousand people in Cite Soleil had contributed.



    It became clear very soon that this approach was having a greater effect than just building trust in a library campaign: it was changing people’s expectations about transparency in Cite Soleil. Robi’s first hint that this simple project could have an effect on endemic local corruption was when he began getting phone calls from powerful people, saying they would contribute to the campaign if only Konbit Bibliyotèk would stop that pesky habit of making donations public. Several politicians were even more clear, complaining that their constituents had begun to ask them why they weren’t being as transparent with their funds as the library project was being.

    But the volunteers stayed firm in their principles – refusing anonymous donations and continuing to publish weekly reports. The project – and by extension, the volunteers – was protected by its innocuousness. If this had been an overt anti-corruption initiative, politicians and gang leaders would have felt threatened, which would be justification enough for them to shut down the project. A ceasefire doesn’t apply to hitmen, any of whom could have been paid $50 to kill an anti-corruption campaigner and make it look like a robbery. But this wasn’t an anti-corruption campaign. This was “just” an innocent project to build a community library. The social media postings were “just” a way to better advertise the generous contribution they were making. Those in power were not the target of the initiative, they were “just” one of thousands of donors. The project may have annoyed or even frustrated people in power, but it was never seen as threatening. It was too subtle, too quiet.

    The power of the project also lay in its popularity: with thousands of residents of Cite Soleil having already made donations, there was a sense of widespread ownership that was not to be taken lightly, even by those in power. No one wanted to be seen standing in the way of the library. So eventually, one by one, Cite Soleil’s power brokers fell in line. Politicians, businessmen, abolochos, and eventually even gang leaders agreed to take pictures with their donations and have them posted.

    This may seem insignificant to the outside observer. Just because powerful people were posting photos of their donations to a community cause, that did not mean they weren’t still pocketing funds from any number of other projects. But ending corruption requires more than a changing of laws and protocols – it requires changing social norms. And in Cite Soleil, people were getting a taste of transparency, and they were beginning to feel like they deserved it.

    The project continues to this day. Over sixteen months since the project began, more than 4,000 individual donors have contributed to the project. Construction of the library is beginning, and the same principles of transparency are being exercised with expenditures as they were with donations. Receipts are collected and posted onto a website once a month for everyone to see; to provide access to Cite Soleil’s large illiterate population, a monthly video called a “visual expense report” is published to Facebook.

    Changing the social norms around corruption and transparency takes time. And the social experiment of Konbit Bibliyotèk has been able to continue for this long because its leaders managed to avoid making enemies in a place where death is cheap. They are making change quietly and slowly, not calling attention to the project’s potential to fight corruption. They, and the initiative, may survive long enough to move the needle on social norms around transparency and accountability in public projects in Cite Soleil.

    About the authors

    Sabina Robillard is a Ph.D. student at the Friedman School of Nutrition at Tufts University. Prior to coming to Friedman, Sabina was based in Port au Prince, Haiti, and worked in the humanitarian, peacebuilding, and community health sectors. She specializes in understanding the relationships between aid agencies and the communities they work in and mitigating the unintended consequences of external assistance; her current research is focused on local humanitarian action. She has worked for international agencies (in both Haiti and Guinea), aid policy and research groups, and local organizations, including community-based associations and social movements in Cite Soleil, Haiti.

    Louino ‘Robi’ Robillard is a community leader and organizer who was raised in Cite Soleil, Haiti. He has co-founded the Konbit Soley Leve movement, the Cite Soleil Peace Prize, and the Konbit Bibliyotek Site Soley initiative. He is on the board of several Haitian organizations including Haiti Communitere and Lakou Lape, and supports countless other grassroots social change initiatives across Haiti. He has a Master’s in Applied Community Change and Peacebuilding from the Future Generations Graduate School, and is considered an expert in contemporary applications of traditional Haitian forms of social mobilization, particularly konbit.

  • Corruption That Kills: How Corruption is Undermining Peace and Democracy in Mexico

    By Talia Hagerty and Carlos Juárez

    Mexico is about to face the biggest test to peace and democracy it has seen in decades – and endemic corruption is only making it harder.

    Amidst the world’s most challenging series of elections since the end of the Cold War, Mexico is not exempt in 2018. For the first time in its history, the nation will elect over 3,400 public officials on the same day, including independent candidates and the first generation of mayors eligible to seek re-election. But a nationwide turnover in government comes in a dangerous context: 2017 marked the most violent year the country has seen in two decades. On top of the nearly 29,000 lives lost, rising levels of violence have destroyed trust throughout society and undermined the already-weak rule of law. What is enabling the vicious cycle of violence, mistrust, apathy and impunity? Decades of endemic corruption.

    Corruption is no longer a concern for its own sake in Mexico. While corruption is not traditionally thought of as a peace and security issue, research from the Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP) shows that a low level of corruption is critical to peace. However, where corruption is high, the risk of violence is much more severe. In Mexico, where 91% of people report that corruption is either frequent or very frequent, IEP finds that high levels of corruption and low levels of trust are both driving insecurity and undermining one of the nation’s critical pathways for building peace: democracy.

    The 2018 Mexico Peace Index (MPI) measured an 11% deterioration in peacefulness in 2017 – an unprecedented drop in a single year. Of the 32 states, 25 experienced rising violence, affecting the homes of over 100 million Mexicans. The homicide rate rose 25%, reaching 24 per 100,000 people, the eighth highest in Latin America and on par with post-conflict Colombia. Robbery, assault, sexual violence, and domestic violence all rose in 2017. Only the combined rate of organized crime related offenses – kidnapping, extortion and drug crimes – stayed stable. While organized criminal groups remain Mexico’s greatest security challenge, the MPI results indicate a broader systemic breakdown in peacefulness.

    The presence of organized criminal violence – or any violence – results from the underlying conditions for peacefulness, known as the level of ‘positive peace.’ Positive peace captures the attitudes, institutions, and structures that create and sustain peaceful societies. Violence is an outcome of weak positive peace, so real reductions in organized crime will come from changing the underlying conditions in society, including the level of corruption.

    No economic crime without economic success

    IEP has developed a framework for assessing positive peace, based on the characteristics of the world’s most peaceful societies. The key insight for Mexico is that, while all around weakness in the eight core components of positive peace is one risk factor for violence, strength in some components combined with weakness in others can be just as dangerous. The most peaceful countries in the world have a balanced positive peace profile: they perform well in all eight domains.


    As the world’s 15th largest economy, Mexico’s abundant resources, large and increasingly skilled workforce, and modernizing infrastructure have raised the standard of living for millions of people. But better roads, bigger farms and modern banks make it easier to run both legitimate businesses and illegitimate, violent ones. In 2017, 66% of Mexican businesses reported perceiving corruption in police and justice institutions – the very institutions that should protect Mexico’s business environment. Decades of corruption and weak rule of law have allowed the illegal economy to flourish, to the tune of 77.6 billion US dollars.

    This dark side of Mexico’s economic success reflects a dangerous imbalance in society. Corruption erodes governance, and where governance is weak, the economic infrastructure needed for legitimate businesses can easily be co-opted by illegitimate ones. There is no economic crime without economic success, and some of the richest states in Mexico have the highest levels of violence.

    An uphill battle

    This cycle has been compounding for years, and violence appears to have spread; the severity and ubiquity of drug trade related violence may be allowing non-organized crime offenses to go unnoticed and unpunished. Impunity and corruption undermine trust, eroding social cohesion, perceptions of fairness, and democratic political culture. This fragility in turn allows for further escalations of violence. Widespread insecurity risks becoming instability. At the same time, no number of anti-corruption laws can solve the problem in a country without the rule of law.

    Last time the homicide rate peaked, in 2011, there was much discussion of Mexico as a ‘failed state,’ but the concept of fragility takes a different form in this atypical war. However, criminal organizations have effective ways to operate under the current governance structures and thus a vested interest in what is better termed a ‘dysfunctional state’. Candidates who call for change face serious risks.  At least 30 candidates in the 2018 mayoral, gubernatorial and legislative elections – particularly those running on strong anti-corruption platforms – have been assassinated by organized crime groups, and research shows homicide rates often spike when the party in power is challenged in a local election, making democracy a dangerous prospect. As a result, the distorting effects of corruption and violence have hollowed out the critical components of a well-functioning government: legitimacy, accountability, and service delivery, including the provision of the rule of law.

    Rises in corruption are known to precede violence, and similarly, improvements in corruption are strongly associated with improvements in peace. A reduction in perceptions of corruption is one of the five most common characteristics of countries that have substantially reduced their levels of violence. Counterintuitively, the other factors associated with improvements in peace are not the inverse of what leads to outbreaks or escalations of violence. While it is frustration, grievance and misinformation that lead us into violence, institution building and tangible improvements in material well-being are the most common paths to peace.

    Righting a dysfunctional state

    Peace and security require a culture of transparency and citizen engagement in order to cultivate a shared sense of accountability and ultimately reduce corruption. In order to do that, governments have to re-earn the public’s trust. The percentage of Mexicans reporting a high level of trust in public security institutions in 2017 fell to 18%, its lowest level since 2012. In the same year, 68% of Mexicans reported perceiving their local police force as corrupt and 82% believed information put out by the government had been manipulated.

    Citizens in Mexico will need to consider carefully whom they elect, looking for candidates with nuanced proposals who understand the complexity of reducing violence and corruption in such a difficult context. Newly elected governments will need to build trust by demonstrating results. This can be achieved through the strategic delivery of public services: those that are visible, needed, and quick but moderately sustainable. All the better if they reflect campaign promises, to demonstrate that elected officials will deliver on public statements.

    At the same time, governments can begin to cultivate a culture of transparency with regular releases of information and engagement with public dialogue, including on social media. But sporadic transparency for the politics of the day just won’t do. Government reporting should be both consistent and responsive to the issues raised by citizens, to both validate and demonstrate progress on their concerns. Cultivating trust and citizen engagement creates an environment of honesty, as citizens – whether they are government employees or not – hold one another accountable.

    The 2018 MPI found that states where people report that they trust their public officials and where they organize and cooperate in their communities do indeed have lower crime rates. While still low, the percentage of Mexicans that report cooperating to resolve community issues rose from 28% to 34% over the last four years.

    Given the systemic nature of the problem, peace will have to come from the ground up, built person by person and household by household. Mexico will need to cultivate levels of integrity, transparency and effective governance on par with the success of its economy. Ending Mexico’s drug wars won’t look like a typical peace treaty or military victory, but it will be a question of positive peace.

    About the authors

    Talia Hagerty is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Economics & Peace, where she leads the institute’s research in Latin America and contributes to global studies of peacefulness and citizen security. Talia has been working on peace in Mexico for nearly ten years, and is the lead author on IEP’s Mexico Peace Index. Her work combines data science and peacebuilding practice to develop new insights for peaceful, prosperous societies.


    Carlos Juárez Cruz is the Institute for Economics & Peace’s Mexico Program Manager, building on his experience in multi-sector peacebuilding initiatives, corporate banking, financial analysis and managing relationships with CEO’s, mayors and high-level government officials. Carlos has been an advisor on economic development, public finance and transparency for several local governments in Mexico. In 2010, when his hometown of Acapulco was stricken by violence, Carlos began explicitly working for peace as he and his neighbours founded a local organization to keep their community safe.

  • When Your Project’s Success Gets a “So What?” in Response

    By Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church

    Understanding success isn’t easy at the best of times in complex environments. But when change is achieved but not acknowledged as such according to traditional sectoral standards, what does that mean? For several years I was involved in supporting an anti-corruption project in the criminal justice system (CJS) in Lubumbashi, DRC that used a “collective action” strategy to galvanize people working in or with the justice system — judges, court clerks, lawyers etc. — to fight corruption in the CJS. The project wrapped up at the end of 2017, at which time we commissioned an external review and documented our lessons learned.

    The take-away of the review, which supported our monitoring evidence, was: the effort diminished the amount of corruption perpetrated by actors involved in the project. The effects were predominately related to fiscal transactions, e.g. extortion, but also included resisting political interference. The review found that towards the end of the project, people outside the project were identifying with its purpose, suggesting that momentum was building to move beyond individual occurrences of resistance to a collective shift.

    This was a successful project — or was it?

    Several weeks after wrapping up the project I had a conversation about these results with a rule-of-law/criminal justice donor. After listening to a description of the project’s strategy and results, they effectively said, “so what?” So what that some court clerks no longer ask for bribes to move a file forward? So what that the verdict in a criminal case cannot be bought? They wanted to know if there were more convictions or more arrests as a result of the project.

    This individual works in an agency that is committed to changing criminal justice outcomes, so their orientation toward criminal justice metrics (e.g. conviction rates) is understandable. Putting aside that these suggested measures did not align with our program’s purpose — we could have eradicated corruption and seen no movement on convictions due to the inherent weaknesses in the CJS in DRC — the conversation did force me to reflect on what constitutes success, and on the divide between anti-corruption and sectoral thinking.

    What is success?

    If sectoral outcomes — such as those in justice, health, and peacebuilding — are not improved, is diminishing corruption within the sector sufficient to be deemed a success and thus worthy of programming and investment?

    For an implementer/donor committed to justice outcomes, anti-corruption results might not fit in the typical box of sectoral outcomes. This could be because other agencies or government departments have anti-corruption outcomes in their framework, and anti-corruption is thus thought of as someone else’s territory.  But what if corruption, if left unaddressed, will prevent the more direct sectoral work from being effective? This would mean that an agency can’t achieve their desired sectoral outcomes without tackling corruption. For instance, without dealing with favoritism (cronyism and nepotism) in hiring, it can be difficult to raise the standard of practice through capacity building efforts.

    Another individual present in the conversation, who works on the CJS in the DRC, had a slightly different interpretation of the value of our work. He argued that the work we were doing with justice sector actors was very important for other CJS reform efforts, such as promoting community policing and creating an electronic database for criminal files. The utility of the database becomes exponentially greater if there are duty-bearers (e.g. court clerks, prosecutors) who operate according to the law and follow internal standard operating procedures. This individual was suggesting that professionals with integrity act as amplifiers and enablers for other, more “direct” criminal justice reform work.

    Looking at this from the citizen perspective is also important.  We know that systemic corruption  – the kind present at every interaction between Lubumbashi citizens and the criminal justice sector – erodes citizens’ trust in these institutions and feeds the sense that justice is only available for the rich or well-connected. This sense in turn gives rise to mob justice and increased criminality, as there is no fear of sanction and thus no rule of law deterrent.  (This is not unique to DRC; see the corruption systems analysis of Central African Republic and Uganda.)

    The question becomes, if corruption has been uprooted but justice remains unserved, has anything been accomplished? I would argue that it has. Such a change would mean that the system is not rigged against parts of society, with some buying favorable outcomes while others cannot. It would mean that government services are not a commodity to be sold to enrich government officials. It would mean that no one is forced into sexual acts in order to save loved ones from pretrial detention, gain access to food or health care while in a correction facility, or change a judge’s mind regarding evidence at trial. The results would touch the myriad of citizens in contact with the justice sector but also the perception of the justice sector for a far larger audience.

    The omission of corruption from sectoral thinking

    The international community is organized predominately around sectors such as rule of law, health or justice.  Each sector orients itself to a particular set of systems, institutions, practitioner skillsets, and needs within a society. But corruption is different. It exists within sectors, as there is no corruption risk without a service or power to be abused. Yet the work that is done in response — anti-corruption – has become a sector in itself.

    Separating anti-corruption from sectoral engagements as though corruption is a stand-alone phenomenon grossly oversimplifies the problem and detaches it from its context, which in turn undermines programming effectiveness both for anti-corruption and the sector. Understanding the difference between a cash and a no cash bail – a common form of extortion in Northern Uganda — is not typically covered in a country-wide ”say no to corruption” campaign.

    Over the years of developing a systems-based corruption analysis methodology, we experienced this divide time and time again in terms of physical locations of offices, responsible institutions, and conceptual frameworks for understanding problems. This story from CAR exemplifies the issue:

    In the summer of 2017 I interviewed a senior UN official who had been working on justice and corrections reform for a number of years. He opened the conversation by stating that he was puzzled by why we wanted to speak to him. He explained that he was in charge of justice and corrections reform and therefore was not knowledgeable about corruption. I replied that we were seeking to understand the system of corruption within the courts and corrections. To which he replied that I should go speak to an anti-corruption advisor, and he thought that UNDP might have one.

    We experienced the essence of this exchange in other field contexts as well as with donors in Kampala, Washington D.C., and London.

    To me the question to ask now is not how these conceptual silos came about, but rather how are they maintained in the face of the systemic and pervasive corruption we see in fragile states?

    Redefining success

    In thinking back to the discussion about our results and the “so what?” response it solicited (with the benefit of time and writing this blog), I wish I had said a number of things. I wish I had argued more decisively that we need to see anti-corruption related results as an important sectoral outcome. Diminished bribes required to move court files through the justice system should be seen as a key justice outcome, even if not a final one. This outcome would be, not one that satisfies us, but rather one that we acknowledge is vital to achieving more direct justice-related outcomes.

    About this article

    About the author

    Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church is Principal at Besa: Catalyzing Strategic Change, a social enterprise committed to catalysing significant change on strategic issues in places experiencing conflict and structural or overt physical violence. She has significant experience working on anti-corruption and state legitimacy in the DRC and Uganda. As a Professor of Practice, she teaches and consults on program design, monitoring, evaluation and learning. Cheyanne is also the Corruption in Fragile States blog series editor.

  • The Big Shift That Police and Justice Professionals Need to Make in Fragile States

    By Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church

    When operating in fragile states, donors and implementers working in the police, justice and corrections space need to incorporate a complexity lens if programs are to effectively respond to the realities of the context. Moving from ‘simple’ or ‘complicated’ understandings of the issues, to one that accepts the complexity inherent to the process is best, particularly when these issues are exacerbated by systemic corruption.  This lens adjustment contributes to identifying strategic opportunities, developing more plausible theories of change and understanding possible unintended harms.  Field tested in three countries in Central Africa, Understanding Corruption in Criminal Justice as a Robust and Resilient System,Version 1.0 offers a systems-based corruption analysis process developed specifically to respond to the complexities of the criminal justice system (CJS) in fragile states.


    It’s simple; build it or fix it

    Police, courts and corrections reform can be approached in a technical manner – where one looks at the structures of the institutions, the supporting legislation, work processes, equipment, training options (amongst others) and attempts to intervene at one of these points to ‘fix’ what is broken or non-existent.  This approach treats problems as ‘simple;’ whereby a clear understanding of cause and effect exists and the answer is undisputed.  The understanding of the issue is apolitical in nature and typically responses are grounded in “best practice.”

    The needs assessment approach reduces the justice system’s dysfunction in fragile states to its pieces.

    This fits well into classic aid modalities; the issues become easier to communicate, make into a project, bound into a short timeframe and in stable, functioning environments may actually hit the mark. However, when the context shifts to one of fragility, a simple approach misses the interdependency that exists between those pieces, the uncertainty of the environment and the role of power; power within the system, within official roles of the state and power derived by wealth and status that is central to how these processes operate.  The typical result; projects that work at the surface without touching any of the real issues in the system.  To put it in evaluation-speak: irrelevant and ineffective.


    Pay attention to the system

    Some working in this sector stress that police, courts and corrections need to be viewed as a system.  This places emphasis on the connection between the three sectors — like a chain — where a problem in one impacts the other.  This more ‘complicated’ viewpoint (using the Cynefin meaning of the term where there are multiple right answers and with expertise the cause-effect relationship is clear) typically relies on the technical expertise derived from decades of working inside the sector.  To respond strategically in these scenarios, one needs complete information that provides clarity on the problem as understood with contextualized expertise.   Fragile contexts make obtaining this information very difficult, ever more so for those who have derived their expertise from stable contexts elsewhere.  Projects are often completed, but without sustained positive change.


    It’s not complicated – it’s complex

    To steal from an old adage – a wolf in sheep’s clothing – police, courts and corrections dysfunction in fragile states are typically complex problems that get dressed up in complicated or simple clothing by the international community. Complex problems are multi-faceted, have interdependent causes and consequences and are in constant flux.  They do not have ‘an’ answer.  Responses to complexity require a longer time horizon and a more experimental form of management; where solutions are not guaranteed and failing is understood to be part of the process.


    What is it about fragility that makes a simple or complicated approach ineffective?

    If the role of these institutions regardless of context is generally the same, what is it about fragility that demands a complex response?  There are many factors: the lack of separation between public and private spheres, the influence of power and politics on the institutions, the cycles of violence and uncertainty, the consequences of trauma on individuals, and critically, the systemic corruption within the CJS.  After researching the role of corruption in the CJS in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda and Central African Republic over the past five years, the inability to separate systemic corruption from the functioning of any of these institutions is abundantly clear.  Yet the responses funded by the international community either ignored the existence of systemic corruption or adopted simple or complicated responses.  A mismatch that results in ineffective programming at best and contributing to the problem at worst.


    Where to start: a systems-based analysis

    Adopting a lens of complexity to understand the problem before turning to solutions is the first step.  To help in this we have developed a  systems-based analysis process for corruption in the CJS.  This is a move away from measuring the problem e.g. the amount or frequency of corruption in the police (a very ‘simple’ approach to the problem).  From a monitoring and evaluation perspective this is possibly helpful, if you have confidence in the instrument and veracity of the responses. But it does not provide any insight into what would be relevant and effective responses.   It is also different from a corruption risk perspective – a more ‘complicated’ approach – that supposes that there are ‘answers’ based on the application of the right expertise.

    The easiest way to explain a systems-based corruption analysis is to break the process into its component parts.  A corruption analysis is the identification of the factors that generate the patterns of behavior known as corruption.  In the CJS in fragile stages, research shows corruption typically means bribery/extortion, sexual favors, favoritism and political interference.   Each of these factors — drivers, enablers, effects, and mental models — are important in sustaining the pattern.

    – Drivers are those factors, such as social norms that cause people to participate in corruption.

    – Enablers are factors that facilitate or make corruption possible, but are not the reason why it happens.

    – Effects represent the outcomes of the corrupt practices. How citizens and members of the CJS themselves—as well as broader societal dynamics—are affected by a range of questionable or outright abusive actions.

    – Mental models are ways of framing or thinking about issues, generally implicit, that often influence behaviors.

    Once the relevant factors have been identified, the next step is to organize them in a series of “causal loops” that show how they interact with each other as a system.  Adding this systems-based component advances the analysis beyond a simple list of factors.  Instead it creates a “map” of how the factors relate to each other to produce consistent patterns of corrupt behavior.  The resulting causal loop diagram or “systems map” provides a visual tool that can be used to identify “leverage points”—aspects of the corrupt system that are susceptible to change. The systems map can also exhibit how aspects of corruption in the CJS are embedded in larger social, political and economic processes—affected by them and contributing to them as well.   

    Systems Map of Corruption in the Criminal Justice System in Bangui, Central African Republic. From “Pity the man who is alone” report.


    How will this help improve CJS programming?

    Generating a systems-based understanding of corruption in the CJS in a fragile state gives donors and implementers several important advantages over other approaches.

    1. Improves understanding of the problem

    The explanation of drivers, enablers, effects and mental models provides a comprehensive sense of how and why the system functions. Feedback from local actors suggests that the broader systems focused approach delivers a more authentic representation of their experience compared to other approaches.

    2. Identification of atypical points of intervention

    The visual depiction, as represented by the causal loop diagram, allows practitioners to see how the different factors that drive and enable corrupt patterns of behavior are related to each other.  This can aid in the identification of points of intervention that are outside typical program thinking.  One such example is Kuleta Haki; a CJS anti-corruption effort implemented in the DRC. See here for a summary of this approach and lessons learned in two years of implementation.

    3. Enables testing the plausibility of theories of change

    Practitioners can use the systems map to hypothesize how their program would impact the system if successful.  In a similar vein, one can use the map to look for ways the system will likely “push back” against change efforts.

    4. Enables strategic program coordination and flags redundancy

    By plotting existing anti-corruption (explicit or implicit) theories of change onto the systems map, gaps in programming, redundancies and strategic alliance opportunities become apparent.


    How to conduct a systems-based corruption analysis in the CJS

    A full description of the methodology to conduct a systems-based corruption analysis in the CJS, complete with our lessons learned, interview protocols and recommended reading, is available on the CDA or Fletcher School websites.  After three cycles of testing, the methodology offered provides a sound basis for understanding corruption in the CJS.  It is not yet perfect and hence the title: Version 1.0.  With further implementation and reflection, we believe useful refinements are possible that will continue to contribute to the development of more effective responses.

    About this article

    This post is part of the corruption in fragile states series. The series provides a space for conversation about corruption in fragile states. Since its inception in 2016 as part of the CDA Perspectives Blog, the series has sought to challenge status quo thinking with a particular emphasis on exploring systems-based approaches to understanding and acting on corruption dynamics. Topics in the series range from new research findings in Uganda, Iraq or the DRC to provocative thought pieces intended to contest dominant paradigms or practices.

    Now hosted by the Henry J. Leir Institute, series contributions are inspired by, but not limited to, the Corruption, Justice and Legitimacy project as well as the, now concluded, Central Africa Accountable Service Delivery Initiative. We are privileged to also have posts from a number of prominent thinkers, policy makers and practitioners as guest bloggers.

    The Corruption in Fragile States Blog Series has MOVED! The Henry J. Leir Institute, at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts will be our new home as of March 1, 2018. Find future blog posts, submit a guest post, and subscribe to series updates here.


    About the author

    Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church is Principal at Besa: Catalyzing Strategic Change, a social enterprise committed to catalysing significant change on strategic issues in places experiencing conflict and structural or overt physical violence. She has significant experience working on anti-corruption and state legitimacy in the DRC and Uganda. As a Professor of Practice, she teaches and consults on program design, monitoring, evaluation and learning. Cheyanne is also the Corruption in Fragile States blog series editor.
  • Two Insights from an Experiment in Collective Corruption Resistance

    By Kiely Barnard-Webster and Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church

    With every experimental action, there needs to be feedback (informal and formal monitoring and evaluation), reflection and adaptation. Kuleta Haki, an experiment in collective corruption resistance in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), offered a unique opportunity to learn about systemic corruption in the criminal justice sector (CJS), and the possibilities of collective action as an effective response.  The recent External Transition Review, (corroborated by internal M&E) suggests that in certain contexts, with the right conditions, this strategy, implemented well, has the potential to create systemic change.  As our role draws to an end, flush with the knowledge that the work mattered, we sat down to reflect on the lessons and challenges of the past two years. Two key lessons are explored here, and the full reflection may be found at Innovative Practice Brief: Collective Action Against Corruption in the Criminal Justice System.


    Our collective action strategy

    In Lubumbashi our goal was to try something different to resist corruption to see if it would have more effect than the typically lackluster anti-corruption intervention. Our original systems analysis portrayed corruption’s complexity, but it also revealed a bright spot: the existence of ‘islands of integrity,’ or motivated CJS individuals who were known to operate – when possible – with integrity. Based on the systems map a program approach was identified to unite these individuals and create strength in numbers through a Network that supported its membership in resisting corruption in the CJS. The program had a multi-faceted strategy, but at the heart was the following collective action approach:

    If people from within the CJS [both government employees and others] who act with integrity can establish strong relationships with each other, then they will feel added protection and empowered to act against corruption more openly and often, because they will have support (e.g. emotional, hierarchical, tactical) from those inside the justice system.

    If you only tend to the flower, the plant may wither – Insight #1

    Support participants in taking over management of the group. Most of the discussion during the project regarding sustainability focused on how the Network would continue to work against corruption in the CJS, rather than the pragmatic aspects of how to run a Network. The final review process showed clearly that members needed to have devoted more energy to managing themselves as a group (plan internally, implement useful management and communication systems, etc.), so they could continue to function independently. This implies the project team needed to have transitioned their role as ‘backbone/manager’ over to project participants throughout year two.

    Trust exists, but will need to be continually re-fortified. Given the daily challenges and sensitivities for CJS actors – especially those that resist corruption – it’s understandable that collective trust isn’t second-nature. Building a Network based on real relationships with social cohesion was critical to the core strategy: strength in numbers. But trust between members was also frequently challenged. Members were pressured to engage in corruption from multiple external sources (corrupt bosses, families in need of resources, colleagues who mock resistance efforts), and processes for holding one another to account proved challenging after the international support finished.

    Going forward, constantly monitoring and fortifying trust is key. We found two successful means:

    1. Informal activities (as one member put it, “where you take off your robe”), as they contribute to sense of equality and unity within the group, while letting members gently ‘check in’ on threats to cohesion.

    2. Frequent meetings, despite this being a challenge to organize due to the time demands of the professional lives of members. When there is a time lag between meetings, doubts and rumors spring up about loyalty of individuals, as well as feelings of exclusion by others.

    – Anticipate Future Risk & Develop A Protection Response. For 2 years, the project team actively monitored (formally and informally) participants’ sense of safety and risks of participation and were assured that participants were not at risk. However, as the group is now without external support, while simultaneously broadening its resistance to include acts of political interference (which the Network always reported as being dangerous) in an atmosphere of heightened political volatility, the members are feeling more vulnerable without the protection of an international NGO. The lesson is that, regardless of the answers received to inquiries regarding risks and threats, the project should have devised a response strategy, complete with who is responsible and communications expectations in case the situation changed.

    Learning to Learn  – Insight #2

    A second theme in our lessons is that the project team must be undying advocates for learning at all levels amongst participants and the project team itself; for better or for worse, through project sickness and in health. Learning is nuanced. For Kuleta Haki it meant, for team and Network, learning what works to resist and helping project members learn how to behave differently.

    Even for the best, resistance requires learning new behavior. For those in the Network and beyond learning to resist corruption was at first like learning a new language. All forms of corruption in the CJS – including bribery, sexual favors, political interference and favoritism – are considered common, accepted and not noteworthy—that is, completely normal practices. Because they are so “habitual” those who want to resist need time to reflect, unlearn old practices, learn new ones and then gain confidence. It is not simply a decision to stop. This lesson has implications for the time needed by all to generate behavior change, even amongst those who are committed to the idea, as well as for setting expectations about how change happens.

    There are additional implications for the project team, too, coming from CDA and RCN J&D; greater time and attention were needed in the beginning of the project to build a common set of expectations regarding key principles of the program, such as learning and adaptive management. For those who have never been asked to reflect, challenge assumptions or openly discuss mistakes, this can be challenging. What’s more, a process of continual, evidence-based adaptation is contrary to traditional programming, which is dominated by logical frameworks and six-month work plans. Advocates for learning inside an adaptive program must be prepared to have tough internal conversations at inception, and to articulate why ‘learning how to learn’ is so critically central to mission success.


    The path forward

    One benefit of using systems analysis to design this project is that it’s helped our group to be realistic about how long (and how much work!) it takes to change a corruption system. Network members still, at times, fall back on approaches that are shown to have limited effectiveness for fighting corruption: name and shame, citizen rights education, etc. However, we do feel participants are on the brink of effecting enough change to catalyze a ripple through the system. It is our hope that continuing to take stock of the achievements and changes to date, based on evidence-focused reviews, insights and guidance can be created not only for project participants but also for other practitioners who are similarly seeking to effect change in the CJS in fragile states. Like with any effective social change movement, allowing time for these ripples to actualize is a good place to start. We’ve captured further insights and lessons for next steps in a fuller methodology document. See next week’s blog, which will address these insights.


    About this article

    • Image from:

    About the authors

    Kiely Barnard-Webster is a Program Manager at CDA Collaborative Learning Projects, working on innovative approaches to tackling corruption in the DRC. She is also currently contributing to several different peacebuilding effectiveness and conflict sensitivity projects at CDA, as well as helping to support CDA’s office in Myanmar. Kiely focused her studies on gender analysis and DM&E at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.


    Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church is Principal at Besa: Catalyzing Strategic Change, a social enterprise committed to catalysing significant change on strategic issues in places experiencing conflict and structural or overt physical violence. She has significant experience working on anti-corruption and state legitimacy in the DRC and Uganda. As a Professor of Practice at The Fletcher School, she teaches and consults on program design, monitoring, evaluation and learning.
  • What Worked: Fighting Corruption Through Collective Action

    By Kiely Barnard-Webster

    The central contribution of the Network [for its members] is that members no longer feel alone in the fight against corruption during their individual actions of resistance.

    – Kuleta Haki Transition Review, December 2017


    Is collective action effective for fighting corruption in fragile states? For one collective action effort, members now prefer to resist with a group behind them.

    Kuleta Haki, an experimental anti-corruption project, celebrated its second anniversary in December 2017 with a final Transition Review. Kuleta Haki was designed based on a classic ‘strength in numbers’ idea. The central theory was: If people from within the CJS who act with integrity can establish strong relationships with each other, then they will feel more protected and empowered to act against corruption more openly and often because they will have support (e.g. emotional, hierarchical, tactical) from those inside the system. The Network currently has between 80-100 members, including lawyers, magistrates, police, clerks, judges, and civil society members.

    The Review was conducted by a team of three actors independent of the program, with the objective of assessing the achievements of the project, what may have contributed, and how participants (the Network) might plan for a sustainable future. The system of corruption is resilient, and hard to change, nowhere more so than in fragile states. However, Kuleta Haki has been able to unite disparate criminal justice sector (CJS) actors who believe that resistance together is not only better for changing the system, but entirely possible in the long-term. To date, relationships across offices and jurisdictions, attitudes about the value of group resistance, and changes in knowledge about corruption have led the Network to persist.

    This post only outlines a few of the many achievements and challenges identified in the Transition Review. Far more, rich, content can be found in the full report such as the bosses’ roles in enabling resistance, and the diverse challenges Network members regularly face.


    Approaching a corruption system through collective action: an abridged look at achievements

    Establishing relationships across judicial institutions opens up opportunities for resisting at multiple points in the system

    Since the beginning of the project, the group has convened ‘judicial sub-groups’ – groups of clerks, magistrates, police – that regularly work together within their individual jurisdictions and/or courts. During all-Network activities (e.g., teambuildings) these sub-groups participate and report on challenges, progress, or success stories, adding to the group’s knowledge about corruption and resistance strategies while also deepening the Network’s bond as a group.

    The Review showed that the Network has demonstrated an ability to integrate judicial actors with diverse profiles from different jurisdictions allowing them to work across police, courts and corrections. This gives the group an advantage, to pick and choose strategies tailored for different situations. For example, the Reviewers found that the Network has tested diverse ways to resist corruption, and found that no singular strategy surfaces as the “best.” The Network has “found numerous forms and strategies that vary according to hierarchical position, personality and institution, including: ‘circumvention’ (asking to be removed from a file), ‘passive resistance’ (refusing to engage when others of their rank might be expected to act differently), ‘active resistance’ (saying no to corruption).”


    Cultivating attitudes about ‘strength in numbers’ is important for this strategy to work

    Being a member of Kuleta Haki appears to have fostered three important attitudes for corruption resistance (based on the Transition Review findings). First, Reviewers noted that, as an accepted member, you feel you are no longer alone and that others have experienced the same daily challenges you do.

    Second, membership nurtures the sentiment that in a given moment at work, when faced with corruption, you have options to resist in relative safety because the Network will support you when possible. As one Network member explained, “To be protected, you must be part of the Network. The Network may seek to verify the facts [if you believe corruption is occurring] and may cover you. If you do not have coverage, you stay in your position.”

    Finally, as a member, you can look ahead with confidence in the knowledge that you have opportunities to share your successes with other members, and discuss strategy. As one member noted: “we talk, we share our experiences, sharing stories related to corruption. Often these are positive stories. We also hear the discouragement of the members.”

    Activities that catalyzed these attitudinal changes: From the Transition Review and formative, internal evaluation, these trusting relationships require frequent meetings, in which members literally remove their professional robes which serve as symbols of hierarchy. Recreational meetings (e.g., game nights, dinners, an anti-corruption march on the weekend), greatly help to strengthen links and break down social and hierarchical divisions. Since October 2017 when external support to Kuleta Haki was reduced, reviewers pointed out that meetings have been less frequent and (as expected) this has started to “create a distance,” as one Network member put it, spurring rumors about which members remain committed.


    Learning about corruption and how it functions is still important for resisting the system

    Knowledge is a powerful motivator. Systems analysis conducted prior to implementing Kuleta Haki showed that, overall, CJS actors do not feel they know enough about corruption including what legally constitutes corruption. Compounding this, many original interviewees reported that most Congolese citizens felt corruption is a ‘banal’ practice, implying a hopelessness abounds for understanding and eradicating it. This led the project design team to infuse Kuleta Haki with knowledge activities (e.g., trainings, accompaniment events etc). Mid-way through the project, a mid-term evaluation showed that many felt a better understanding of corruption forced them to confront the real harm that systemic corruption causes (at the individual and national level) feeding their motivation to resist. The final Transition Review confirmed this point and illustrated it with the following quote from one Network member, “knowledge of the situations that constitute corruption makes it possible to become aware of one’s own corrupt practices”, leading then to questions about how to resist. Trainings to teach what corruption is, and how it happens, were useful to this end as were accompaniment activities (to help develop the project’s strategy/Theory of Change, for example).

    Theory of Change thinking still contributed, but skills were challenging to master. Though skills from Theory of Change workshops were not fully absorbed by the end of the project the concepts were still felt to be useful. From the Review, developing a theory of change based on the systems analysis helped the diverse group (in various CJS positions and rank) better understand their roles in resisting.

    Knowledge products stoked feelings of strength. From the Transition Review, the hard copy of the Resistance Handbook continues to strengthen members, who, alone in their office, can draw on: explanations of corruption, resistance strategies and motivation for why it’s important to resist. The Review mentions that this manual is even more important in the event that meetings decrease and exchanges become scarce.


    Looking forward

    Although the international support aspect of this project concluded in Fall 2017, the Network still continues to resist corruption on its own today. The Transition Review took a useful snapshot of the group’s work at this point in the progress of their efforts. The Network’s governing body has since read the full version of the report, publicly available on CDA’s website, and approved its publication and distribution. Next week, read about the project team’s lessons learned from their analysis of the report, and from their perspective as the managers of an adaptive, experimental foray into collective anti-corruption resistance.

    About the author

    Kiely Barnard-Webster is a Program Manager at CDA Collaborative Learning Projects, working on innovative approaches to tackling corruption in the DRC. She is also currently contributing to several different peacebuilding effectiveness and conflict sensitivity projects at CDA, as well as helping to support CDA’s office in Myanmar. Kiely focused her studies on gender analysis and DM&E at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.
  • Towards a Corruption-Sensitive Conflict Analysis

    By Michelle Garred

    In this blog post, Michelle Garred, conflict sensitivity practitioner for 15 years, challenges herself to rethink her hesitancy to approaching corruption as a driver of conflict, and looks back on a conflict analysis workshop in Kenya with a new lens. She suggests that in a conflict analysis, if corruption is raised by local people, raised frequently, and raised as a key driver of conflict rather than just a symptom, then it is time to dig deeper to understand what corruption means in that context, and how it relates to the dynamics of conflict.

    As a conflict sensitivity practitioner for 15 years, I’ve become pretty good at making the case for aid and peace workers to consider the impact of all their actions on inter-group violent conflict. It’s something that I continue to believe in and advocate. When I encounter anti-corruption work, I appreciate its value and, truth be told, I also think: “I hope that project is not unintentionally feeding into conflict!”  Corinna Kreidler has insightfully explored this possibility, and laid out a vision for what conflict-sensitive anti-corruption programming looks like. I really hope that anti-corruption practitioners are following her advice. 

    At the same time, the more I think about corruption, the more I begin to wonder: should this awareness not be a two-way street? Should my conflict analysis work – which lies at the heart of conflict sensitivity – be more sensitive itself to the dynamics of corruption? In real life, conflict does not occur in isolation. Conflict comes intertwined with other contextual dynamics like gender, disabilities, state fragility, humanitarian protection and – yes – corruption. With some researchers pointing to corruption as a potential driver of conflict, doesn’t this deserve another look?

    It really does. So, this week I began to sift through my memory, and my reports, from time spent in CDA, World Vision International, and independent consultancy. I saw that in participatory conflict analyses, local people often identify corruption as a problematic factor. For example, check out World Vision’s recent ‘Do No Harm’ program-level meta-trends analysis, in which corruption shows up as one of the six most frequently occurring dividers across programming contexts.  Or World Vision’s book on ‘Making Sense of Turbulent Contexts’ (MSTC) macro-analysis in which fighting corruption shows up as central to improving governance, one of the four most frequently identified strategic needs for a country’s future.

    I was part of many of those analyses, in one way or another. I facilitated them, trained other people to facilitate them, and played a role in developing the organization’s analytical toolkit. Yet when corruption came up in the course of analysis, I very rarely probed to find out more about what it meant. For example in the Kenya 2012 MSTC – which I facilitated – Kenyan participants identified corruption as both an important driver of conflict, and as a factor likely to increase in the case of future election-related unrest. Yet I don’t recall asking further questions to probe more deeply on how the corruption related to conflict dynamics. Why not?

    I probably did not probe because ‘corruption’ sounds vague. This word often pops up in conflict analysis as a mysterious black box, and nobody is entirely clear on what’s inside, whether it be bribery, extortion, political interference, sexual favors, favoritism, or other concerns. Probably because corruption was just one of the manyproblematic factors mentioned, as both conflict drivers and conflict symptoms, and there is never enough time to explore every factor deeply. Probably because I know that the interpretation of corruption is often contested – with one culture’s idea of a corruption problem being another culture’s idea of everyday social norms.

    Cut now to a different East Africa macro-analysis, carried out recently with a CDA partner. In working through a practice session on conflict systems analysis, the Western headquarters-based staff saw a close relationship between corruption and violent conflict. They worked through a process of visually mapping both the key driving factors of corruption-related conflict and also the factors for peace. Their effort involved quite a bit of insight and rigor.

    Even so, when this group stood back to look at their finished systems map, they quickly realized that all of the conflict factors they had identified were things that originated within the context being analyzed, and all of the peace factors they had identified were things that originated outside the context through efforts of the international community. They recognized that their analysis reflected a Westernized bias, in which it becomes tempting to believe that corruption is something problematic that happens in other cultural contexts, while transparent solutions are something that emerges from our own.  They were humble in correcting their error, and they are certainly not alone. Sometimes conversations about corruption feel so culturally loaded, and even borderline neo-colonialist, that it just seems far more respectful to leave it alone.

    Now, cut back again to the Kenya 2012 MSTC macro-analysis. In this case, it’s more difficult to blame cultural bias for the emergence of the corruption theme, since the 20+ participants were almost exclusively Kenyan. Did I miss anything significant by opting not to probe more deeply into corruption? Probably yes. Concern over corruption has grown in the five years since the analysis. In 2016, Transparency International ranked Kenya 145 out of 176 countries on its corruption perception index – indicating a very strong perception of corruption.

    Allegations of graft and electoral manipulation are so central to Kenyan presidential politics that they altered the process of the 2007 and 2017 presidential elections, in a country that is working hard to transcend the risk of electoral violence. In this context, corruption is a strong enough factor to affect the trends that shape the future. Our macro-analysis was not wrong – in fact it was generally considered quite accurate. However, if I as facilitator had pushed for a deeper ‘unpacking’ of the theme of corruption, the analysis could have had more predictive power, which is critically important in helping aid organizations prepare themselves for the future.

    So, do I now believe that corruption must be positioned front and center in every conflict analysis? No, I do not. But I do think that I as a conflict analyst must have the skill to detect contexts in which the corruption theme might be a real priority, and the flexibility to adapt my methodology to better understand and unpack corruption. Here are some cues: in a conflict analysis, if corruption is raised by local people rather than outsiders, raised frequently, and raised as a key driver of conflict rather than just a symptom, then it is time to dig deeper. Digging deeper means first clarifying what form(s) corruption takes in that context, as viewed by local people, and then unpacking specifically how it relates to the dynamics of the broader conflict. These are steps toward a more corruption-sensitive form of conflict analysis.

    About the author

    Michelle Garred joined CDA in 2016 as a Senior Advisor on Conflict Sensitivity and Peacebuilding Effectiveness. Her areas of expertise include conflict analysis, conflict sensitivity and peacebuilding integration in humanitarian and development assistance, faith-based and multi-faith peacebuilding, and participatory approaches to research and learning. At CDA Michelle coordinates the Conflict Sensitivity Practice Area, and leads projects including USAID Fragility and Conflict Technical Resource Service (FACTRS) and Effective Inter-Religious Action in Peacebuilding.
  • Corruption : résister à tout prix ?

    By Gabin Bady Kabuya and Florence Liégeois

    Resisting corruption is not easy, not even when supported by a collective effort. The Kuleta Haki Network, now numbering more than 100 individuals, has made progress but not without sacrifice. Florence Liégeois (RCN J&D) and Gabin Bady Kabuya (Co-Director of School of Criminology at the University of Lubumbashi, and Kuleta Haki Network member) share the very real experiences of those who choose to resist. 


    Bon nombre d’actions initiées dans le cadre de la lutte contre la corruption peinent à produire les résultats escomptés. Ce constat a mené au développement du projet Kuleta Haki à Lubumbashi, RDC. En se constituant en réseau, il s’agit d’encourager les acteurs du système judiciaire impliqués dans la garde à vue (police) et la détention préventive (parquet) qui résistent aux pratiques de corruption. Parti d’un noyau dur d’une dizaine de personnes, le réseau et ses différents groupes de travail comptent aujourd’hui près de 100 membres.

    L’expérience de deux années de travail du réseau en tant qu’action collective révèle que la résistance à la corruption implique un coût pour toutes les catégories d’acteurs, tant justiciables que professionnels de la justice. Florence Liégeois et Gabin Bady Kabuya proposent de croiser leurs regards sur cette situation.


    « Toi, tu mourras pauvre », « Pour qui te prends-tu ? Tu penses pouvoir changer le système ? », « Tu ne finiras jamais ta maison », « Ton mari travaille, c’est facile pour toi de ne pas prendre la corruption ! ». Autant de remarques et moqueries rapportées au Réseau par par les acteurs qui résistent à la corruption. Ceux qui refusent de voir dans la corruption quotidienne une fatalité doivent résister dans tous les sens du terme : résister à la facilité de prendre l’argent tendu par le justiciable ou l’avocat qui souhaite faire avancer un dossier, résister au regard réprobateur de l’entourage professionnel, résister à la pression sociale qui pèse sur le chef de famille qui doit nourrir femme et enfants, mais parfois aussi neveux, cousins, parents, ….


    Dénigrer, déclasser et défier pour démotiver

    Les acteurs judiciaires résistants témoignent régulièrement auprès de nous des réactions négatives suscitées par leur attitude[1], de la part de leurs collègues mais aussi de leur hiérarchie. Tel un membre du réseau à qui son supérieur s’est adressé en ces termes « … tu penses que si on te confie un poste de responsabilité comme le mien, tu sauras continuer à résister comme tu le dis ? ».

    Hormis les moqueries, dénigrement et défis, les acteurs résistants sont parfois mis à l’écart puisque considérés comme obstacles à la réalisation de la corruption. Les supérieurs hiérarchiques orientent les dossiers vers des magistrats autres que ceux qui résistent. Sur le plan de l’éthique professionnelle ce déclassement peut être déstabilisant pour certains résistants : il les place dans la position de personnes qui perçoivent indûment leur rémunération, mais aussi les prive de possibilité d’avancement et d’évolution de carrière, ceux-ci étant conditionnés au rendement de chaque acteur. De plus, le discrédit et la marginalisation dont sont parfois victimes ceux qui résistent à la corruption pourraient décourager d’autres professionnels de s’engager sur la voie de la résistance et contribuer au maintien du statu quo. Malgré ce, un chef de juridiction ou de service peut se valoir de disposer de personnel intègre pendant que l’autre partie du personnel poursuit ses agissements en toute impunité !


    Le lourd prix payé par les justiciables

    Paradoxalement, nous nous demandons si par ces effets négatifs, le projet ne conduit pas à priver les justiciables des acteurs intègres ? Si ceux-ci sont isolés et mis à l’écart par leurs collègues ou chefs hiérarchiques, comment faire bénéficier la population de leur éthique professionnelle ? Les acteurs résistants risquent d’être cantonnés au traitement des cas les plus bénins. C’est sans doute une bonne nouvelle pour les parties à ces litiges, mais cela réduit inévitablement l’impact de leur résistance dans le système.

    Mais le prix à payer par les justiciables qui résistent peut s’avérer autrement plus lourd. C’est particulièrement le cas au niveau de la garde à vue dans les cachots de la police et de la détention préventive. L’incarcération est en RDC un moyen de pression psychologique important pour amener les personnes retenues à payer la caution ou les « amendes » dites transactionnelles. Les arrestations le vendredi soir sont par exemple très redoutées : les policiers cherchent de l’argent pour passer le week-end confortablement, et toute occasion d’arrondir la fin de semaine sera saisie. Pour le justiciable, la perspective de passer un week-end en détention les amène à céder avant le samedi 12h, heure après laquelle il devient plus difficile d’être remis en liberté en raison des horaires des services.

    Dans des conditions de vie difficiles, la détention abusive pénalise le détenu mais aussi sa famille. La privation de liberté porte donc toute une série de conséquences qui amènent le détenu à céder à la pression. Sans compter les conditions de détention elles-mêmes : manque d’accès à l’hygiène élémentaire, parfois des traitements cruels, inhumains ou dégradants perpétrés dans les cachots et prisons. Autant d’éléments qui font des espaces de détention des lieux dont on souhaite sortir le plus vite, et à tout prix. Prolonger le séjour en détention en refusant de payer le prix de la corruption est donc un choix lourd de conséquences, pour sa propre santé physique et mentale mais aussi pour ses proches.

    Et pour un avocat, faire ce choix pour son client constitue un réel cas de conscience, comme une des avocates membre du réseau l’a partagé avec nous : désaccord et mécontentement de la famille du détenu, mauvaise conscience de laisser son client dans de telles conditions… les principes d’intégrité résistent difficilement à l’épreuve de la réalité congolaise.


    Le réseau comme un refuge… qui ne peut tout offrir

    Faut-il conclure à l’impossibilité de résister à la corruption en contexte congolais ? Comment renforcer les stratégies de résistance ?

    L’appartenance des acteurs résistants au réseau leur permet de se soutenir mutuellement, de renforcer leurs convictions, de chercher des éléments pour répondre à ces réactions : formations sur la corruption et ses méfaits pour la société, stratégie de communication non-violente pour ne pas juger ou moraliser les collègues, réflexions communes sur les difficultés rencontrées et les stratégies destinées à les surmonter, etc.

    La théorie du changement, avec son approche systémique, revêt ici toute son importance, quoiqu’elle nécessite du temps. Dans un projet pilote de court terme, son efficacité reste malheureusement limitée. Au caractère systémique de la corruption, des réponses systémiques s’imposent pour sortir de cette impasse. Le réseau, en tant qu’action collective, doit établir des synergies avec d’autres secteurs et acteurs, par exemple pour travailler sur les mécanismes de dénonciation et de sanctions, le monitoring, la formation des acteurs du système judiciaire. Aussi, une collaboration étroite avec les acteurs du milieu social et sanitaire pourrait avoir un effet important : en veillant à l’assainissement des milieux carcéraux, on ôterait aux acteurs de la détention un moyen de pression considérable et on réduirait les risques pour les justiciables résistants. Une approche systémique qui réduirait, tant soit peu, la vulnérabilité des acteurs à la résistance à la corruption.


    [1] Sur le contexte de la corruption dans le secteur judiciaire de Lubumbashi, voir : Rubbers, Benjamin et Gallez, Emilie, 2015, ‘Beyond corruption. The everyday life of a justice of the peace court in the Democratic Republic of Congo’, in J.-P. Olivier de Sardan and T. De Herdt (eds.), Real governance and practical norms in Sub-Saharan Africa. The games of the rule, Londres, Routledge, 245-262 (disponible sur )

    About the authors

    Gabin Bady Kabuya est juriste et criminologue, professeur à l’Université de Lubumbashi, RDC, et membre du réseau de lutte contre la corruption.  Ses recherches portent sur le fonctionnement de la  justice pénale en RDC, dans une approche juridique et socio-anthropologique.


    Florence Liégeois est responsable des programmes RDC au sein de RCN Justice & Démocratie, partenaire de CDA dans la mise en œuvre du projet Kuleta Haki. Juriste de formation, elle travaille depuis 15 ans dans le secteur de la coopération internationale,  notamment pour la promotion des droits humains et de l’accès à la justice. Depuis plus de 10 ans, elle se rend plusieurs fois par an en RDC, aussi bien à Kinshasa qu’en province. Elle a écrit et co-écrit plusieurs articles sur la justice en RDC.égeois-468b5144

  • The Biggest Paradigm Error in Tackling Corruption: Not Dealing with Organized Crime

    By Eric Scheye

    International organizations, donors and policy analysts have, over the past few years, recognized how organized criminal networks impede and undermine development and democracy.  When offering potential remedies, however, the international community does not take the evidence it has amassed seriously.  Three recent articles demonstrate this paradoxical situation.  Each describes the perniciousness and virulence of the networks.  Each, then, in its own way, reverts to and doubles down on an ineffective, if not misguided, governance and anti-corruption agenda, one which the evidence presented had, explicitly and implicitly, discredited.   It is as if each author’s theology – a Western belief in yet more anti-corruption and state- and institutional capacity building programming – trumps the empirical data he/she has astutely presented.  It is also a basic misunderstanding of the concepts of organized criminal networks vis-a-viz corruption and the privileging of the the latter over the former.


    Why the distinction between Organized Crime and Corruption matters for programming

    Each of these articles advocates programming that focuses, essentially, on anti-corruption and good governance programming, blithely ignoring the realities of the organized crime environment each has so excellently described.  Programmatically, there is enormous difference between organized crime and corruption and, since the history of anti-corruption and most good governance initiatives have been an almost unremitting exercise in ineffectiveness, if not failure – CICIGI in Guatemala being a shining exception – it is way past time to prioritize organized crime rather than corruption.

    1. Organized Crime or Corruption: Fishy business

    In the first article, Criminality in Africa’s Fishing Industry: A Threat to Human Security, the author accurately dissects how “collusive relationships with foreign fishing companies often serves the financial interests of government officials responsible for overseeing the fisheries sector.”  The author illustrates how, for example, “African political leaders [often] have direct financial interests in joint ventures with foreign fishing companies.”  By focusing on corruption rather than the prevalence of organized crime, the article misidentifies the problem as one of “misgovernance” and “corruption”, “weak accountability”, “under enforcement of the law” and “limited capacity in fisheries management.”  Consequently, the remedies proffered circle around anti-corruption mechanisms and more state-building and good governance programming, blind to those politically well-connected individuals, the politicians themselves, and the fishery authorities in whose self- and private interests, as the article neatly testified, the organized fishery criminal networks operate.

    2. Organized Crime or Corruption: Drug trafficking

    The second article, Organized Crime and Illegally Mined Gold in Latin America, follows this well-trod path of misidentifying the crux of the challenge.  The thoroughly researched analysis examines how drug traffickers have begun to dominate gold and other mining in the Andean region.  The business analysis is detailed and acute, illustrating instances of weak governance: for instance, “83% of Colombia’s 17,000 mines lack… titles and environmental licenses” and the existence of free-trade zones in which the government does not register exports so that gold can be readily smuggled out of the country.

    A bigger problem, however, is that “local governments have largely been helpless to combat illegal gold mining due to the strength of the criminal groups and their willingness to corrupt local officials”, which should raise the question whether the lack of titles and licenses is an accidental quirk of history or the playing out of a more nefarious game.  Again and again, the research notes that “bribery and the involvement of public officials in extracting and exporting illegally mined gold has been documented.”  Among the many ways the criminal networks operate, according to the article, is to “bribe or intimidate government officials in order to obtain documents showing that illegally produced gold was produced legally.”  In the face of the acknowledged, explicit involvement of state actors in the illegal gold trade, the article’s proposed solution is a litany of prescriptions, a series of should’s and ought’s, each of which, in idealistic splendor, ignores the underlying reality of organized crime and catalogues tried-and-failed capacity building initiatives, including enhanced protocols, better regulations and laws, and more international coordination and cooperation.

    3. Organized Crime or Corruption: In conflict-affected environments

    Unlike the first two articles, the third, The Hellish Road to Good Intentions: How to Break Political-Criminal Alliances in Contexts of Transition, does not focus on a selected industry, but on a political topic, conflict-affected and post-conflict environments in which the international community has intervened.  In these transitional and state-building environments, the article shrewdly distinguishes between “labor-intensive and non-labor intensive illicit economies and transactional crimes from predatory crimes.” Just like the previous two articles, the third admits that, in these environments, “criminality and political arrangements are mutually constitutive” and goes on to observe, shrewdly, that

    organized crime and illicit economies are mutually constitutive with political processes organic to the system, even if deleterious from the perspective of accountability and rule of law. They do not merely undermine the state; the state uses them for its purposes.

    Nevertheless – or precisely because of its insight – the article’s intellectual confusion on the virulence of organized crime is profoundly disturbing.  On the one hand, the article urges the international community to prioritize “anti-corruption and anti-criminality” approaches and strategies.  On the other, it confesses that such recommendations are not “likely to be accomplished… because crime and politics [in these environments] are often so deeply intertwined” and, worse, international forces are endemically unable “effectively [to] train local police forces”.  The article wants the international community to renegotiate political settlements in post-conflict environments, but tellingly admits that “outside intervention forces often have… only a poor capacity to understand local illicit economies and patronage networks of crime and politics”.  Out of this intellectual muddle and refusal to accept its own empirical evidence about the power of organized crime emerges the same theology, a plea for the international community to “set up capable state structures”.  As with its two-companion articles, the third devolves into a clarion trumpet for ‘good governance,’ defined as “strengthening checks and balances within the political system, reducing patronage, clientelism, and corruption,” despite the fact that this is precisely what the organized criminal networks, which includes politicians as founding partners, will not accede to implementing, for it goes against their self-interests.


    What programming from an Organized Crime perspective looks like

    Programming that begins from an organized criminal network perspective assumes that state actors are, likely, married into the networks and, therefore, at a minimum, part-owners of organized crime.  Though states are not monolithic and not all state actors are inevitably married into organized criminal networks, it is improbable that owners of the networks will undertake ‘anti-corruption and/or good governance initiatives’ that undermine their long-term private interests as they perceive them to be.

    The second assumption is that organized criminal networks operate as businesses and, like all businesses, they function according to a value-added model.  For each specialised link or phase of production in the network, there is an implied ‘value added.’ Analysing who contributes what ‘value added’ can provide an appreciation of the different entry points to tackle that network.  The higher the value of an actor in the production chain, the more likely it is that that actor’s skills are rare and increases the probability that altering his/her participation will be disruptive.

    Take the trafficking of persons from Nigeria into the European sex industry as an example.  It is a highly-organized crime with state actors deeply involved in its perpetuation.  The value-added approach would not target the supply of persons into the marketplace and, thus, not propose livelihood or rights awareness approaches, neither of which has empirical evidence of effectiveness.  Nor would value-added approach go down the institutional capacity building model and continue to bolster NAPTIP, the specialized Nigerian anti-trafficking criminal justice unit. NAPTIP has been receiving international capacity building support for years and has shown almost no effectiveness.  Data up to spring 2017 indicates that each NAPTIP case brought to court has implicated only 1.3 alleged traffickers, indicating that those alleged traffickers were very low on the network rung, are not major players, and are definitely not the principal state actors who are partners in the networks.

    Instead, the value-added approach would target part of the production chain that may have the highest value-added.  This may be the juju practitioners, who are widely claimed to be pivotal in the trafficking networks and relatively few, comparatively, in number.  The approach could borrow from programming that has successfully reduced female genital mutilation through working with the cutters.

    For the fishing industry in Africa and the mineral mining in the Andean Region, the approach to those industries and their organized criminal networks should not be more ‘good governance’ and anti-corruption programming that has little probability of success.  Instead of more theology, the excellent empirical evidence contained in each article needs to be re-interpreted to see where is the value-added moment in the production chain that is most susceptible to leverage, despite the co-ownership of the networks by powerful state actors.

    For peacebuilding in conflict-affected and post-conflict environments the approach should not be more state-building to create more ‘capable states,’ a failed notion whistling in the dark.  If development and democracy is to take place, it will do so in an organized crime environment and will occur in local communities and neighborhoods through their control and diversification of their neighborhood assets.

    Feel welcome to discuss further with the author at

    About the author

    Eric Scheye consults in justice and security development; organized criminal networks; women’s access to justice/ending violence against women; trafficking in persons & modern slavery; anti-gang initiatives; statebuilding; governance; rule of law; and monitoring and evaluation.  Over 20 years, he has worked for and in many countries, emphasizing the need and use of reliable empirical analyses to identify credible programmatic and policy options.  He has also participated on portfolio reviews of, respectively, the United Kingdom, Australia, and the European Commission’s justice and security programming.

    He is currently working on an organized crime in Africa project; with the Mexican Federal Police; and a series of revisions and rethinking of USAID policies and practices with regard to gender, institution-building, M&E and programming in security and justice development.

    His other most recently completed assignments included devising programmatic options for how to support local community development in an environment in which organized crime and organized criminal networks are virulent and prolific.  He has also written an analysis of the empirical ‘what works’ in programming intended to prevent/reduce trafficking of persons.  In these assignments, he has also proposed new methodologies and approaches to political economy analyses emphasizing a temporal perspective in contrast to the customary systems analyses; suggested that contemporary development concepts such as political ownership and political will are obsolete given the marriage of state actors into organized criminal networks; and questioned the validity and practical credibility of the current governance agenda with respect to the empirical reality of the ‘aid curse.’

  • First: Prevent the Misallocation of Funds. Then: Strengthen the Rule of Law

    By Liz David-Barrett

    I have argued elsewhere that corruption causes two distinct types of harm. It has a primary impact – the effect of a particular corrupt transaction in terms of misallocating public goods or misspending public money. But there is also a secondary impact – corruption undermines the rule of law. In Ghana recently, interviewing elite members about corruption in procurement, I was struck by how much the discourse focused on the primary impact. This raised some interesting questions about social norms and the sequencing of anti-corruption reform.


    Corruption causes two types of harm

    Take one common form of corruption: a public contract is allocated not on the basis of an open and fair competition among many bidders, but to a crony, through a closed or rigged process. This is commonplace, the kind of transaction seen all around the world, even in countries regarded as clean. The drivers and mechanisms vary according to context – the crony might pay a kickback to an individual, might receive the contract as a reward for campaign support, or might be a nephew with a struggling business who needs a favour. The structure of the transaction is similar everywhere: someone with power subverts the formal process to favour a friend.

    The primary impact of such transactions is that public resources are misallocated. Often this means that services are not provided, roads and schools are built to poor quality, and ultimately lives may be lost as a result of corrupt contracting. Yet it is also possible that the crony company is the best one for the job, that they deliver value for money, provide an excellent service, and are accountable for their work. Such favourable outcomes are arguably less likely to emerge than if the contract was awarded fairly, although highly regulated procurement processes can themselves produce some perverse outcomes (and insiders sometimes rig the process with the public interest in mind). But favourable outcomes are possible: the primary impact is not necessarily harmful.

    The secondary impact of corruption is different. In our large societies, we operate under a set of rules which are the product of consensus, and we have expectations about what it means to apply them fairly. All corrupt transactions, without exception, undermine this rule of law. With every contract awarded on the basis of favouritism, the message to society is that the rules that are written down are not the ones that prevail, or that they do not apply equally to all. This secondary impact can cause significant harm too.


    Should we only focus on the waste? Reflections from Ghana

    In Ghana recently, conducting interviews with the elite about corruption in procurement, I was struck by how much the discourse focuses on the primary impact of corruption. I was honoured to speak to some very high-integrity individuals, known for their vigorous efforts in campaigning against corruption and for having secured very significant achievements. When we discussed corruption in procurement, they were disgusted by what they saw, but their concern was largely with the primary impact.

    The discourse about corrupt contracting in Ghana centres heavily on how much public money is wasted. What strikes people as most abhorrent about some of the recent procurement corruption scandals is that prices have been massively inflated, or money spent unnecessarily. Indeed, there have been some egregious cases – the 800,000 dollars spent on branding buses with Ghanaian colours stands out, but is not unusual. But when I probed on how things should have been different, I encountered widespread acceptance of a social norm that public contracts should be allocated to cronies or relatives. This was seen by many people as problematic if and only if costs were also inflated. In other words, the focus of debate is on the primary impact – the loss to the budget, and short-term service delivery.

    Exploring further, there seems to be a widely held view that favouritism, rather than undermining the rule of law, is an expression of a deeper social norm, a ‘law of human nature’. “Of course, we should help our relatives!”, some committed anti-corruption activists told me. “Naturally, we need to reward those who supported our election campaign!” This ‘naturalness’ is invoked to argue either that such practices are ethical or at the very least that they are inevitable, and there is no point trying to prevent them.


    Realism or selling out?

    At one level, I agree. What has always fascinated me about studying corruption is the very fine nature of that line between behaving corruptly and our desire to help those with whom we are socially connected. But privileging one person who has the right social connections inevitably means disadvantaging someone else who does not. That is why corruption always undermines the rule of law and breeds a sense of injustice. And that in turn disrupts the process of building state legitimacy, hindering governments from delivering their part of the social contract. Fighting corruption cannot and should not be about trying to eradicate social bonds. But it can be about creating a space in which the power and resources of the state are used and distributed according to rules which everybody sees as fair.

    I have a nagging worry that ignoring the secondary impact might undermine the whole enterprise. It depends on the context. In contexts where the rule of law is generally entrenched and secure, an occasional act of favouritism or nepotism might not undermine the rule of law much. As a member of that community, I will still (by and large) trust the system, still expect to be treated equally. Companies will continue to bid for contracts, in the expectation that they will win on merit. Similarly, in situations where the rule of law is practically absent, one corrupt transaction is unlikely to change things much. There is no confidence in the system in the first place, not much to undermine.

    For most developing countries, though, where societies are engaged in building the rule of law right now, this secondary impact might matter a great deal. When a corruption scandal surfaces, it says to people, don’t bother playing by the rules, they don’t matter. What matters is your connections, your social capital, your access to the elite. Rothstein and others have pointed out that such expectations about how others behave present a collective action problem, undermining efforts to fight corruption. Moreover, the implication of this thinking is that when you do have access you should (ab)use it to the full, because you might not have it for long – an effect that might be more severe in poorer societies, where there are fewer alternative ways of making a living.

    However, those discussions in Accra made me think. Could this be a matter of sequencing? In fighting systemic corruption, could or should we focus more on the primary harms, at least as an interim step? If a country moved from a situation in which contracts were allocated corruptly and prices were massively inflated, to a situation where contracts were allocated corruptly but at a reasonable price, this could bring real benefits in terms of developmental outcomes. It might also be easier to achieve because it does not require such an upheaval in accepted norms. Is this a realist strategy that could get things moving, yield some tangible results and build more buy-in for further reform? Or a slippery slope that puts the whole endeavour in jeopardy?

    About this article

    Image adapted from:

    About the author

    Liz David-Barrett is a Senior Lecturer in Politics at the University of Sussex and Deputy Director of the Sussex Centre for the Study of Corruption. Her research interests include corruption in procurement and aid, lobbying and the revolving door, and political ethics.

  • Embedding Social Norms for Effective Anti-Corruption Interventions

    By Ben Cislaghi

    In this post Ben Cislaghi draws our attention to two points that might contribute to our thinking about norms and corruption. The first is that social norms are not an on/off switch: their strength varies as the characteristics of the practice the influence varies. Yet, it’s important to include them in a programmatic strategy even when their influence is weak. The second (and related) point is that effective change in a practice requires, sure, addressing the norms that sustain it; but that interventions should address the various material, institutional, individual and social factors that intersect (and possibly justify) the norm. In this post, he presents a dynamic framework to make sense of similar factors.

    Social norms, the unwritten rules of behaviours shared by members of a given group or society, can contribute to corruption. Many studies exist showing the importance of changing norms to reduce corruption rates. With this post, I want to draw your attention to two points that might contribute to your thinking about norms and corruption. The first is that social norms are not an on/off switch: their strength varies as the characteristics of the practice the influence varies. Yet, it’s important to include them in a programmatic strategy even when their influence is weak. The second (and related) point is that effective change in a practice requires, sure, addressing the norms that sustain it; but that interventions should address the various material, institutional, individual and social factors that intersect (and possibly justify) the norm. In this post, I present a dynamic framework to make sense of similar factors.


    If you haven’t heard about social norms before

    Most readers of this blog are probably already accustomed to standard definitions of social norms: the informal, mostly unwritten, rules of obligatory, appropriate and acceptable behavior shared by people within a given group or society. If you are one of those readers, feel free to skip this section, that is mostly a refresher of social norms theory.

    Social norms obviously vary by context; what’s expected of a well-behaved person might not necessarily be the same in Italy, Japan, and the United States. Norms in the US exist that you should tip the waiting staff at the restaurant, but that is considered profoundly offensive in Japan.

    Norms can sometimes act as a break to positive change. Even though members of the group might personally not want to comply with the norm, they might still comply, believing that’s what everyone expects of them. If nobody ever breaks them (or only if few do) norms (including harmful norms) sustain themselves overtime – even when most members of the group where the harmful norm is active don’t personally like it. History abounds of similar harmful norms that were abandoned when people realized that little support existed in their society for it: foot binding in China, dueling in the 19th century, or – as some argue – more recently female genital cutting in West Africa. This well-known phenomenon, when most people in a group don’t want to do something but they do it to please others, is known in the literature as “pluralistic ignorance.” Of course, this is just one of many ways in which norms and attitudes (“what people want to do”) can intersect. (see figure 1).

    Figure 1. Possible interactions between norms and attitudes (when the norm trumps the attitude).

    The varying strength of social norms

    In a paper by myself and Lori Heise, currently under review, we argued that the strength of the influence of social norms varies, falling on a spectrum. On the strongest end of the spectrum are norms that shape “obligatory” behavior. Vaccinating children, for instance, would fall under this category: not only do I need to vaccinate my children to achieve my own goals (preventing disease), but other people will also enforce it as my noncompliance can prevent them from achieving their goal (if too many people are left unvaccinated, vaccinations are useless).

    On the stronger end are norms that shape appropriate behavior. Think, for instance, of an adolescent who wants to impress her school friends and picks up smoking to be accepted in their group. The adolescent needs others’ approval to achieve her goal, while others don’t need her to keep their status.

    Slightly weaker influence is exerted by norms that shape beliefs of tolerated or acceptable behavior. As an example of such a norm, think of a man harassing a woman in the street, expecting little reaction from bystanders.

    Finally, at their weakest point, normative beliefs can shape ideas of what is possible. A farmer knowing that everyone in her region is using a new type of rice might decide to adopt it, without telling anyone, just under the belief that’s what all other farmers are doing.

    Where corruption-related norms fall on the spectrum

    Corruption-related norms might fall at different points on this spectrum. As a state officer, I might feel obligated to request money for services as I am afraid my colleagues will come after me if I don’t: they might feel threatened by my behavior as it might challenge what people expect from a state officer. Or I might want to report a corrupt senior official, but think that’s not appropriate, fearing the punishment of the group. Or again, I might know that corruption is tolerated, so be bold about asking money for standard services, knowing that nobody is going to come after me for doing so. Or, finally, I might be a new officer joining a state department, and – thinking that everyone in the nation is corrupt – I might just think of it as a concrete possibility in my work.

    When they are at their weakest, practitioners might imagine that norms have negligible influence. And yet, even at their weakest, they can put a brake on positive change. Practitioners might wonder why, having changed all other conditions contributing to a given practice, they might not witness change as a result. One of the possible answer is that they might have to address the related norms as well.


    Effective interventions embed norms within a dynamic framework

    To effectively achieve change, practitioners need to understand the role of different material, social, individual, and structural (also called: institutional) factors on the given practice. Even more importantly, they need to take into account the factors falling at the intersections between different domains. Intersections include factors that might be influenced by both domains. (see figure 2)

    Figure 2.The Flower Framework: A dynamic framework for change. Source: Cislaghi and Heise (under review).

    Take for instance the intersection between material and social: the way a hospital is built might need to take into account the stigma faced by women seeking help for issues related their sexual health in a given community (as we had found in a qualitative study on fistula1). Effective interventions would need to map all the different factors sustaining corruption, including, just to cite a few: the material needs of the population, the laws and policies, how officers implement those laws, the knowledge that citizens have of those laws, family structure, and the weak and strong norms protecting corruption practices in the given setting of the intervention.

    In conclusion, we suggest that when planning an anti-corruption intervention it is critical to understand the strength of social norms’ influence over various behaviours that sustain corruption, and interventions are designed to address the interaction of norms with other institutional, individual, social, and material factors. We hope that the flower framework might serve as a framework for practitioners willing to engage in a diagnosis of those factors.

    1 Cislaghi, B., C. Lunde, and P. Gueye, Raising the curtain: An exploration of community beliefs and norms related to fistula in rural Senegal. 2015, Dakar: Tostan

    The two papers by Ben Cislaghi and Lori Heise which are under review are:

    Cislaghi, B. and L. Heise, Four avenues of normative influence. under review.

    Cislaghi, B. and L. Heise, A dynamic framework for using social norms to prevent harmful behaviours in low and mid-income countries. under review.

    About the author

    Ben Cislaghi is Assistant Professor in Social Norms at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (Centre for Gender, Health and Violence). Before joining the academia Ben worked for various NGOs and International Organisations, including UNICEF, WHO, and ILO. After his PhD, on human rights and social change, he worked for three years in Senegal as the Director of Research, Monitoring, and Evaluation of Tostan, a non-governmental agency internationally recognised for their work on social norms in West Africa. During this time, he also worked as a qualitative researcher with Stanford and Columbia Universities. At the LSHTM he is gathering a community of experts on social norms, advancing existing understanding of how norms change and how that change can be measured. He is also contributing to the LINEA project. He is interested in how community-based responses can achieve change in social norms and reduction in gender-based violence, and in the role of social norms among other factors in influencing people’s actions. His second book, Human Rights and Community-led development, is forthcoming with EUP.

  • Why the International Community’s Efforts to Reform Police and Justice in the Central African Republic Might be Making the Situation Worse

    By Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church

    In this post Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church shares evidence to support why if we want citizen security and criminal justice to be a reality in the future in the Central African Republic, now is the time to integrate anti-corruption into police, justice and corrections reform programming.


    Significant investment has been made by the international community in police, courts and corrections in the Central African Republic (CAR) over the past few years.  Yet the programming, in spite of the good intentions behind it, is based on flawed theories of change derived from apolitical needs assessments that are wholly inappropriate for a fragile state.  At best, the efforts will deliver marginal results and, at worst, the work will contribute to the insecurity and distortion of justice because of the total lack of corruption-sensitivity.

    There is no function within the police, courts and corrections in CAR that is not touched by corruption.   Since the calming of the 2013 Séléka/anti-Balaka crisis, the primordial purpose of its criminal justice system (CJS) has become to service the rich and well-connected.   This makes extortion, sexual favors, favoritism and political interference, the keystones of the CJS.  For a full description of the corruption as a system in the CJS and how the recent crisis contributed to it based on our new research, please see here.


    Big investment in CJS reform, but it could be making the corruption worse

    Significant financial resources have been allocated to support police, courts and corrections by the United States, the European Union (EU) and France.  This includes three large scale efforts: the UN Joint Program(predominately supported by the USG), the EU’s Rehabilitation of the Justice and Police Sector Program, and the French government’s provision of technical assistance to government ministries.

    Despite the prevalence of corruption, there is not a single explicit element in any of the programs that attempts to right the distortion that is corruption.  Instead, collectively the programming focuses on the provision of equipment, rebuilding infrastructure and training.  To be fair, it could be argued that there are select elements of programming that indirectly act as anti-corruption measures, such as the professional ethics session within police training, but even these do not explicitly acknowledge corruption as an issue.

    What’s wrong with that; the 2013 crisis destroyed CAR’s infrastructure and the donor community is supporting its reconstruction; right? Wrong, it is not that simple! In a context where the pre-crisis CJS served the purpose of citizen security and justice this might be a fair assessment.  But that is not CAR or any other fragile state for that matter. In a place where the primary purpose of the criminal justice system is to serve the wealthy and well-connected, by injecting assets into the system (e.g. provision of computers) what we are doing is making that system better at achieving these ends – the service of the wealthy. Consider the police; more cars, uniforms and boots for the police makes them look more official, gives them means to coerce and more mobility to expand their reach. All of which makes them more effective at what they were already doing – using their role to extort citizens.

    At minimum, internationally, supported efforts should not exacerbate a negative dynamic in society.  Inspired by the concept of conflict sensitivity, we argue that the minimum standard should be corruption-sensitivity. In other words, programming should not make the system of corruption worse.

    What is conflict sensitivity?

    Conflict sensitivity refers to the practice of understanding how aid interacts with conflict in a particular context, to mitigate unintended negative effects, and to influence conflict positively wherever possible, through humanitarian, development and/or peacebuilding interventions.

    Corruption makes programming ineffective

    Not addressing corruption in the current programs undermines their ability to reach their goals, regardless of how modest those may be.  For instance, corruption in the administration enables people to change their birth certificates and become age eligible to participate in the international community supported police recruitment process.  Consider, the allocation of vehicles to the police.  These get allocated based on hierarchy and relationships rather than need or role.  This is why wives of senior ranking police officers are seen driving around in these vehicles.  Final illustration – the training programs that are being offered are populated with individuals who are well-connected and are ‘granted’ access to the program, and its per diems, solely based on their connection.   We cannot confuse the fact that the programs are running, with those programming being effective.


    Apolitical approaches are not appropriate for the criminal justice system in a fragile state

    The assumption that assets will be used to serve and protect people is a symptom of the apolitical approach that the donor community took to understand the context– namely the use of needs assessments – and to develop the theories of change that underpin these programs. Based on descriptions from the field, the most common theory of change claims that first the CJS must be rebuilt, then made operational, and then address the quality of its processes; at which point—in theory—an anti-corruption effort could be initiated.  The second theory of change asserts that by giving judicial actors the appropriate tools and skills, they will do better work.

    Donor representatives in-country referenced the original needs assessments that were conducted, which make sense from the perspective of the theories of change that were being used. If you want to rebuild understanding what currently exists makes sense, but is not wise nor strategic when one considers the subject matter and context.  While these are reasonable appraisal methods for humanitarian or basic development programming, these apolitical processes, when coupled with a political elite who wishes to maintain the status quo of influence peddling, result in priorities that have been established in a vacuum.  This makes the theories fundamentally flawed, because they do not take into account the role that corruption plays in the dysfunction of the CJS.


    Now is the time to act on corruption

    If we want citizen security and criminal justice to be a reality in the future in CAR, now is the time to integrate anti-corruption into police, justice and corrections reform programming.  There are three compelling reasons to act now;

    1. If history repeats itself, donor community interest in CAR will rapidly decline once the overt threat of violence is stemmed. Without significant presence by a collection of like-minded international donors, no individual bilateral donor will have the influence to change the broader system.  With the international community’s outsized influence in CAR at the moment, it is still possible that it could impact the system.

    2. If programming continues as planned, by the time it gets to its final stages the corruption system will be so deeply entrenched that finding a toe-hold will be extraordinarily difficult. The loyalty-based recruitment and advancement mechanisms will have firmly stitched criminal justice actors into obligatory relationships that dictate behavior such as turning a blind eye to sexual abuse or changing justice outcomes.   As this already extends into the political arena, the manipulation of criminal justice by state actors so that they can maintain their power will only continue.

    3. Finally, corruption within the police, courts and corrections – regardless of whether it is labelled ‘petty’ or ‘administrative’ – is not a minor infraction when it comes to the consequences. In this sector, petty corruption equates to torture, abuse, insecurity, sexual assault and human rights abuse for the people who cannot comply.  On a more systematic level, when every element within the CJS is premised on corruption, it becomes a key barrier between positive and negative peace.  Not dealing with the corruption in the CJS, locks the Central African Republic in a cycle of insecurity, violence, gross inequality and injustice; where the state institutions act as the perpetrators of this cycle.


    To learn more

    In other posts, we explain how corruption connects to the CAR crisis, and how being connected to other people is a key survival strategy in CAR.

    The research

    Findings are based on 115 interviews conducted in Bangui over the summer of 2017.  In addition to standard qualitative coding, casual loop mapping was used as a means of analysis.  The final report was authored by Ladislas de Coster, Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church, and Kiely Barnard-Webster with the support of Kessy Martine Ekomo-Soignet, Peter Woodrow and Arsène Sende.  It is available in English and French.

    About this article

    Image: Human Rights Watch, “Central African Republic: Justice is Key to Recovery and Peace-Building” November 16, 2016

    About the author

    Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church is Principal at Besa: Catalyzing Strategic Change, a social enterprise committed to catalysing significant change on strategic issues in places experiencing conflict and structural or overt physical violence. She has significant experience working on anti-corruption and state legitimacy in the DRC and Uganda. As a Professor of Practice, she teaches and consults on program design, monitoring, evaluation and learning.

  • Pity the Man Who Stands Alone

    By Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church

    In this post Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church shares findings on how: (1) Acts of jealousy and revenge fuel the manipulation of the criminal justice system in the Central African Republic, and (2) how favoritism is a critical organizing factor within the system.

    Pity the man who stands alone; “Mawa na zo so a douti gui lo oko.”  This Sango proverb encapsulates a powerful dimension to the system of corruption in the police, courts and corrections in Central African Republic (CAR).  To be without connections – familial, professional, ethnic – kills potential advancement, extinguishes opportunities and puts one in a highly vulnerable position.  The latter, is not only pertinent to the regular calamities of living in a fragile state, but more specifically to revenge or retaliation for past wrongs (real or perceived) that are a very real social phenomenon in Bangui.  In this context, having no connections that can be called on in a time of need is seen as one of the worst fates possible.

    The majority of the corruption dynamics in the criminal justice system (CJS) in Bangui, CAR, as identified in our latest research, were explained in our last post.  The corruption is not a collection of individual transactions, but rather a pattern of behavior driven and enabled by a myriad of factors ranging from poverty to poor equipment to fear of incarceration.  The consequences of which are impunity, distrust in the police and courts as institutions, more corruption and mob justice.  All of which feed back into the vicious cycle of corruption in the CJS.

    Two important and related themes that came out of the research that we wanted to highlight to a greater degree are the extent to which social and professional connections impact the CJS and the role of jealousy and revenge as drivers of corruption.


    Acts of jealousy and revenge fuel the manipulation of the criminal justice system

    Jealousy and revenge act as drivers in the system of corruption in the CJS in Bangui; particularly amongst citizens.  From the perspective of corruption, the data suggests that acting on jealousy is common and often involves the need to manipulate the CJS.  Jealousy appears to be generated by pure envy of someone’s success or a sense of inappropriate advancement of someone who is perceived to be on the same or lessor rung in the ladder of a social hierarchy.  In other words, someone who is perceived as similar or lessor in social status but has more material assets can generate significant jealousy.  Regardless of the cause of jealousy it can result in false accusations being made such as theft, assault or rape; thus inserting the accused into the CJS.  This situation plays out across men and women, however in the case of women false accusations far more commonly take the form of allegations of witchcraft; an offense captured in the criminal code in CAR.  These accusations are facilitated by bribing, typically, a police officer to initiate an arrest.

    There is significant fear experienced by the average citizen – and even more so by members of the Muslim community – of being ensnared in the CJS because it is perceived that there is no fair and legal way out.  This pervasive dread creates a sense that one must do whatever it takes to get out; be it bribe, offer sexual favors or make a call to a connection on the inside that may be able to act as an intermediary to help them get out.

    The same chain of events is also triggered in Bangui by revenge.  People have long memories for past slights, perceived wrongs and actual crimes that have gone unpunished because of the rampant impunity created by a corrupt CJS.  When the opportunity to take revenge arises, false criminal accusations are a common means utilized.  The Séléka/anti-Balaka crisis, with its neighbor-on-neighbor violence and destruction of property, has exacerbated this dynamic.  Citizens spoke of harboring grievances against individuals in their community, where they awaited an opportunity to take revenge.


    Favoritism: a critical organizing factor within the criminal justice system

    Favoritism in all its forms (nepotism, cronyism, etc.) is rife in most fragile states; with CAR being no different.  It is through favoritism that recruitment and advancement in the CJS is managed.  Hiring, promotion, task allocation (this ranges from discrete tasks, to case allocation to where one is physically stationed) and professional opportunities (e.g. international courses or local trainings) are all dictated by a loyalty-based system of obligations.  This system is often reinforced by financial flows, whereby those lower in the hierarchy are expected to provide a “written-report” to their superior.   Contrary to the name, this “report” does not involve paper, except for the kind that money is printed on, and it could also include material items like goats.   Perversely, a ‘good’ boss is seen as one who upon receipt of the written report divides it out amongst their team.

    Non-compliance with these established, connections-based practices has minor to severe consequences. A criminal justice actor who fails to provide a “written account” to his/her superior or refuses to do a favor for a colleague will typically be transferred to “arid lands”.  A description used for positions or places that offer no opportunity to supplement income or professional accomplishment — the opposite of “juicy” locations.  Given the familial expectation to use one’s position for security and advancement of the family, this also has personal consequences.   Further, there appears to be no ‘statue of limitations’ for exacting a punishment when one’s expectations are not met.  Reprisal for a breach can happen immediately, or far down the road.  Colleagues are known to wait until the person-in-question is in need (e.g. they have a family member who has been arrested) and then refuse to help or stall the case.  Disappointed colleagues can also use false accusations in retaliation.

    The consequences of not fulfilling a request for help are widely understood.  Within the CJS, this exerts a constant pressure on actors to conform to established practices which abuse power for personal gain.


    Help those in my circles: a social norm

    Favoritism does not just exist within the CJS.  Having to “help those in my circle” is a social norm that transcends all groups in Bangui. Mutual obligations within families and between personal connections act as a social safety net in this society and is not a new phenomenon.  The notions of family and familial connections have always been central to how society functions in CAR.   French colonial administrators attempted to control the population by leveraging ethnic identity, as did various leaders post-independence.  Despite this, family and clan identity remained the primary identity markers.

    Acts associated with helping those in one’s circle are (1) typically done, (2) viewed as appropriate behavior, and (3) result in social sanction when not followed; and thus, qualify as a social norm. In this context, responding to this social expectation often results in abuse of power for personal gain (aka corruption); making this an indirect driver of corruption.

    When it comes to criminal justice, the social norm of “helping those in my circle” becomes apparent when ‘favors’ are requested of criminal justice actors for assistance.  Requests can originate with colleagues, family or acquaintances and are typically made to aid someone to get out of the system.  In these situations, the connection often acts as an intermediary, seeking to influence or exert pressure on the criminal justice actor who has power over the case.  Actors in CAR explained that a two-pronged strategy – money plus an intermediary – is the best way to secure an outcome in the CJS.  Without the latter it is likely that the money “will be eaten” while not changing the outcome.

    Not fulfilling the expectations that accompany connection generally results in social sanction; anything from isolation to retaliation.  Though similar to what happens within the CJS, interviewees report that the consequences are more severe and more harmful when one does not fulfill the obligations of family.


    To learn more

    In other posts, we explain how corruption blind programming in CAR is doing more harm than good, and tease out the connections to the CAR crisis.

    The research

    Findings are based on 115 interviews conducted in Bangui over the summer of 2017.  In addition to standard qualitative coding, casual loop mapping was used as a means of analysis.  The final report was authored by Ladislas de Coster, Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church, Kiely Barnard-Webster with the support of Kessy Martine Ekomo-Soignet, Peter Woodrow and Arsène Sende.  It is available in English and French.

    About the author

    Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church is Principal at Besa: Catalyzing Strategic Change, a social enterprise committed to catalysing significant change on strategic issues in places experiencing conflict and structural or overt physical violence. She has significant experience working on anti-corruption and state legitimacy in the DRC and Uganda. As a Professor of Practice, she teaches and consults on program design, monitoring, evaluation and learning.

  • How the Séléka/Anti-Balaka Crisis Has Been Gas on the Fire of Corruption in the Central African Republic

    By  Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church

    In this post Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church shares findings from our new research examining corruption in the criminal justice sector in the Central African Republic (CAR). The systems analysis and findings discussed in this post shed light on how the 2013 conflict in CAR interacted with and impacted the system of corruption.


    Anyone who works in peacebuilding knows that conflict feeds corruption; it is a conflict context truism.  It is generally understood that with conflict comes, amongst other things, diminished rule of law, more profiteering, greater basic needs, all of which drive or enable abuse of power for personal gain.  Drilling down into exactly how these factors interact or mix with conflict dynamics themselves, however, is less explored.  Our latest research examining corruption in the criminal justice system (CJS) in the Central African Republic [EnglishFrench] shines some light on these relationships.  By using a causal loop map as an analytic lens to understand the system of corruption in the CJS, the interactions between corruption and the Séléka/anti-Balaka crisis became clearer.

    Developing a corruption analysis methodology

    This is the third study of corruption in the criminal justice system in a fragile state conducted as part of the Corruption, Justice and Legitimacy project. Using systems thinking, this effort is developing a corruption analysis methodology that seeks to catalyze more effective anti-corruption programming.  The initial pilot occurred in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2014, and we have updated the analysis periodically; here and here.  The Northern Uganda corruption analysis, Facilitation in the Criminal Justice System, was published in 2016.


    Why the focus on the criminal justice system?

    In some ways the corruption in the CJS (i.e. this encompasses the full chain from police to corrections), mirrors other sectors within Central African Republic (CAR).  Government services, where they are available, have been monetized across all government institutions; not just the CJS. The unique feature of corruption in criminal justice, however, is that it allows official actors to take measures that deprive people of their liberty.  This power to imprison greatly influences the ways in which corrupt acts are implemented, and it also influences the causes and consequences of corruption.   Not to mention, how could one tackle corruption in any other sector when those responsible for law enforcement are themselves on the take.


    The system of corruption in the police, courts and corrections in CAR

    To understand the relationship between the 2013 Séléka/anti-Balaka crisis and corruption, one needs a general understanding of the CJS corruption dynamics in CAR.  There are many elements that mirror corruption in the CJS in other fragile states.  Criminal justice actors like policemen, judges or prison guards, demand and accept payments, including sexual favors, in return for a service, privilege or outcome.  Many of these de-facto ‘taxes’ are charged for basic functions such as to file a complaint or receive food in prison.  Greater amounts exchange hands when changing the outcomes of a file are involved; the amounts commensurate with severity of the crime.   Actors justify their actions by pointing at the lack of resources, poor or non-existing equipment, and ignorance of rules and procedures by criminal justice actors and citizens alike.

    In CAR, extortion/bribery are clearly the most common form of corruption in the CJS.  Women assert that sexual favors follow in second place while men locate favoritism as second.   Anyone who can, combines tactics, e.g. fiscal with influence, to maximize the likelihood of securing their desired outcome. Pressure is brought to bear on the authority in question to secure the outcome of the financial “contribution” using connections, preferably familial, but also ethnic. Without the presence of an intermediary with influence it is just as likely that a bribe will “get eaten,” as it is to secure the intended outcome.

    Extortion by criminal justice actors and the manipulation of these actors by citizens contribute to unjust release of criminals, which increases the sense of insecurity and potential crime in communities; especially given the propensity for retaliation in CAR’s capital, Bangui.  This has two deleterious effects; the increased use of mob justice and the erosion of the trust in criminal justice institutions; which in turn exacerbates the use of mob justice.  Impunity for crime and for corruption plays a heavy hand in this negative dynamic increasing the amount of extortion, and exacerbating the perception of negative political leadership.

    Meanwhile, the distrust of the CJS gets exacerbated by the persistent belief that justice is only available for the rich and well connected.  This amplifies already existing inequality in the society and particularly in Bangui.   With distrust comes fear; fear of getting caught up in a system where the only rule is that the wealthy and connected get their way.  This makes false accusations for the purpose of revenge (including accusations of witchcraft) that much more powerful.  (Our next post will explore these particular dynamics to a greater degree)


    Where does the Séléka/anti-Balaka crisis fit in?

    The Séléka/anti-Balaka crisis had professional, personal, and societal impacts that reverberated throughout the system of corruption in the CJS.  Professionally, the final semblance of professional ethics – a central pillar underscoring justice — in the CJS fell away.  Personally, the loss of wealth (e.g. houses, cars) from the crisis created a need (real and perceived) to quickly recoup one’s assets; using whatever means possible.  This sense of scarcity and loss magnified existing norms in Bangui that indirectly support abuse of power for personal gain (i.e. corruption).  Most importantly, the responsibility to ensure extended family survival and advancement became even more intense for those who were seen to have access to lucrative opportunities.  In this context, refusing to help a relation, personal connection (e.g. same ethnicity) or colleague is not taken lightly; leading to isolation and possible reprisals.

    At the same time, the impact of the crisis and violence at a societal level also heightened the sense of insecurity and the pressure on individuals to help their families in any way they can.  The crisis destroyed infrastructure, further diminishing the effectiveness of all state functions.  This reduced the level of resources available within the government, which was already meagre.  A reduction in resources negatively affected criminal justice actors, and particularly lower level ones; salaries were unpaid for months at a time and standard cost of living raises were halted.  With heightened pressure for extra income, the demand for illegal payments also increased as did the demand for advancement to assignments that offer the possibility of enrichment. Advancements were, and still are, commonly obtained through favoritism, but it was reported that sexual favors are also used as a means to the same end.


    Aggravation of grievances in the Muslim community

    The Muslim community has almost no representation within the CJS.  Groups without contacts “on the inside” have little opportunity to gain entry to the profession because hiring and internal advancement are predominately dictated by connections.   This favoritism-based model establishes expectations for future interactions that reverberate throughout the functioning of the system.  For instance, accessing professional opportunities, like training programs supported by the international community (read: hefty per diems), is dictated by loyalty-based arrangements and obligations.  The absence of representatives of their own community, who can use their influence on their behalf; is one cause amongst several, that generates a distrust in the criminal justice institutions.

    This distrust is reinforced by the past treatment and discrimination experienced by the Muslim community at the hands of the police, courts and corrections.  One of the ways that the criminal justice actors discriminate against Muslims is by demanding that they pay higher ‘fees’ than non-Muslims.  Ironically, some in the police lament that due to the crisis Muslims are less present on the street and therefore it has cut into their illicit earnings.  The collective result of the mistreatment is a palpable fear of incarceration; reinforced by a cultural sense of shame for members of the community who have been incarcerated.  Moreover, it has created a negative mental model that filters every situation and dictates behavior such as “do anything to get away from the CJS.”  Practically this means Muslims view “pre-emptive” payments as a necessary part of any interaction with the CJS.

    These dynamics exacerbate inequality and the perception that justice is only for the rich and connected.  This causes friction in many ways, one of which being those external to the Muslim community, perceive the Muslim community as buying their way to impunity.    For those within the Muslim community the persistent corruption amongst the CJS feeds Muslim grievances—grievances that the 2013 crisis shows can erupt into violence.


    What’s next?

    The next post in this three-part series on CAR will look at the role of connections, obligations, revenge and retaliation as an important dynamic within the system of corruption.

    The research

    Findings are based on 115 interviews conducted in Bangui over the summer of 2017.  In addition to standard qualitative coding, casual loop mapping was used as a means of analysis.  The final report was authored by Ladislas de Coster, Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church, Kiely Barnard-Webster with the support of Kessy Martine Ekomo-Soignet, Peter Woodrow and Arsène Sende.  It is available in English and French.

    The complete map


    About this article

    Image: Wood coals, retrieved from:


    About the author

    Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church is Principal at Besa: Catalyzing Strategic Change, a social enterprise committed to catalysing significant change on strategic issues in places experiencing conflict and structural or overt physical violence. She has significant experience working on anti-corruption and state legitimacy in the DRC and Uganda. As a Professor of Practice, she teaches and consults on program design, monitoring, evaluation and learning.
  • Reflections on Using Most Significant Change in An Anti-Corruption Program

    By Sandra Sjogren and Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church

    In this post, Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church and Sandra Sjogren reflect on their experience using Most Significant Change (MSC) in monitoring an anti-corruption program. We discuss the fit to our context, question why the stories were all about success and share some of the impacts the process had on the Network itself. These reflections build from our prior post, where we described our monitoring needs, why we picked MSC and the steps we took.


    The participatory nature of MSC was a good fit, but it took time

    MSC, with its participatory process and focus on storytelling proved to be a good fit for the group for two reasons.  First there is a cultural familiarity with story-telling which meant participants had an immediate affiliation to the approach.  Second, it is second-nature for educated criminal justice professionals to pay attention to detail and articulate arguments.

    Despite or possibly because of this, the process of explaining the method, writing stories, sharing and discussing with the network (app. 12-15 people) took half a day to a full day; somewhat longer than expected.  This was partially due to the detail-oriented nature of the group and their desire to confirm they were doing it ‘right’ at each juncture in the process.


    The MSC method impacted the Network

    Given the Network size at the time, it was not possible to make the stories completely anonymous or have totally different participants in each MSC session.  As a result we expected friendly competition to arise within the group about who had the ‘best’ story during the selection process.  However, we didn’t expect the story selection process to get so competitive that after the first session the program team was jokingly ‘accused’ of favoritism.

    In the next MSC session, in an attempt to avoid the perception of favoritism, we dedicated more time to explaining the selection process and criteria.   Nonetheless the program team was sufficiently concerned about a deleterious consequence on network cohesion that it advocated to not have the same person’s story selected more than once.

    Conversely, the process also positively impacted the group.  The experience of discussing each story helped create cohesion in the Network.  It reinforced a sense of solidarity amongst members and gave us insight into what mattered most to the group.  To date the positive effects of the MSC process have outweighed the concerning elements of competition.


    Did the method promote an overly positive response?

    Almost all of the stories that were gathered throughout the MSC were positive in terms of changes in the direction the program intended. We had no reason to believe that there were important negative stories being intentionally hidden or avoided, but since combatting corruption in the justice sector is not without challenge we did expect to hear at least some stories that would reflect experiences of difficulty.

    Over time we started to worry about social desirability bias playing too much of a role in the stories that were told and selected.  Upon reflection, there are several additional plausible explanations for the overwhelmingly positive nature of the stories offered.  One is that the nature of the network implicitly pressured participants to only tell stories of resistance against corruption.   Another is that the way the questions were introduced and/or the description of the purpose of the meeting left or led the participants towards positive stories. Another possible explanation could be the complex political context in DRC. With all members of the Network being justice professionals, they may have self-filtered to avoid potential problems with their institution.


    Determining significance of a story was not simple

    The MSC process produced many interesting stories without difficulty. It was notably harder to gain authentic consensus on which of those stories were the most significant.  One of the challenges was navigating the different ‘status’ levels of group members. We found that the status of who wrote the story did not matter in the technical selection process of the most significant stories – when the committee picked. However, the status of author did become important in the discussion after the committee presented their choices about why the story mattered.  People with status e.g. a magistrate or lawyer informally directed the discussion and made comments on the story itself, e.g. what was “good” about it, but not on why they thought the story was important.

    Looking back, there should have been more time left for the whole group to explain why each thought the story was significant.


    Documenting the stories allowed for multiple uses

    Unexpectedly, the written stories provided the M&E team data that could be used beyond the immediate MSC reviews. For instance, the M&E team analyzed all the stories produced in each session for trends such as common types of change and compared them to the program’s theories of change. These stories were also used in the formative evaluation.


    Would we use MSC for anti-corruption programming again?

    Our most significant takeaway is that using MSC offered us important insights into the real experiences of those involved in the program. Even though it was difficult to dig into significance of each story, MSC gave us more nuance and flexibility than previous monitoring methodologies we’ve used.  This helped us adapt the program quickly, and identify/articulate our assumptions mid-process.

    If we were to use MSC again, we would put greater emphasis on questions that sparked reflection on why change(s) happened. This could be done by leaving more time for discussion after the stories are selected: in our context, information given orally would have been best to complete information from the stories but we chose to spend more time or the writing part.

    About this article


    About the authors

    Sandra Sjögren, MA, has coordinated development programs for multiple international organizations in the Great Lakes region including Search for Common Ground, Heartland Alliance International, Physicians for Human Rights, and more recently, RCN Justice and Démocratie. In addition to her background in program management, Sjögren has extensive experience in monitoring and evaluation in social field. She has conducted qualitative research studies on reintegration of formerly incarcerated persons in the United States, and she supervised the monitoring and evaluation methodology as program coordinator in the justice sector. Sjögren holds a MA in International Studies from the University of Oregon and a BA in political science from the University of Paris. More information can be found on her LinkedIn account, here.


    Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church is Principal at Besa: Catalyzing Strategic Change, a social enterprise committed to catalyzing significant change on strategic issues in places experiencing conflict and structural or overt physical violence. As a Professor of Practice, she teaches and consults on program design, monitoring, evaluation and learning.

  • Why We Need to Kill the ‘Corruption is Cancer’ Analogy

    By Paul M Heywood

    In this post Professor Paul Heywood gives three reasons to why the analogy of corruption as cancer is not just misplaced, but positively unhelpful for efforts to combat corruption.


    When Pope Francis recently described corruption as ‘a cancer that consumes our lives’, he was just the latest in a very long line of world leaders and dignitaries to have done so (see herehereherehere, and here).  In fact, ever since James D Wolfensohn, then president of the World Bank, announced in 1996 that ‘we need to deal with the cancer of corruption’, it has become a virtual cliché to refer to the issue in such terms.

    Indeed, the analogy was expressly justified on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office blog in December 2013 by Nigel Baker, UK Ambassador to the Holy See (2011-16):

    It is right to call corruption a cancer.  When it grows in the body politic, sometimes imperceptibly, it has the ability rapidly and insidiously to infiltrate and destroy the organs of the state. Once embedded, it is very difficult to cut out. Metastasis across society is common. It prevents countries from developing and reaching their full potential, and destroys the ethical and moral foundation of a state.

    There is, of course, a very long history of describing political failings and shortcomings through reference to illness or disease, evident across many different cultural contexts; an archetypal example of corruption seen in such terms – if a somewhat ironic one, in light of current perceptions indices – is Marcellus’ observation in Hamletthat ‘something is rotten in the state of Denmark’.

    My argument in this post is that the analogy of corruption as cancer is not just misplaced, but positively unhelpful for efforts to combat corruption.  There are three main reasons for this.


    What political body contracts the cancer of corruption?

    First, whereas all cancers involve abnormal cell growth and reproduction within a body, there is no equivalent factual description of corruption; instead, despite widespread adoption of the idea of corruption as ‘the abuse of power for private gain’, the definition remains endlessly disputed (and almost certainly irresolvable).  A particular issue, however, is how we should identify the ‘body’ that is being attacked by the cancer of corruption: what is the political equivalent to the human individual?

    One answer, of course, is to equate the body with the entire world, and that seems to be what Pope Francis had in mind.  But whilst corruption ‘spreading’ to different parts of the world might be seen as equivalent to a form of metastasis, that analogy works only at such a level of abstraction as to be simply trite.  Instead, a much more established understanding of the ‘body politic’ in terms of analogy is the nation or the state over which a ruler exercises sovereign authority.  Not only does that reflect common usage (see herehere and here), it also resonates with the dominant focus on the nation-state as the unit of analysis when it comes to researching and combating corruption.

    This focus on the nation-state seems very deeply ingrained.  At two separate workshops in recent months, my suggestion that we should reconsider using the nation-state as an appropriate unit of analysis for understanding corruption (given the increasing evidence that much of the most egregious corruption is transnational and that corruption also varies significantly within states) has met much resistance.  If we don’t focus on the nation-state, I’ve been told, then we will have an uncontrollable proliferation of cases – as if somehow the only units of analysis available are either individuals or states.

    Yet much corruption is plainly transnational: unlike cancer, which remains confined to an individual body no matter how far it spreads, these types of corruption always cut across different bodies politic.  As Alexander Cooley and Jason Sharman persuasively argue in a new article, ‘the methodological nationalism that frames much research and policy on corruption skews our understanding of its increasingly transnational nature.’  The analogy with cancer only serves to reinforce that focus on individual nation states and what they supposedly need to do in order to rid themselves of the disease.


    The question of choice

    The second problem with the analogy is that it serves to underplay a sense of agency in our understanding of corruption.  Although we know ever more about risk factors associated with cancer – some of which can be avoided, others not – it is difficult to conceive that people set out deliberately to get cancer.  Indeed, it is not clear that it would be possible to do so: even though smoking is indisputably linked to lung cancer, for instance, not everyone who smokes succumbs; by the same token, other people who live the healthiest of lifestyles still get cancer.

    The same cannot really be said of corruption.  To engage in any corrupt exchange requires a conscious decision or choice to do so – even if, in social settings where corruption is deeply embedded and endemic, that ‘choice’ may seem so highly constrained as to be near meaningless.  For much routine, day-to-day corruption which entails the payment of small-scale bribes, there is an element of truth in that.  But, as has been pointed out in previous posts on this blog (see hereherehere and here), there are several factors relating to social norms, gender and identity that influence why and whether people engage in corruption, even in the most conflict-affected settings.

    And the idea that choice is somehow constrained is emphatically not true for the kinds of sophisticated, transnational corruption networks that rely on skilled professional enablers and intermediaries to function.  Yet the analogy with cancer suggests that corruption is something that just happens, an ever-present risk to which we are may unfortunately fall victim despite our best efforts.

    For sure, corruption kills in all kinds of ways, and more generally has a hugely negative impact on the quality of life for millions across the world – in particular, in fragile and conflict-affected states, corruption is routinely associated with a host of ills, including widespread violence and killings.  But the FCAS picture is a complex one: corruption in such settings is often as much a symptom as a cause of broader failings in governance, and can even serve as a source of limited stability.  And if we return to the idea of the nation-state as the body politic, it is hard to think of any that has actually died from corruption.  Indeed, we don’t comment in concerned tones: ‘did you hear the terrible news about Canada: it’s been diagnosed with corruption’.


    Focus on treating the patient, not curing the disease

    The third issue is that the use of cancer as an analogy for corruption inevitably suggests that we should be seeking a ‘cure’ – often explicitly so, as in the title of Robert I Rotberg’s latest volume, that describes corruption as ‘an insidious cancer of a national body politic’.  In practice, many of the historically suggested ‘cures’ have been quite crude, prescribing ‘one-size-fits-all’ institutional reforms to strengthen the ‘good governance’ immune system – a sort of political equivalent to a course of radio- or chemotherapy no matter what type of corruption we are seeking to address.

    We are now developing a more sophisticated understanding of corruption, but there is still an overwhelming tendency to see it as a pathology that is susceptible to treatment.  Such an approach runs the risk not only of political naivety, but also of continuing to target such treatments at the level of the nation-state (as in the UNODC’s recent guide on the development and implementation of national anti-corruption strategies).  Ironically enough, recent advances in cancer treatment have started to look at the use of DNA sequencing to develop personalised therapies targeted at the individual level – precisely the kind of highly specific and tailored focus often dismissed as impractical or unrealistic by those working on corruption.

    At root, my real concern is that comparing corruption to cancer serves as a lazy analogy that reflects a broader series of generic, and frankly unhelpful, assumptions.  After more than twenty years writing and researching on the topic of corruption, I have become ever more convinced that we need to change the terms of the conversation and move beyond some of the standard clichés that characterise the field.  Through the British Academy/DFID Anti-Corruption Evidence Programme, we are trying to challenge colleagues to move away from sweeping generalizations about corruption acting as some kind of dependent or independent variable.  Instead, we are encouraging researchers and practitioners alike to focus on the complexity and contradictions of the many manifestations of corruption.  That means embracing the need to reconsider fundamental issues, such as the role of agency, the need to question our units of analysis and to the need to adapt reform initiatives to specific contexts, as well as focusing in much more detail on different sectors and settings.

    About this article

    Blog image: A dividing lung cancer cell. Credit: National Institutes of Health. Retrieved from: The National Cancer Institute.

    About the author

    Paul M Heywood, PhD, FRSA, FAcSS. Professor Paul Heywood holds the Sir Francis Hill Chair of European Politics in the School of Politics and International Relations at the University of Nottingham, UK.  Prior to taking up his Chair in 1995, he taught at the University of Glasgow and Queen Mary College, London.  He studied at the University of Edinburgh, and did his doctorate at the London School of Economics.  His research focuses on political corruption, institutional design and state capacity, and he is author, co-author or editor of eighteen books and more than eighty journal articles and book chapters. Recent funded research includes an ESRC/Hong Kong project on Integrity Management in the UK, HK and China; an EU FP7 project, ANTICORRP, on anti-corruption policies; and TACOD, an EU project on tackling corruption through open data. Professor Heywood is currently leader of a £3.6m British Academy/DFID Anti-Corruption Evidence programme (2015-18), designed to identify new initiatives that can help developing countries tackle the scourge of corruption and the negative impact it has on millions of people’s lives.  He is a Trustee of Transparency International-UK, where he chairs the Advocacy and Research Committee.  Professor Heywood is an elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (2002), a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences (2012), and a Fellow of Leadership Foundation for Higher Education (2013).

  • The Value of a Stereotype: Women Resisting Corruption

    By Kiely Barnard-Webster

    How we almost discredited an important piece to understanding the dynamics of resisting corruption in Democratic Republic of Congo, when we were uncomfortable with what we heard from participants in our gender analysis.


    Last September I wrote about how important it is for anti-corruption practitioners to ask good questions about the ways gender identities motivate or dispel individuals from engaging in corruption. This, I still firmly believe is the best approach for good programming. But is it easier said than done? What if you learn that, contrary to your belief, many truly believe all women really are – inherently – LESS corrupt!? What do you do? In our recent gender and corruption research for CAASDI program, we hypothesize listening to this perception is critical for understanding the context your anti-corruption program is operating in.

    few weeks back, we argued that  for anti-corruption strategies to be effective and productive practitioners might consider: (1) If an anti-corruption program threatens a gender group’s privileged status, this must be taken into account in the program design else it might undermine effectiveness and, (2) If anti-corruption strategies don’t account for the different ways in which gender groups engage in corruption these strategies may not work.


    Why does an anti-corruption implementer need to think about gender?

    Gender roles and power are closely linked. Often, gender roles convey a lot about who has control, power or influence and why, which is critical for several reasons:

    1. Corruption is the abuse of ‘power’ so knowing who has it and who does not is important in better understanding how corruption happens

    2. In thinking about resistance strategies, one needs to have a sense of what power is available, by who and how that resistance would play out.

    This post shares how our gender analysis of key informant interviews opened our eyes to previously overlooked power dynamics in the corruption system.


    The power dynamics embedded in being a guardian of values

    Through our gender analysis — analyzing different experiences and how these might link to corruption — we learned that certain women maintain a reputation as the “guardians of values.” While the implications of this role are diverse, one expectation of women ‘guardians’ is that they resist corruption more than men.

    We learned about this “more resistant” identity category over the course of a significant number of key informant interviews. This identity was closely linked to what interviewees’ perceived to be an ‘inherent woman’s nature’, which we discredited for several reasons, including it being too generic and useless for understanding what really motivates corruption resistance. In further conversations with the Network, however, it became apparent that men and women alike still stood by the existence of that ‘type’ of woman. These female ‘guardians of values’ seemed to be quite central to resistance! This led us to wonder: why is so much significance vested into this identity?


    Role modeling resistance might provide you an important advantage

    A validation workshop with the Network helped to clarify: these dynamics may actually be useful to women in a given context. Social status (i.e., one’s standing in relation to others in society) is a critical factor in determining the degree of influence an individual has in this context. For many women and men among those we spoke to, a woman seen as a protector of values (e.g., responsible for ensuring honesty of criminal justice sector – CJS – colleagues) is in possession of a social status that holds influence. The majority of the women (and men) we interviewed, felt that this reputation, as ‘guardian of values’ might in fact endow women a level of desirable influence.

    It’s a mantle all women in the DRC are expected to carry, but many also choose to uphold. When many women discussed resistance, it was often stated that this was done to protect this valued reputation. From conversations with the Network, being a particularly reputable ‘guardian of values’ makes a woman “well-known” in the courts and she may benefit from the social status and influence that come with “being known.


    Certain women in the DRC may feel empowered by the ‘guardian of values’ gender identity to help them resist corruption. But being expected to resist corruption all the time is a lot of pressure…

    Others, however, during our conversations for this project did not appreciate this reputation, as it put too much pressure on their shoulders to conform to an identity many feel is sexist (re: is it really in a woman’s nature to be less corrupt!?). What if demanding a bribe to pay for your children’s school fees is necessary? A tension exists, for some, to conform to the ‘guardian’ reputation at all costs with little room to negotiate.


    So, making everyone ‘guardians of values’ won’t solve corruption?

    Some women may feel empowered by the ‘guardian’ identity to resist, and will resist corruption more often if it means upholding this important, recognized identity; however, it’s obvious that for some this identity can also be a disadvantage. this approach would definitely not make sense if used to ‘empower’ men.  Interviewed men did not feel pressure to be the ‘guardians of values,’ and these “resistant” identities have been difficult for practitioners to replicate. (Even more so considering the pressure men are under to be corrupt) i.e., “we’re finding it hard to make men feel they are also the guardians of values so that they resist more

    We would have likely missed many of the insights we shared above, and consequently would have missed opportunities to better understand possible drivers for resisting corruption, if we did not conduct a gender analysis.  We recommend that other anti-corruption practitioners also avoid similar “blind spots” in analysis, as : conducting a gender analysis goes far beyond identifying how experiences for men and women differ when it comes to corruption. This is necessary, but not sufficient. Digging deeper is critical for understanding how certain gender identities (and the broader societal gender roles that feed these unique identities) allow for opportunities to access power and status for women in particular.


    In our next post in the gender series, we’ll discuss how incorporating gender into our systems map enriched the project’s analysis process.

    About this article

    • This post is  a continuation of our mini-series on Gender and Corruption in the justice sector research from Lubumbashi, DRC.
    • Header image: Modified version of “Female superhero placeholder” CC BY-SA 3.0 Created: 5 March 2011 by Wikimedia user Vegas Bleeds Neon available here.

    About the author

    Kiely Barnard-Webster is a Program Manager at CDA Collaborative Learning Projects, working on innovative approaches to tackling corruption in the DRC. She is also currently contributing to several different peacebuilding effectiveness and conflict sensitivity projects at CDA, as well as helping to support CDA’s office in Myanmar. Kiely focused her studies on gender analysis and DM&E at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

  • Research Methodology for Identifying Social Norms that Catalyze Corruption

    By Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church


    We believe that social norms are one of the causes of resiliency in corruption systems which is why they require more attention in anti-corruption programming.  Not separate programing necessarily; rather an integrated program model that understands that classic principal-agent approaches may be required but will never be sufficient without a broadened scope to include that which drives corruption (as opposed to what enables corruption). The first step to integrate social norm change into anti-corruption programming and to make sure other programming does not inadvertently make corruption worse, is to identify the social norms at play.

    We had the opportunity to test a method as part of a context analysis we were doing on corruption in the criminal justice sector in Bangui, Central Africa Republic (CAR).  The purpose of this portion of the effort was to learn whether or not there were social norms that are drivers to the system of corruption.  If so, whether these norms are directly or indirectly related to patterns of corrupt behaviors and whether individual attitudes about these behaviors differed from the norms.

    A behavior is motivated by a social norm when the behavior is typical and approved within a group and non-compliance with this behavior would result in a negative sanction.

    A vignette approach

    The method we opted for, vignettes, was largely adapted from the CARE SNAP report (for more resources see here) and tailored to corruption and the CAR context.   To identify vignettes the research team reviewed our first week of interview notes with citizens, police officers and justice officials to identify examples of typical behavior. Here is an example.

    We would like to tell you a short story.  Imagine Joachim is a man from Bangui.  He is not a real person, just an example.  Imagine the police arrested Joachim’s son for stealing bananas from the market and he is at the Police HQ.  Joachim calls his cousin, Jean Paul who has an important job in the Ministry of Interior to ask him to make this go away for his son.

    We then determined follow-up questions to probe the different elements of social norms:

    1. What would most men in Joachim’s situation do in this situation? Here we were trying to learn what was typical behavior or the empirical expectations.

    2. What would Joachim friends and family expect him to do in this situation?   This question explores the notion of approved behavior or what you think others expect you to do – the normative expectations.

    3. Who would be the most influential on Joachim’s decision – friends, family, community? With this inquiry, we wanted to learn about who has power and influence or in social norms language the reference group.

    We then added a new fact to the vignette to explore possibilities to resist corruption and the consequences of noncompliance with expectations. But what if the cousin – Jean Paul does not want to make a call to the police.

    4. How would Jean Paul’s family and friends react to Jean Paul deciding not to call the police for Joachim?  This question tries to understand the social sanction involved in non-compliance with the social norm.

    a. If the response showed that there is a sanction for noncompliance to Jean Paul we then asked: Are there any times where it would be okay for Jean Paul to not act?   Here we were interested to see if there were exceptions to the rule.

    5. Would their opinions and reactions make Jean Paul change his mind about making the call?  This question seeks to understand the degree of influence the social sanction might have which helps us understand the strength of the social norm.

    6. What are the disadvantages for Jean Paul calling the police?What are the advantages of Jean Paul calling the police?  Drawing from the Social Norms Measurement report put out by STRIVE we added these questions to explore if there were indirect norms that also might be supporting this behavior.

    Understanding the impact of gender in corruption systems has become an integrated element of our approach.  So, we changed the vignette one final time; Let’s pretend, that when Joachim tried to call Jean Paul he discovered Jean Paul was in Paris.  So instead he called his niece, Virginie who also worked at the Ministry of Interior.  Would anything be different?

    Our data collection choice

    As a team with strong CAR experience, we felt strongly that a focus group was by far the best option to gather data on typical and appropriate behaviors.   We expected that it would allow us to hear where there was disagreement, why and if so what nuances might matter. Given we were researching to inform program design, getting sufficiently concrete mattered.   We cross-checked this assumption with our Central African advisor who has 40+ years of experience in the criminal justice sector in CAR to make sure focus groups would work in this particular sector.

    Focus group worked like a charm… with citizens

    We used this methodology in small focus groups with citizens from Bangui.   We felt we needed to treat the topic carefully if the discussions were going to be fruitful, and more importantly ethical, because corruption is significantly connected to the recent crisis  and people are understandably cautious. (Report forthcoming: subscribe to the blog to be alerted.)  As such, we built in significant ‘warm-up’ time, which culminated in each person demonstrating how they would conduct a particular corrupt transaction with the facilitator.   The male – female differences in tactics and approach were striking (something else we will explore more in the report).  As for the vignettes, they proved to be an effective prompt to initiate concrete discussions about what is considered typical and appropriate.

    Amongst our test focus groups with citizens, we had one focus group with individuals who all knew each other, and another with people who did not. Though, understandably, it took longer for the latter group to be comfortable the quality of the data derived from the vignettes was the same.

    Our test with police was not so charmed

    We were quite uncertain if a focus group with police would be possible, but after checking with people on the ground felt it was worth trying.  To pilot the methodology with police officers, we asked an organization who does capacity building with the police to ask a few individuals who knew each other who they thought might be open to this conversation.  Working with officers who had existing relationships and using this organization as a trusted intermediary we hoped would increase willingness to talk openly.   After a relatively brief introduction we introduced our first vignette.

    Let’s consider a made-up story.  Imagine a man called Albert from Bangui.  Imagine that his brother has been badly assaulted and the man who hit him has not yet been arrested.  Albert goes to see the Chief Prosecutor – Taavi — to file a complaint and gives Taavi 2,000 CAF to accelerate the procedure.   What would most men do in Taavi’s situation?

    After an awkward silence, one individual in the group spoke up stating that this was impossible; Taavi could not accept the envelope.  With this line drawn the sand, the rest of the group adamantly agreed.  These assertions directly contradicted a week’s worth of interviews where the consensus was that everyone in the police is corrupt at every level.   We were not able to break through this façade with any of our follow-up questions.  In unpacking this experience, we have a few reflections on why this happened and what we could do differently.

    First, we believe that the pre-existing relationships were not sufficiently strong to create an atmosphere of trust.  They had been in trainings together but were from different places in the country, so did not have a strong relationship.

    Second, another issue might have arisen from the style of inquiry where we asked people to speak about what ‘most men’ would do.  As products of the rote learning education system in CAR, police officers may not be comfortable making such extrapolations. This, coupled with our facilitator being a white international, may have elicited them to give ‘official textbook’ responses rather than draw from real practice.

    Third, the fact that police behavior is not just based on social norms, but also based on laws, rules and standard operating practices could mean that they were simply electing to answer based on one of the many drivers of decisions within their profession.  So, they were not purposefully being obtuse but rather using an alternative set of rules that could/should guide behavior.

    With it clear that police focus groups were a non-starter, we changed our approach and tested the vignettes at the end of individual semi-structured interviews with police.  This worked better in that they answered the questions in alignment with the rest of our data, but it did not elicit rich or particularly insightful answers.

    Call for insights

    We would really welcome insights into how to navigate social norm identification when the reference group exists within established structures and particularly within state institutions.  If you have done this, we would really welcome learning about your methodology, what worked and how you would do it better.  As always, if we get sufficient input, we will give it back to the community.

    More insights on social norms and corruption

    About this article

    What is the Corruption, Justice and Legitimacy Project?

    The Corruption, Justice, and Legitimacy (CJL) project advances systems approaches to corruption analysis in fragile and conflict-affected contexts.  Focusing on the CJS, the project supports more holistic efforts to diminish corruption in core state activities related to human security.  The work is built on the premise that corruption is a complex adaptive system.   CJL encompasses work funded by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement in DRC and CAR, housed at CDA, as well as Carnegie-funded research in Uganda, housed at The Institute for Human Security at the Fletcher School.  It is led by Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church and Diana Chigas, JD, Professor of Practice at The Fletcher School and Senior International Office and Associate Provost at Tufts University.


    About the author

    Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church is Principal at Besa: Catalyzing Strategic Change, a social enterprise committed to catalysing significant change on strategic issues in places experiencing conflict and structural or overt physical violence. She has significant experience working on anti-corruption and state legitimacy in the DRC and Uganda. As a Professor of Practice, she teaches and consults on program design, monitoring, evaluation and learning.
  • Anti-Corruption Awareness Raised – But to What Effect?

    By Caryn Peiffer

    In this post Dr Caryn Peiffer discusses her research on the impact of anti-corruption awareness raising programs. Findings, she argues, defy intuitive assumptions.

    Corruption is the talk of the town. It is a popular news item and billboards, posters and murals, common across the global south, broadcast the ills rooted in corruption. They often tell commuters which hotline to call if they’re asked for a bribe, or remind them of the effects of corruption on their community. The idea – and it seems logical enough – is that if we understand the damage corruption does, and if we know who to report it to, then we’ll all get involved in tackling it. We’ll defeat corruption together.

    Yet findings so far from my research examining this intuitive assumption are not confirming it. Anti-corruption messaging doesn’t seem to work like that. What is more likely is that a lot of anti-corruption messaging may be ineffective, and some of it may even be making matters worse.

    Starting to fill the evidence gap

    For some time now, I have been looking at what the data can tell us about corruption – and how we might come up with some effective solutions. Back in 2012, one of my early studies for the Developmental Leadership Program looked at how a deeper understanding of the politics of corruption reduction might be approached by identifying successful efforts to reduce it and then working out what had gone right.

    But the corollary of this was to ask why what was already being done to reduce corruption wasn’t working. Anti-corruption messaging was an obvious focus. There was so much of it, and yet no clear research on it to show that any of it was working. In 2012 Johnson, Taxell and Zaum published their exhaustive review of research on the effectiveness of anti-corruption programming; they found not a single study that focused on the effectiveness of awareness-raising campaigns.

    In 2015, in Jakarta, and last March in Papua New Guinea (PNG) with Dr Grant Walton, I carried out field survey-experiments designed to detect changes in attitudes towards corruption among citizens who had been exposed to anti-corruption messages. And, if all goes to plan, next year, with Professor Nic Cheeseman of the University of Birmingham’s International Development Department, I will be putting a third experiment into the field in Lagos.  At this early stage in analysing the PNG data, it’s not possible to give chapter and verse on what the results say. However, I presented early findings from Jakarta at December’s International Anti-Corruption Conference, and we now have the full picture.  As this new paper explains, it has some potentially strong recommendations for anti-corruption messengers.

    A cause for concern

    The findings of the Jakarta experiment warn that, if you talk to people about corruption – even to set out straightforward ways they can help fight it – they can become more fearful of it. They seem to feel overwhelmed. Their confidence in the idea that they can do something about it can diminish. This, especially, makes them likely to back off from actively getting involved, as citizens, in tackling it. Respondents exposed to anti-corruption messages tell us that they are less willing to report an official who asked them for a bribe.

    In short, instead of smoothing the way towards a lasting solution, the message can become another hump in the anti-corruption road.

    Are some types of messages less alarming than others? Not necessarily

    So drawing on the databases that I’d used to identify ‘islands of integrity’, I devised an original survey-experiment that made it possible for the data collected to be analysed using a structural equation model (SEM). This statistical technique, a combination of factor analysis and multiple regression analysis, makes it possible to analyse structural relationships between both measured variables – for instance being more, or less, likely to report corruption – and latent constructs, such as attitudes towards corruption, after exposure to an anti-corruption message.

    Respondents from 1,000 households took part in the Jakarta survey. They were split into five groups; one – the control group – was simply asked to answer the survey questions on how they felt about certain aspects of corruption. The remaining four groups answered the questions after reading one of four messages about corruption. Two of these messages were ‘negative’ – they emphasised corruption as being a huge problem – and two were ‘positive’ – one on how citizens can easily join the fight against corruption, and the other on how the government is making headway in its efforts to reduce it.

    The early findings showed that exposure to all the messages, negative or positive, tended to make people more worried about corruption’s consequences, less confident in their government’s efforts to tackle it and, perhaps most importantly, less confident in their own ability to do much to fight corruption. The latter finding is particularly striking, given that one of the messages was designed to achieve the opposite.

    An increased will to fight corruption, coupled with decreased confidence in success

    The SEM analysis, detailed in full in the second paper from this research, focused on what all this meant for citizens’ willingness to get involved in the fight against corruption. It revealed that messages were generally not that influential, but not because they were ignored. Instead, by making people more worried about corruption’s consequences, the messages prompted people to want to fight it. Yet, at the same time the messages undercut people’s confidence that they could do so effectively. In other words, the effects sometimes cancelled each other out. If found to be influential, the analysis detected that the messages tended to ‘backfire’—exposure to a message put the respondents off engaging in anti-corruption efforts. This ‘backfiring’, the analysis showed, was mostly because, regardless of tone or content, the messages had reduced citizens’ confidence in their ability to fight corruption.

    What might this mean for anti-corruption messaging programs?

    The implications of this for anti-corruption work could be worrying, and we clearly need more evidence. One practical way forward while further research is being carried out could be to use more pilot studies before rolling out anti-corruption awareness-raising campaigns to check likely effects in the particular context. The main takeaway, however, is simply this: before more resources are poured into anti-corruption messaging, we need to actually test what effect those messages might have.

    About this article

    Caryn Peiffer’s research on anti-corruption messaging has been supported by the University of Birmingham (UK) and by the Australian government through the Developmental Leadership Program. The planned Lagos study will be supported by the UK government. The views expressed in this post are the author’s alone.

    Blog image:CC0 Creative Commons, from

    About the author

    Dr Caryn Peiffer is a Lecturer in International Public Policy at the University of Bristol, and a former Research Fellow for the Developmental Leadership Program at the University of Birmingham’s International Development Department. A political scientist by training, her main research interests lie in the causes, consequences and measurements of corruption and anti-corruption reforms. She has carried out research for Transparency International, DFID, AFD, DFAT, and Sida, has conducted field research in several developing countries, and has advised the Commonwealth Secretariat, DFID, the US State Department, and the UK’s Cabinet Office.
  • When Discussing Political Corruption

    By Kelsey Goodman

    In this post, Kelsey Goodman draws out key lessons from a survey of research on political corruption. Researchers and policymakers would be well-served to “get specific” when talking about types of political corruption, and the interventions meant to curb them.


    After our recent posts applying systems thinking to criminal justice systems and the refugee crisis, the Corruption, Justice and Legitimacy team wanted to turn our gaze to an area previously undiscussed on our blog: political corruption. Wanting to see what literature was already out there, we started our dive with “What Works to Curb Political Corruption,” a review of the existing evidence-base on what types of interventions successfully combat political corruption.

    This report is a great place for any researcher, student, or policy-maker exploring political corruption to start, if for no other reason than the useful table in the appendix summarizing the anti-corruption literature surveyed, including the type of intervention, location, evaluation of impact, and key findings. The 61 studies reviewed include both primary and secondary research types, spanning upper to lower income countries. This report illuminated several takeaways that draw out relevant policy lessons and offer insights on how improved research design can better our understanding of what works to curb political corruption.

    Lesson 1: Be specific when you talk about political corruption

    A crucial argument in the report is that ‘political corruption’ is a rather unhelpful term in anti-corruption programming since it encompasses at least two different types of corruption, which each require different programmatic approaches:

    1. Electoral corruption is the manipulation of rules and voting processes. Most commonly, it emerges as violations of electoral laws, deceptive campaign tactics or electoral fraud (that is, ballot stuffing, impersonation or misreporting.)
    2. Corruption in policy formulation occurs outside of the electoral process. It occurs across different branches and levels, and encompasses illicit political finance, cronyism, and a lack of transparency/integrity in political bodies

    Lesson 2: Strengthen the quality of studies on corruption in policy formulation

    The problem of the lack of specificity is particularly glaring in studies of corruption in policy formulation. Therefore, it is not surprising that those studies tend to be weaker than studies of electoral corruption, especially in terms of quality of evidence. (Figure 1, Figure 2) The report authors call for “studies that drill deeper to isolate the particular aspects of the corruption problem in the policy-formulation process.”


    Click to enlarge. Both figures are from the report.

    Corruption in policy formulation is more difficult to operationalize and quantify than electoral corruption because it deals with more abstract topics. In explaining this, the authors pose a challenge to researchers: what are innovative ways to operationalize this form of corruption? How can you measure it?

    We propose that this is an instance in which researchers should break out of the methodological cage. A systems-approach to analyzing corruption in the policy-formulation process could be a useful analytical tool to strengthening the conceptual focus of these studies. After all, policy formulation is a systems-driven process that varies based on the institutional design of the legislative body in question.

    Lesson 3: Intervention type matters

    The interventions explored in each study were evaluated for effectiveness based on a simple, qualitative criterion of how strong the study found its effect.

    The types of interventions cited include:

    • Social mobilization (campaigns and investigations undertaken by non-governmental groups)
    • Rule-changing strategies (changing formal rules and institutions)
    • Enforcement strategies (including the judiciary as well as anti-corruption agencies)
    • Transparency strategies
    • Organizational and managerial strategies (changing behavior through soft law)
    • Indirect interventions

    Curbing corruption in policy-formulation

    Transparency, rule changing, and social mobilization present a mixed picture of effectiveness in curbing corruption in the policy-formulation process. The success of these interventions seems to be hinged on whether they targeted the most critical junctions of corruption – or simply the most obvious.

    Of the interventions evaluated, the most successful was also the most difficult to implement: increasing political competition. Increasing political competition also improved the effectiveness of the other types of interventions, as an intervening variable.

    Curbing electoral corruption

    As for curbing electoral corruption, the reviews show that social mobilization (especially education campaigns that seek to change social norms) can be effective. Statistical methods and knowledge discovery databases that detect electoral fraud can also be effective against electoral corruption, while enforcement and monitoring has a mixed result, rule-changing does little.

    It’s worth a read

    This report is a comprehensive survey of ‘the current state’ in the effectiveness of programs meant to curb political corruption.  It should be noted that it does not specifically focus on fragile states, nor does it incorporate practitioner experiences in its survey.


    About this article

    Post image: Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, “Frédéric Monier to re-examine the history of political corruption.”


    About the author

    Kelsey Goodman is a graduate student at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy studying development economics and international business. Her academic interests lie at the nexus of good governance, financial inclusion, and economic development in the Middle East and North Africa. Kelsey speaks Arabic and has a BA in foreign affairs and Middle Eastern studies from the University of Virginia. She is currently serving as Co-Chair for the 2018 Fletcher Political Risk Conference.
  • Using the Participatory Monitoring Approach, Most Significant Change, for an Anti-Corruption Program

    By Sandra Sjögren and Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church

    In this post, Sandra Sjögren and Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church discuss why they chose to use the Most Significant Change approach in monitoring an anti-corruption program in the DRC, the monitoring process, and in what ways it did (or did not) fit their needs. Amongst other things, their experience showcases some of the advantages and drawbacks of participatory monitoring.


    Programming on sensitive issues like corruption, gender based violence, or sex work are challenging to effectively monitor due to social desirability bias, the illegal nature of some of the acts, and the challenges of discerning perceptions from reality, to name just a few of the hurdles that have to be cleared.   For the program we were working on, (Kuleta Haki: a network of criminal justice officials and actors in Lubumbashi, DRC who are working to diminish corruption), there were several additional factors that had to be taken into account for our monitoring to inform ongoing program decisions.

    Our monitoring choices had to contend with the highly volatile political climate due to the Presidential election in DRC, exacerbated by the prime contender coming from the region where our program was running – Katanga.  Further complicated by the fact that we were working in the justice sector which is a key pillar for maintaining political power – illicitly and legally.  Finally, the nature of our program – a group who will have solidarity and strength to stand up to the established system of corruption – and the safety of participants were of highest importance.   To add to this contextual challenge, our team on the ground was new to the principles central to this engagement: Theory of change programmingadaptive management and participatory monitoring.

    What is Most Significant Change (MSC)?

    MSC, developed by Rick Davies, is a form of participatory monitoring.  It captures the changes that are valued by program participants; instead of the changes that we (implementers) feel are important as found in pre-set indicators. Free MSC manual is available.

    Why MSC was selected

    There were several reasons that MSC rose to the top of our options list.  Some of these included:

    Accurate indicators highly unlikely

    Developing a program with crisp and detailed change pathways that would unfold as expected was not realistic in such a volatile environment, particularly with an innovative program design.  Without this, generating accurate indicators that truly signaled the change we sought over time was highly unlikely.

    We wanted information on assumptions

    The program design contained a number of assumptions, not all of which were agreed upon or explicitly articulated.  Therefore, we were looking for a method that could clarify, and correct, assumptions on how and why change was happening and help us think through what to do next.

    Ownership of participants in the program was a key operating principle

    Ownership of the Kuleta Haki Network by its members was critical to program effectiveness and sustainability, and we wanted our monitoring to support this principle.  So we needed to find a participatory process that involved the Network in the conversations on effectiveness.

    Dissatisfaction with more traditional monitoring approaches

    There are numerous national and international programs that seek to support the justice system in DRC. Most of them are based on a “classical” approach that consists in reinforcing justice professionals’ capacities. In parallel to this “classical” approach, the M&E system consists of following indicators set from the beginning on “hard” assumptions. As an example, the logical framework is a popular M&E tool in justice support programs. As explained above, the highly volatile context and the complexity of defining clear assumptions encouraged us to use an alternative M&E approach to build our program design. MSC gives the program flexibility: the more we learn from MSC, the more the program adapts, and is able to start answering fundamental questions that previous justice programs have not explored, e.g. WHY and WHAT creates change in behavior.

    ‘Fit’ between program participants and approach

    Justice professionals are accustomed to writing and developing arguments so we assumed they would be comfortable documenting and explaining their stories.  The written aspect also provided the added benefit of greater confidentiality on a sensitive topic.

    What we actually did

    We will reflect on what worked or not in our next post, but first we thought it would be useful to lay out the process that we used.

    1. Internal discussion on the methodology

    The first step was to make sure all team members had clarity on the steps in the MSC process and the rationale behind them.  Next, we reviewed the standard MSC process in light of our context to identify any modifications or concerns which brought to the fore two issues.  First, who should identify the most significant stories? We liked the trust building potential of asking the whole group to choose together. However, we ended up asking a select set of members to choose the most significant stories instead, in respect of participants’ time.

    The second, and far more challenging issue, was validating the stories, a standard part of the regular MSC process.  After much discussion, we concluded that it was impossible to validate the veracity of the stories through additional data collection.  For instance, a story may be about how a network member refused to take a bribe to acquit someone in their court.   To validate this would require seeking out the individual who offered the bribe and assuming they would provide an accurate telling.  Not only did we feel this was unlikely, but we were also concerned about the impression it would give the Network ‘story tellers’ if we started ‘validating’ them so publicly.  Would it seem distrustful? Disrespectful?

    Ultimately, we used the power of the group to validate the stories during the feedback session by asking more detailed questions (how did this happen, who was involved, etc.)  Our hypothesis being twofold: (1) The justice sector is small so telling a total fabrication without someone in the room being suspicious was unlikely.  (2) We felt that if participants told the same story twice it was more likely to be “valid.”  (Unfortunately, it wasn’t possible to repeat the process for each story.)

    2. Testing the methodology

    In year one we organized two MSC sessions to allow enough time for the program team to get familiar with the methodology. Before the “real” MSC session, we organized a “test” session with a small group of volunteers who were all part of the leadership group of the network in order to gauge the reaction to the approach and make any adjustments. One of the most important things that came from this experience was improvements to the prompt questions. For example, participants recommended that we clarify questions in terms of timeframe, e.g. “since your involvement in the project” or “since your involvement in the network”. We ended up with the following questions:

    • From your point of view, tell me about the most significant change that has resulted since you were involved in the project? This was a purposefully open ended and broad prompt.
    • Since your involvement in the network, what do you think was the most significant change in your behavior about corruption or resisting corruption? This prompt was more focused as behavior change was a key component of the program design.   It was followed up with two more questions:
      • Why was that significant to you?
      • Do you feel this came from your involvement in the network or from other things that you are doing?

    3. The first MSC session

    For the first session, we felt the entire Network would be too large of a group, and some members were brand new, so the MSC process wasn’t yet appropriate for all. As a result, the team generated a list of regularly attending members and then called to ask if they would like to participate; resulting in 12 participants.   After the introduction and explanation, participants had 30 minutes to write their stories. A selection committee (1 program team member and 3 network members) picked three stories based on criteria established prior to reading all the stories. The criteria — coherence, level of detail, reference to network — were proposed by the program team and amended by the participants. The selection committee read the three stories to the whole group. After the stories were selected, we had hoped the group would discuss the meaning of choosing these stories. In reality, the discussion was more of a self-reflection (e.g. people said ‘oh this happened to me too’)

    4. The second MSC session

    We adapted the second MSC session following what we learned in the first session in a few ways.  For instance, we made further tweaks to our prompt questions as the participants felt they were too similar to each other in the first session.   We also improved our guidance to the group on how to answer the questions.  Finally, we shortened the time available to the selection committee, to provide more time for the story writing and discussion at the end.

    Tweaking the process in this way had several positive consequences.  For instance, the stories were more developed than in the first session, though they still missed some personal details and details on how and why change happened.  The improved guidance made the exercise clearer from the beginning, making it take less time.   However this time when the selection committee presented the stories they had selected, participants felt more comfortable with the process and argued on the content of the stories. Instead of analyzing the selection process, participants raised questions on the stories they heard and reflected on them, asking themselves what they would have done instead. The team responded by stressing the fact that every participant should write the story as he or she lived it and that there was no judgment to be made.

    Did MSC meet our needs?

    In many ways using MSC was a terrific learning experience for the team and the network.    The process generated useful information on what mattered to the membership and what changes took place.  This gave the implementing team greater insight into programming activities that should receive greater emphasis going forward and vice versa.  It also gave concrete examples of where change was happening.  For instance, in the first session a lot of attitude or ‘realization’ type changes were told; such as, I have awoken about how corruption harms my country and me.   Conversely, in this session very few behavior change stories were told which was helpful for the implementing team to understand the consequences of the work to date.

    Further, the process did well in supporting the notion of Network ownership and we were correct in our sense that it was a good ‘fit’ for our audience.   Conversely, we did not manage to identify prompt questions that would create consistent insights into how and why change happened.

    Do you have insights into using MSC on sensitive topics?

    We would be very interested to learn how others have handled validation when dealing with sensitive topics, like resisting corruption.   If you have tactics that worked, or not, we would welcome learning of them.

    What’s next

    For more reflections and lessons learned, see the post Reflections on using Most Significant Change in an anti-corruption program.

    Header image: An adapted snippet from one of the participants’ “stories.”


    About the authors

    Sandra Sjögren, MA, has coordinated development programs for multiple international organizations in the Great Lakes region including Search for Common Ground, Heartland Alliance International, Physicians for Human Rights, and more recently, RCN Justice and Démocratie. In addition to her background in program management, Sjögren has extensive experience in monitoring and evaluation in social field. She has conducted qualitative research studies on reintegration of formerly incarcerated persons in the United States, and she supervised the monitoring and evaluation methodology as program coordinator in the justice sector. Sjögren holds a MA in International Studies from the University of Oregon and a BA in political science from the University of Paris. More information can be found on her LinkedIn account, here.
    Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church is Principal at Besa: Catalyzing Strategic Change, a social enterprise committed to catalyzing significant change on strategic issues in places experiencing conflict and structural or overt physical violence. As a Professor of Practice, she teaches and consults on program design, monitoring, evaluation and learning.
  • How Might Gender Roles Affect Whether You Engage, or Hold Back from, Corruption?

    By Kiely Barnard-Webster

    In this post Kiely Barnard-Webster explains two key takeaways for practitioners from our recent field visit to the DRC: (1) If an anti-corruption program threatens a gender group’s privileged status, this must be taken into account in the program design or it will undermine effectiveness. (2) If anti-corruption strategies don’t account for the different ways in which gender groups engage in corruption these strategies may not work.


    Several weeks ago we challenged readers with a question that has been bothering the Kuleta Haki team since late 2015: “Is female discrimination in the justice sector corruption?”. We have to admit that based on our monitoring results, not many of you shared our interest! Let me take another stab at explaining why we care about this question.

    In order to fully see how corruption works as a system, practitioners must understand how and why group norms (i.e., gender groups) might drive an individual in that group to engage or hold back from corruption.

    We approached this project as an opportunity to conduct a gender analysis, analyzing different men’s and women’s roles in society (e.g., at home and in the workplace) and experiences with corruption, to better understand how corruption works within the criminal justice sector (CJS).

    Earlier this summer, 2 consultants and 2 RCN J&D permanent staff held 87 interviews over the course of a 19-day field visit to help answer these questions:

    1. What are the gender power dynamics in the Lubumbashi courts?
    2. How are the experiences of corruption impacted by gender?
    3. How is one’s ability to resist affected by gendered experience?

    In this post I will focus on points 1 and 2.

    Why does an anti-corruption implementer need to think about gender?

    Gender roles and power are closely linked. Often, gender roles convey a lot about who has control, power or influence and why, which is critical for several reasons:

    1. Corruption is the abuse of ‘power’ so knowing who has it and who does not is important in better understanding how corruption happens
    2. Also in thinking about resistance strategies, one needs to have a sense of what power is available, by who and how that resistance would play out.

    If practitioners better understand: (a) the ways their anti-corruption project might make select participants unable to perform their gender roles, and (b) different gendered ways of engaging in corruption in each context, they may be able to develop better anti-corruption programming. Keep reading for some examples…

    Two key takeaways for anti-corruption programming

    We fully acknowledge that one cannot draw global lessons from one case study, particularly one that is as qualitative and contextually grounded as ours. Nonetheless, here are two of the most interesting takeaways relevant to practitioners, that arose during analysis discussions.

    Takeaway 1: If an anti-corruption program threatens a gender group’s privileged status, this must be taken into account in the program design or it will undermine effectiveness.

    We learned that when engaging in corruption, men expect to maintain their privileged position of control (e.g., over a situation, over resources); when this expectation is not met many experience frustration.

    About half of the men in our research said that it was unfair that women can use their sex for personal advantage in a way in which men cannot.  Some interviewees provided examples of this, in which a man would be ridiculed and turned away if he didn’t bring enough money to pay a bribe, whereas a woman without enough money could usually negotiate to pay with her body to get what she needed.

    In our research, we also found that men are seen as “the boss” at home, and are also expected to be “the boss” at work. They are the boss in both places because they are expected to have a job to financially support their family. Men who feel they are being asked to give up corruption, perhaps seen as a privilege inherent in their status as an authority figure or a necessary means to provide for their families, may not acquiesce. Being corrupt can serve an important purpose to this gender group in the context, both socially and practically.

    Do your efforts of stopping people from engaging in corruption fully account for what they feel they might lose, personally, aside from money?

    Takeaway 2: If anti-corruption strategies don’t account for the different ways in which gender groups engage in corruption these strategies may not work.

    For practitioners in this context, it’s flawed to assume different groupings (e.g. young professional men or senior women) engage in corruption always using a similar logic. Different gendered experience may mean some face greater risk than others at being caught, so will approach the process differently.

    For example, our research showed women in Lubumbashi generally face greater consequences than men if caught engaging in ANY type of corruption. A murmur in our data suggested that, because of an increased risk of being caught, some female judicial actors might wait until approached to demand corruption, rather than ask outright for favors as many male colleagues do. During our validation workshop with our local Network this was seen to be true of female magistrates. Thus, a citizen trying to reduce their engagement in corruption might try the simple strategy of not stepping up to offer corruption to a female magistrate, if possible.

    We also find it important to note we found that women will face much greater consequence (e.g.., more severe or frequent social shaming), when caught offering or otherwise engaging in sexual favors.

    Do your efforts to create useful resistance strategies consider how men and women might differ in the ways they engage in corruption? Also, have you considered how public anti-corruption approaches might bring greater risk to one gender group over another? E.g.: A public approach could make women in public office more vulnerable in society than their male colleagues, potentially even causing harm (e.g., more women are left socially marginalized).

    The ‘women as the fairer sex’ argument… We knew the ‘women are the fairer sex’ argument existed going into this project. This comes from (outdated) research which stated women may be less corrupt than men. Though during data collection, we were learning that women are widely expected to be the ‘guardian of values’ in Lubumbashi (meaning the upholder of moral and family values) and are expected to be, indeed, less corrupt. Further to our confusion, our data showed that most actors in this context engage in corruption. Which was right?!

    Conversations with the Network added some nuance. We learned male and female judicial actors in positions of formal power may be equally corrupt. Although we found that men and women do not have equal access to formal power (e.g., becoming the “boss”), for one – as female judicial actors must defy expectations twice-over to excel in the judicial system, once any judicial actor is in such a position most felt they had similar levels of control over their subordinates. In Lubumbashi, the official hierarchy vests significant power into formalized positions creating the widely-held belief that obedience is required (mostly male and female justice actors held this view). Our research showed male and female judicial actors in positions of power could demand corruption equally (i.e., just as frequently, the same amount, etc.) when in these roles and would be obeyed.

    Also, there are fewer women working in the justice sector than men; so, in absolute terms – yes, there are technically “fewer corrupt women than corrupt men” in the courts. However, if making a relative comparison, say if there were equal numbers of men and women in the courts, would there really be “fewer corrupt women than corrupt men”? Our research suggests…likely not.

    “if my boss has a different opinion than me and he [or she] thinks that corruption isn’t that bad, then it can become difficult for me [to express my opinion, to resist.]” – Interviewee

    Discrimination as a form of corruption: the end of a pursuit?

    The research did not find explicit or causal linkages between discrimination of women and corruption; we concluded that these are two phenomena that are simultaneously occurring in the judiciary, and only at times interact.

    For instance, there might be a link between the two phenomena (discrimination and corruption) when considering women’s limited access to formal power. Since the formal power system is not grounded in merit (for anyone, in fact), and women are doubly implicated because their gender is a multiplier of a crony based system, women are more likely to be removed from the opportunity to be corrupt since they are much less frequently put into positions of power. If this holds true; discrimination of women precludes them from positions of sufficient power where corruption opportunities would arise.

    In our next post

    In upcoming posts we’ll explore how different gender experiences affect notions of resistance and how resistance plays out. Do you have lessons to add about gender roles and corruption in a different context? If so, we would be delighted to hear them!

    About this article

    This blog post was also shared on the Gender @ Fletcher blog, here.

    Header photo: Renewal, or decline? akindo—Getty Images. Accessed here


    This blog post, and greater research project, would not have been possible without the collaboration and dedication of the entire research team: Longin Baranyizigiye, Samantha Lakin, Patricia Mwela, Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church, and Grace Tshoma.

    About the author

    Kiely Barnard-Webster is a Program Manager at CDA Collaborative Learning Projects, working on innovative approaches to tackling corruption in the DRC. She is also currently contributing to several different peacebuilding effectiveness and conflict sensitivity projects at CDA, as well as helping to support CDA’s office in Myanmar. Kiely focused her studies on gender analysis and DM&E at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.
  • How Corruption Impedes Reconstruction in Iraq after ISIS

    By Matthew Schweitzer

    In this post Matthew Schweitzer shares from his recent trip into eastern Mosul’s liberated territories. While he was there to assess relations between civil society organizations and security actors, he encountered many Moslawis who did not trust national politicians to manage long-term reconstruction. He talks in this post about the culture of corruption and patronage among politicians as one of the most significant obstacles to future stability in the their region, and about a path away from corruption.


    In late March, a group of masked men removed newly-installed water pumps and electrical generators from a sanitation facility in eastern Mosul. While small-scale looting has been reported across the city’s liberated areas as civilians struggle to restore lost livelihoods, this incident was different. One week after its disappearance, the equipment was quietly returned undamaged. No explanation was given, nor was any investigation opened. One local NGO official later explained how “the theft was a simple but dangerous declaration that police and army do not control Mosul…. Instead, the city belongs to thieves and political forces, which seek only personal gain.”

    Her claims highlight what is perhaps the greatest spoiler to Iraq’s ability to stabilize liberated territory, rebuild its infrastructure, and deliver essential services to its population. Systemic corruption – the result of long-term weakening across the state’s institutions since the 1990s – influences nearly all aspects of Iraqi political and economic life today, from Baghdad’s government ministries to Mosul’s street corners. As the country’s leaders look to simultaneously fund massive reconstruction efforts in areas cleared of ISIS, prosecute future counterinsurgency operations, and manage a crippling economic crisis, they must also overcome the extreme corruption embedded deep within the state apparatus.

    Corruption as an obstacle to state legitimacy: the case of Mosul’s reconstruction

    As the battle to clear ISIS from Mosul grinds into its final stages, the next great test for Iraqi leaders will be whether they can rebuild liberated areas. While many of Mosul’s residents have energetically launched ad-hocreconstruction projects across the city, their work has been handicapped by local armed actors that have co-opted informal service provision networks.

    During a March 2017 trip into eastern Mosul’s liberated territories to assess relations between civil society organizations and security actors, I spoke with numerous Moslawis who did not trust national politicians to manage long-term reconstruction. The majority of these civilians identified a culture of corruption and patronage among politicians as one of the most significant obstacles to future stability; they believed local and national leaders seek only to enhance their own political influence by controlling funds and human resources in the city. As one local NGO official explained bitterly, “for Mosul’s people to have any security or future, they must form their own militia that can collect money and enforce its own laws.”

    Within Mosul’s liberated eastern neighborhoods, extortion of civilian populations has manifested on a hyper-local level; some streets within a given neighborhood are divided by two or three checkpoints, each operated by a distinct unit. According to local security forces interviewed in March and April 2017, approximately 30-39 distinct armed groups have established zones of operation within Mosul.

    Since January 2017, myriad factions have established schemes to siphon resource that are already in-place. For example, some healthcare clinics in eastern Mosul have reportedly been robbed of vital supplies like intravenous fluid, bandages and medicines, which can be sold for exorbitant prices on the black market. As one physician concluded, “We must buy back our own material. Right now, we are struggling to survive, even as we are bled from all sides.” In another neighborhood where government engineers have not yet restored electrical or water services, local entrepreneurs established networks of diesel-powered generators. By charging local ‘managers’ a monthly rent to provide electricity in their neighborhoods, these groups can collect about $21 worth of electricity per family in a month. In the three months since liberation, these street-by-street economies have solidified along factional lines.

    Many of these groups also act as muscle for political parties and parliamentary blocs to secure financial interests within the reconstruction context. For example, in one neighborhood, a Member of Parliament who is also a prominent figure within a minority ethnic militia has reportedly received government funding to rebuild areas around Jonah’s Shrine, as well as the shrine itself. According to a Ninewa antiquities official in charge of preservation, “Such an award means that the militias will take credit for rebuilding these areas, and take a cut of the funding set aside for reconstruction. They can put their flag on the heritage these areas hold, and they will deepen their financial independence from Baghdad.”

    For many Moslawis now operating within these nascent patronage and extortion networks, failed attempts to address extortion and other exploitative practices point to two troubling realities: Deeply-entrenched corruption defines the rules of the Iraqi political game, and national politicians are more powerful than the will of the people they purportedly represent. Any long-term transformation of Iraq’s extortive political system will require leaders to recognize the deeply corrosive impact of corruption on the stability of the state. Many civilians, however, do not believe such change is possible in the current context. “We do not need any parliamentary representative or ministry official to speak on our behalf,” one Mosul resident declared. “Instead, we know the guidelines, and must pay our dues to the correct people if we want to recover our lives. Our future must be local.”

    Delegitimizing the state

    Memories of high hopes and missed opportunities in the fight against corruption shape expectations for recovery of infrastructure and governance systems in critical urban centers like Mosul. Because corruption has been institutionalized at the highest echelons of Iraq’s government, similar practices among local administrators and non-state actors have been accepted by populations at a micro-level.

    It is widely accepted in Baghdad and beyond Iraq’s borders that the country’s governing culture of graft and official excess has robbed it of otherwise achievable stability and prosperity. Nearly 40 years of cyclical conflict left the country with a governance system that functions in the middle ground between inclusiveness and competition. Iraqi researcher Bilal Wahab explained thus: “Everyone has an interest in the state’s survival, but also in keeping it weak…. Politicians want to maintain this system because it allows them to secure funding and influence.” By placing a party member at the head of a ministry or in a high-level position, political blocs are able to channel funds to their own coffers. This model ultimately leaves a state that is not rooted in rule of law, good governance, or service delivery. According to Wahab, “if the state could deliver these services to its people, the power of political parties would weaken as a result.”

    Iraqis often dismiss their country’s politicians with a dialectical phrase, bas ye-boog – “they just steal” – and express a sense of hopelessness regarding prospects for change. Rising popular anger against rampant corruption coalesced into mass protests across Iraq in 2015 and 2016. Initially spurred by electricity shortages during 2015’s particularly brutal summer months, demonstrators soon began to call on the government to deliver services and hold corrupt officials to account. Initially, the movement represented a shift in the country’s political landscape, comprising a genuine, cross-sectarian, liberal, and young constituency. They received critical support from the Shia religious establishment, which called on Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to implement a series of anti-corruption reforms. The Abadi government quickly responded, issuing an ambitious seven-point agenda to install technocrats in key cabinet posts, reduce spending, and address patronage networks shaping political participation – initial steps toward a more comprehensive strategy to root out corruption from Baghdad’s ministries.

    Yet, Abadi was never able to implement even the preliminary elements outlined in his plan. Parliament voted to strip him of any mandate to conduct reforms in November 2015. The only outcome from this false start was the establishment of two committees on transparency and political parties’ use of public property – from which nothing has been heard since August 2015. As the Washington Institute’s Michael Knights explained, “the effects of Abadi’s plan [were] akin to the results one might expect if he had hired McKinsey or Boston Consulting Group….This sort of work is typically something to perform at a moment when the country is not in crisis.”

    By summer 2016, the original popular movement was hijacked by the firebrand Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in a bid to re-assert his political relevance. His intervention re-cast faltering demonstrations with a sectarian hue, and anchored future demands for anti-corruption reform with grievances articulated by Shia communities in southern cities. Iraq’s anti-corruption movement has fractured according to this geography, rendering it at once impotent and divisive between regions with varying sectarian, socio-economic, and ethnic compositions. Subsequent protests against corrupt practices in cities across Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan have thus been increasingly disconnected. Isolation of grievance within these localities has prevented recurrent national mobilization against the political culture in Baghdad on the same scale witnessed in 2015.

    A path away from corruption

    Abadi’s failure in 2015-2016 to address corruption and the subsequent regionalization of anti-corruption sentiment points to challenges the Baghdad government faces as it works to restore the state’s legitimacy in the eyes of populations liberated from ISIS rule. Yet, emergent hyper-local corruption in recently-liberated areas points to a more complex and challenging relationship between civilian populations, provincial political leaders, and the national government. Few Moslawis interviewed in March identified Baghdad as the preferred manager for reconstruction, instead seeing the capital’s policymakers as distant and unaccountable to local grievance. While many civilians were grateful to the Iraqi Security Forces for their sacrifices against ISIS, this respect did not translate across the civil-military divide.

    For many interviewees, this latent distrust of national political figures is borne from the post-2003 weakening of state authority and subsequent proliferation of local corruption networks that block civilians from interacting directly or productively with their government. In Mosul, first Al Qaeda and then ISIS emerged from this context to co-opt services and undermine state authority at the municipal level before 2014.

    The evolving relationship between national systems of institutionalized corruption and local experiences of extortion in Mosul is a crucial factor shaping sentiment among liberated populations in Iraq today. Anti-corruption actors may benefit from examining these dynamics through the lens of reconstruction if they seek to break patterns of marginalization and grievance that fuel violence, instability, and extremism.

    Iraq and its international partners should increase transparency and accountability across the country’s political establishment, starting at the local level. For example, disclosing funding sources and allocation processes during the reconstruction process could be an achievable first step. Additionally, training programs for new civil servants in Mosul and other liberated territories could focus on ensuring best practices regarding procurement and spending.

    Ultimately, these and other anti-corruption measures can only succeed if the country’s leaders commit the necessary political capital to achieving reform. As Iraqis emerge from the ISIS nightmare, they deserve such an effort.

    About this article

    This blog post was referenced here on epic “Reflection, reconciliation, and reconstruction,” and here on “Iraq must now rebuild itself – and that means fixing its dreadful governance.”

    Header image: An Iraqi Army soldier guards a street in eastern Mosul, near Nabi Younis neighborhood. (March 2017) Credit: Matthew Schweitzer.

    About the author

    Matthew Schweitzer is a researcher at the Education for Peace in Iraq Center, where he focuses on civil-military relations and development. He recently returned from northern Iraq, where he was assessing relationships between civil society organizations and security providers in liberated neighborhoods of eastern Mosul. He is also the editor of the Post-War Watch, and has written for a wide array of publications such as Foreign Policy, The Hill, World Politics Review, Al Jazeera, and Le Monde Diplomatique.
  • Recognizing the Potential “Destructive” Power of Social Norms

    By Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church and Russell Hathaway

    In this post Cheyanne and Russell share an early finding from their research into social norms in anti-corruption programming. Evidence shows that efforts to combat a harmful practice by depicting it as widespread or frequent can backfire by unintentionally increasing the practice. This bodes ill for well-intentioned programming like “I Paid a Bribe” sites that depict corruption as widespread, or for efforts to have the issue raised more in the press.


    In our effort to figure out if social norms are a key missing link in anti-corruption programming, we have been carefully mining social norms literature for the key points anti-corruption practitioners need to know.  We have much more to do, but felt one reasonably clear finding was worthy of sharing early.  It illuminates potential unintended consequences of some common forms of anti-corruption programming.

    Saying how bad something is can make it worse

    Put simply, if a program conveys a practice like littering, drug use, or corruption as widespread in an effort to educate the public about its deleterious effects, the program may actually result in an increase of the negative behavior.

    Evidence from a range of disciplines (e.g. psychology, sociology, marketing) that study social norms agrees on one finding: efforts to combat a harmful practice by depicting it as widespread or frequent can backfire by unintentionally increasing the practice.  This is an example of the “social proof” effect, and it derives from the tendency for human beings to imitate what they perceive is typical or common among their peers.  They do this either because doing so serves as a cognitive shortcut in unfamiliar situations, or because we feel validated or comfortable imitating the behaviors of those similar to us.

    Psychology Professor Robert Cialdini has written most extensively on the subject, and describes in an article, “Within the statement ‘Many people are doing this undesirable thing’ lurks the powerful and undercutting normative message ‘Many people are doing it.’” If people are emotionally or cognitively motivated to do what they perceive as typical or common, increasing perceptions that a negative behavior is common can lead individuals to normalize, or worse, even increase that behavior!

    This means that awareness-raising campaigns that are meant to inform or shock the public by how bad the situation is in the hopes of reducing the behavior can actually increase that behavior. This bodes ill for well-intentioned programming like “I Paid a Bribe” sites that depict corruption as widespread, or for efforts to have the issue raised more in the press. Headlines that scream about the abuse of power day after day could reinforce the perception that everyone is doing it and that such abuse is socially permissible, excusable, or unassailable.

    This is really interesting, but is there evidence?

    Yes but no!  Most of the evidence for social proof is derived from laboratory experiments (some about corruption) and field experiments on issues unrelated to corruption.  For instance, Robert Cialdini has shown that individuals are more likely to litter in an environment that is already littered – because the environment signals that littering is common – and may do so even with subtle reminders in their environment that littering is disapproved of. Marketing experiments have shown that signs at national parks designed to deter theft of firewood have increased theft if the signs depict stealing firewood as common, albeit wrong, whereas signs that depict firewood theft as disapproved of but less frequent lead to reduced theft. The same has been shown for a study examining fliers in hotel rooms that chastise residents for not reusing their towels as opposed to fliers indicating that most residents reuse their towels instead of immediately throwing them in the laundry. A field experiment on social proof tried to shift individuals’ energy consumption by providing them with information about town-wide average levels of energy consumption.  The researchers found that the information about mean levels of consumption “acted like a magnet” – people who consumed above the mean amount reduced their consumption, but people who consumed below the mean amount increased their consumption to match the average level of gas consumption in their community!

    Is there evidence that social proof happens with corruption?

    A few academics have examined the effects of perceptions on corruption and the results suggest the social proof effects hold.  These experiments have been conducted primarily in North America and Western and Southern Europe. One laboratory experiment elicited subjects’ perceptions about the frequency of corruption, and found that those who perceived corruption as common were more likely to behave in a “corrupt” way in an experimental game. When subjects were primed with information that the type of corruption relevant to the game was infrequent in real life, they behaved less “corruptly.” A slightly different field experiment engaged individuals from different geographic regions of Italy – one widely perceived as more corrupt than the other – in a series of corruption games.  Individuals from the more corrupt region were more likely to give and take bribes, and the author argues that perceptions that corruption is common fueled the willingness of individuals from the more “corrupt” region to engage in corruption in the game.

    However, we have not been able to find research or evaluations that show this is happening on the ground in reaction to anti-corruption campaigns.  This is not the same as saying it does not happen.  Here we get caught by the dearth of robust/quality evaluations on anti-corruption programming.  Absent evaluations that compare levels of corruption after an intervention has taken place versus a situation with no intervention – and without any evidence from evaluations that look for unintended effects of programs – we cannot confirm that the social proof effect occurs for anti-corruption programming as it has in numerous laboratory and field experiments.

    How transferable are the findings on social proof?

    Given that our focus is on corruption in fragile contexts, and the bulk of evidence is either laboratory-based or conducted in the field in North America, we are concerned about the transferability of the theory.  Many different aspects of context matter, including the topic being addressed, culture, and state of security/fragility.   For instance, would the phenomena be different in more collective cultures rather than the largely individualistic cultures of North America?   Would higher degrees of insecurity make the impact of possible social sanction – some argue a key feature in maintaining compliance to a social norm – more powerful?  Are the drivers behind negative behaviors like binge drinking (from which much social proof evidence is derived) comparable to corruption, where there are winners as well as losers?

    If social proof is applicable to corruption in fragile states, then what?

    There are clearly still questions to be asked and research to be done. Regardless, the theory and experimental evidence is troubling in light of institutionalized anti-corruption practice.  What does the Corruption Perceptions Index indicate about and do for countries with high levels of corruption?  For those countries at the bottom of the list, it certainly indicates that there is a widespread (read common) corruption problem. In doing so, does the CPI cement perceptions among citizens that corruption in their context is normal, and maybe even unassailable?

    If these perceptions can sustain or increase corruption, those who conduct research on corruption and who design anti-corruption programs need to become more cognizant of the potential unintended effects.  Given the transferability questions, at least programs should be monitoring for unintended negative effects and at best redeveloping their messages away from the amount or frequency of the problem.

    Please send us your experience with corruption and social proof

    We are eager to hear from anti-corruption practitioners if you have ever faced the problem of social proof in programming, and what you have done about it.  Has program monitoring or evaluation shown that corruption has unintentionally gone up in reaction to an awareness raising campaign or school outreach program?  If you have research, evaluations or personal experience that supports or contradicts these findings we would really like to hear from you.  Please comment or be in touch.


    More insights on social norms and corruption

    About this article

    What is the Corruption, Justice and Legitimacy Project?

    The Corruption, Justice, and Legitimacy (CJL) project advances systems approaches to corruption analysis in fragile and conflict-affected contexts.  Focusing on the CJS, the project supports more holistic efforts to diminish corruption in core state activities related to human security.  The work is built on the premise that corruption is a complex adaptive system.   CJL encompasses work funded by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement in DRC and CAR, housed at CDA, as well as Carnegie-funded research in Uganda, housed at The Institute for Human Security at the Fletcher School.  It is led by Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church and Diana Chigas, JD, Professor of Practice at The Fletcher School and Senior International Office and Associate Provost at Tufts University.

    Header image: Transparency International, 2016 Corruption Perceptions Index, accessible here 

    About the authors

    Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church is Principal at Besa: Catalyzing Strategic Change, a social enterprise committed to catalysing significant change on strategic issues in places experiencing conflict and structural or overt physical violence. She has significant experience working on anti-corruption and state legitimacy in the DRC and Uganda. As a Professor of Practice, she teaches and consults on program design, monitoring, evaluation and learning.
    Russell Hathaway is a Masters student at the Fletcher School of Tufts University studying conflict resolution and development economics. He received his BA from The University of Chicago, where he studied the linkages between post-conflict disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) and transitional justice. Outside of the classroom, Russell has researched sexual violence in the Syrian Civil War at UN Headquarters, authoring a report on the subject for UN Women. He also served in a project support capacity at the international development organization Heartland Alliance and has traveled extensively in Turkey and Germany. Most recently, Russell served in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs and the political section of U.S. Embassy Berlin as a U.S. Foreign Service Intern with the State Department. Following graduate school, he will join the Foreign Service through the Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship.
  • Is Female Discrimination in the Justice Sector Corruption?

    By Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church

    We wish to improve the gender representation within the anti-corruption theory of change in the program we support in DRC; starting with action-research. In this post, Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church shares the latest updates from the process and the current direction for this research.

    As followers of this blog know, we have an ongoing interest in the intersection of gender and corruption (see here and here).  Since March of this year we have transformed this interest, into a small action research project looking at gender and corruption in the judiciary in Lubumbashi, DRC.  Our intent is to inform our DRC programming,  Kuleta Haki, as well as contribute to the development of a corruption analytic process that generates more effective programming (the overarching purpose of our entire program).   As the research unfolds we will post what we have done, learned and found.

    A little backstory…

    Our interest in the intersection of gender and corruption comes from many different places, not the least of which was a fascinating conversation with the Congo-based staff of our implementing partner RCN J&D.  In late 2015, as we worked to flesh out a theory of change for our program, it was asserted that women are discriminated against in the CJS, and this is a form of corruption. Despite an energetic discussion, the specifics of that relationship remained unclear.  Making it more perplexing was the fact that the original analysis which was based over 150 interviews did not result in any mention of this as a corruption issue.  However, those who conducted that research were no longer with the project, so it was difficult to know with certainty if and how this issue has been broached.

    Without an understanding of the relationship, the team was not able to address this issue as part of our systemic understanding of how corruption functions.  Furthermore, the initial theory of change did not explicitly address changing gender-based corruption, nor engender the theory of change.  Instead, at the urging of our Congo-based staff, the program established a Gender and Corruption subgroup of the anti-corruption Network.  This sub-group has been quite popular with female Network members, often holding vibrant conversations about the relationship between gender and types of corruption in the CJS.  Yet the question of how gender and inevitably, gender norms in the context might relate to corruption was still outstanding.

    What & why

    With this research we are seeking to improve the gender representation within the theory of change and implementation for the Kuleta Haki project.  It is our belief that a theory of change that is gender-blind will be less likely to catalyze sustainable changes in the context.  Adding a gender dimension to the theory of change will involve making strategic adjustments to the current program design, based on the research findings, to ensure it is responsive to the differing experiences of corruption for men and women (and substrata within each group) in the CJS.  This could include the development of new objectives, nuanced assumptions or alternative activities.

    Our working assumptions

    We had three key working assumptions that guided our work (adapted from this Saferworld toolkit):

    1. ‘Gender’ is not synonymous with ‘women’. The lives of men are also shaped by gender norms and roles.
    2. ‘Women’ and ‘men’ are not homogeneous groups. People’s experiences vary greatly according to other aspects of their identities, such as age, marital status, class, caste, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, (dis)ability and so on. There are also power hierarchies within different gender groups. Any reference to women or men assumes that this will be broken out into relevant strata.
    3. Gender norms are not an inherent part of any culture – they have evolved over time and will continue to do so. Although gender norms often change slowly over long periods, gender-based behaviors may change much more quickly.

    What we want to know

    First, we wanted to know; how can we make our systems map, a key analytic tool for this project, a “deeper” reflection of the system of corruption through this research.  Three of the five associated research questions included:

    1. What are the gender power dynamics in the police and courts (related to criminal justice issues)?
    2. How are the experiences of corruption impacted by gender? e.g. do the types of corruption engaged in differ, do the consequences of corruption or resisting corruption differ?
    3. What is the relationship, if any, between discrimination of women in the police and courts and corruption? What drives (causes or contributes to) this relationship?

    Second, we sought to understand how gender identity needs to be incorporated into effective strategies for corruption resistance and what should be avoided.  Two of the five associated research questions included:

    1. What impact does gender identity have on one’s attitude and ability to resist corruption? Does the type of corruption matter (e.g., political pressure from above, client bribes, etc.)
    2. When is addressing gender inequality a required condition for effectively resisting corruption more broadly?

    Where have we been and where are we going?

    As of late May, 2017 we are just over half-way through this effort.  This means we have completed a quick and dirty literature review, developed our research methodology and tools, conducted 99 interviews, convened a participatory analysis with the anti-corruption network members, coded and analyzed the data and worked through the potential implications on our understanding of the system of corruption and theory of change.

    The next step is to take the draft findings back to Lubumbashi to receive the feedback of the Network.  With this in hand, we will facilitate a review of what these findings mean for the most current systems map and then discuss engendering the theory of change.   We will continue to post about our findings and lessons from this process.

    Some tastes of what may be coming…

    • One of the key draft findings of the research is: sexual favors are regularly demanded of women who avail of the criminal justice system as well as from women who work within the system. The majority of men perceive this to be of little consequence, while women are outraged.
    • When we did a dry run of applying the tentative findings to our corruption as a system map, we were shocked by how many clear changes were needed. There were some adaptations of existing factors, while others were the creation of entirely new loops.
    • One of the ongoing questions that we have from this process so far is whether it would be feasible to conduct a gender analysis as part of an initial assessment of how corruption functions. Our initial assessments in DRC and Uganda require resources as has this gender study; so do we run the risk of making the assessment process too demanding and thus no one willing to conduct it?   To be clear this is not a question of ‘should’ it, but rather would it be feasible from a time and participant tolerance perspective.

    About the author

    Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church is Principal at Besa: Catalyzing Strategic Change, a social enterprise committed to catalyzing significant change on strategic issues in places experiencing conflict and structural or overt physical violence. As a Professor of Practice at The Fletcher School, she teaches and consults on program design, monitoring, evaluation and learning.
  • What Anti-Corruption Practitioners Should Read About Social Norms

    By Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church and Russell Hathaway

    The literature on social norms and corruption needs to improve, and definitions need to be clarified, to enable practitioners to integrate the literature into programming. Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church and Russell Hathaway go into the details, and share resources sent in response to their previous blog on social norms and corruption. Including examples of programming with social norms.

    We believe social norms might be an important missing link in the majority of conventional corruption analysis efforts and anti-corruption programming.  And the recent flurry of blogs shows we are not alone in thinking this is a rich field of inquiry for the broader development field.

    In our previous post, we explained why we think social norms could contribute to anti-corruption programming, made a request for resources and laid out why we (Corruption, Justice & Legitimacy team) have embarked on an inquiry into how social norms may contribute to diminishing corruption in fragile states.

    We received many helpful recommendations and thoughts on the post, and have summarized some – but by no means all – of the most useful resources recommended.  Using these resources and others, our next step is to distill critical actionable points for policy makers and practitioners about social norms change and corruption.

    Improve the literature, clarify definitions, and integrate it into programming

    While rich and thorough, the literature does have some limitations and frustrating aspects.  Academics who write about social norms often debate definitions in circles, while sometimes simultaneously contradicting themselves within the same article.  Other scholars seem to talk past each other, intent on distinguishing their particular perspective, which obscures the fact that many of their insights are similar to those of their peers.

    On the other hand, many practitioners who have utilized social norms in their programming – or argued that they have – seem to have done so without integrating key aspects of the academic theory and experimental evidence on the subject.   (Which is not to say that the academics have the answer!)

    For instance, in a recent post on social norms on the Poverty to Power blog by Duncan Green, Duncan brainstormed that employing a “life cycle analysis” could help aid organizations more strategically target their donor and constituent bases.  Part of this involves engaging with people at a young age when they are beginning to “form” social norms.  But this conception of norms, in which they are instilled from a young age and internalized, reflects only one of multiple theories on social norm development.  Some academics maintain that social norms are not formed and internalized from a young age but vary from context to context based on one’s social group, cues in the environment, and expectations about what is typical and appropriate based on those cues.

    Practitioner reports also suggest some muddy thinking about social norms. Interventions are claimed to have ‘changed social norms’ when in fact they have focused solely on measuring and changing individual attitudes or beliefs.

    Going back to the recent posts by Duncan (not to pick on them, as we are big fans, but they are current and easy to access), the idea of tackling norms as they are formed and instilled at a young age would be challenged by some academics as not a social norm intervention at all, but an intervention targeting personal values.  This is an important distinction, as the way in which social norms and personal values are formed and maintained differ.

    One of our critiques of the state of the literature actually reflects one of Duncan’s main points – there is not enough coherent and rigorous analysis of what goes on “inside people’s heads,” which is a big problem if organizations think social norms can be used in programming.  Practitioners clearly need a better definition of social norms and contextually grounded about how norms change.

    Social norms and corruption: two categories of resources

    1. material that endorses the predominate principal-agent perspective and locates social norms in that framework
    2. critical material that looks at cultural, social, and power-based aspects of corruption, but doesn’t employ a rigorous definition of social norms or theory about how they change

    Neither category draws heavily from the academic or practitioner literature on social norm change, and virtually no anti-corruption interventions (that we could find) have focused explicitly on social norms, aside from those using techniques.

    Recommended resources

    What follows is a list of recommended resources, which includes some of the recommendations provided in response to our first social norms post and supplements them with a select set of resources we identified as valuable.  We have organized the material by topic and have not limited inclusion to corruption-focused material.   If your work is not on this list and you think it should be, please get in touch.

    Changing social norms

    These resources combine academic theory with practical insights about what norms are, how they change, and how to program around them.  None of these authors are the sole authority on social norms, and none of these theories are complete, but taken together they offer a glimpse at a more integrated theory of norm change.

    Programming with social norms: program examples

    A number of interventions have utilized social norms in their programming, sometimes with the explicit goal of changing social norms or perceptions.  Social Norms Marketing refers to “traditional marketing techniques, including mass media and face-to-face campaigns, which are designed to alter individuals’ perceptions about which attitudes and behaviors are typical and desirable in their community” (Paluck and Ball 2010).  Other programs have tried to affect social norms by combining such marketing techniques with small discussion groups and community affiliations with role models.  What follows are descriptions and evaluations of a number of programs utilizing social norms.

    Social norms and corruption

    Below are a number of resources that explicitly link social norms with corruption.  It is much more common for scholars and anti-corruption practitioners to relate corruption to culture.  These articles may mention culture, but they describe the relationship between corruption and social norms rather than to culture writ large.

    More insights on social norms and corruption

    About this article

    What is the Corruption, Justice and Legitimacy Project?

    The Corruption, Justice, and Legitimacy (CJL) project advances systems approaches to corruption analysis in fragile and conflict-affected contexts.  Focusing on the CJS, the project supports more holistic efforts to diminish corruption in core state activities related to human security.  The work is built on the premise that corruption is a complex adaptive system. CJL encompasses work funded by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement in DRC and CAR, housed at CDA, as well as Carnegie-funded research in Uganda, housed at The Institute for Human Security at the Fletcher School.  It is led by Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church and Diana Chigas, JD, Professor of Practice at The Fletcher School and Senior International Office and Associate Provost at Tufts University.

    Header image: “MAP OF GREETING BODY GESTURES.” Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design.

    About the authors

    Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church is Principal at Besa: Catalyzing Strategic Change, a social enterprise committed to catalysing significant change on strategic issues in places experiencing conflict and structural or overt physical violence. She has significant experience working on anti-corruption and state legitimacy in the DRC and Uganda. As a Professor of Practice, she teaches and consults on program design, monitoring, evaluation and learning.

    Russell Hathaway is a Masters student at the Fletcher School of Tufts University studying conflict resolution and development economics. He received his BA from The University of Chicago, where he studied the linkages between post-conflict disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) and transitional justice. Outside of the classroom, Russell has researched sexual violence in the Syrian Civil War at UN Headquarters, authoring a report on the subject for UN Women. He also served in a project support capacity at the international development organization Heartland Alliance and has traveled extensively in Turkey and Germany. Most recently, Russell served in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs and the political section of U.S. Embassy Berlin as a U.S. Foreign Service Intern with the State Department. Following graduate school, he will join the Foreign Service through the Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship.

  • What We Learned About Blogging in a Year

    By Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church, Jasmine Walovitch and Kiely Barnard-Webster

    If you are looking for an alternative way to share your program findings, definitely consider blogging. Within a year we succeeded in fostering a space for conversation between actors working in the field of anti-corruption in fragile states. On this anniversary, we want to share the key lessons we learned about blogging on corruption, and make the case for you to become involved.

    As Mark Pyman argued last week, the anti-corruption sector can use more platforms like these, which try to break out of the methodological box, share program findings as they arise, and create a stage for voices from the full spectrum of stakeholders – including policy-makers, donors, and practitioners. We hope you find these six lessons about blogging inspirational!

    1. You don’t need to be an experienced blogger to become one

    We started this blog series on corruption in fragile states for the Central Africa Accountable Service Delivery Initiative (CAASDI) program in March 17, 2016. CAASDI aims to contribute to more effective programming, by developing a diagnostic process to better understand corruption dynamics in the criminal justice sector in fragile contexts.

    At the same time that CAASDI was strategizing the dissemination of project findings from the program’s pilot project in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, its sister project on Corruption, Justice, and Legitimacy (CJL) in Uganda, was trying to identify more effective means to communicate moving away from traditional publications which are often ineffective.

    CJL eventually commissioned a video, while CAASDI tried its own experiment – blogging for six months, as a medium for reporting on achieved results, maintaining a relationship with our busy donors, and engage practitioners and policy makers that haven’t heard about our work before.

    Our team had its initial hesitations. We knew blogging works for household names in the non-profit community, but will it work for us? We address a niche topic and a very specific group of practitioners and experts. Do anti-corruption professionals even read blogs? (Yes. They do.) After the first six months we saw our experiment was reaping positive results, and we decided not only to continue blogging, but to also dedicate more time to it.

    Within a year, 33 posts and 15 authors later, we are still happy we took the plunge. Do you think blogging could help your project? Follow some of our advice below to do so successfully.

    2. Proactively pull people into the conversation

    Creating the space, i.e. designating our WordPress blog for our series, wasn’t enough to encourage conversation. Writing a blog post is only a fraction of the work necessary to getting its ideas read and discussed. Being active in pulling in potential readers to your blog is not optional. In most cases, the equation goes: more (and smarter) dissemination efforts = more readers. Still, we found a few dissemination time-savers. Here are a couple:

    1. Continue linking back to previous posts to show your continued relevance as a source of information.
    2. Ask blog post authors to share the post with their networks.

    For comparison sake, see how our LinkedIn page, which has been live for as long as the blog, has not been successful in creating conversation. This is largely because we decided to focus our dissemination efforts on the blog website.

    3. Readers will subscribe if you provide unique, credible, and easily accessible information

    We had a lot of posts front-loaded in the blog to provide a background for the series, and prove that we have unique content to offer.

    The unique content of our blog series displayed through 80 of the most frequently used words in our blog posts 1-28.

    With several blog posts inspired by the CAASDI and CJL projects, we proved that our space provides credible, evidence-based, information. We argued that this information and the questions it raised offers something unique to the field by being grounded in field experiences. And visitors to our blog agreed – the proof is in the pudding – website visitors were reading our posts. The top three most read posts were:

    1. What Can We Learn About Corruption in Fragile States?
    2. The Unhelpful Nature of Anti-Corruption Research: As seen by people trying to develop solutions
    3. Common Approaches to Understanding and Combatting Corruption

    The number of readers for each of our top three posts.

    Readership over time, by post.

    Key tip: Reporting accuracy, visitors vs. ‘readers’. We get a lot of our data (including the figures above) from Google Analytics. If you do too, increase the accuracy of your ‘readership’ report by excluding your own visits to the blog (that can be singled out if you use a utm), and by eliminating visitors who were on the post for less than 30 seconds (and just skimming through.)

    4. Experts will want to be series guest authors if you can offer the promise of being read by the right people

    Once our blog subscriptions grew, (by over 500% since our first week!) we could make the case for guest authors to start sending submissions. They trusted that materials we curated on the blog could reach an interested, engaged, audience.

    Where our readers have been coming from, March 17 2016 – March 17 2017. The size of the circles represents the relative amount of ‘visits’ from that location. Report generated in Google Analytics.

    There was also the promise of an opportunity to generate cross-learning and feedback on new research. Our readers were at headquarters as well as field offices. We were able to reach readers in the contexts authors were speaking to, such as Uganda. Our subscribers work for universities, foundations, government agencies (e.g. USAID, Global Affairs Canada and Irish Aid), research organizations (e.g. J-PAL at MIT, Transparency International), judiciary and parliaments, and individuals from the defense and private sectors.

    To date we were fortunate to be ‘hosts’ to submissions from 11 guest authors of different backgrounds.

    5. Identify the value of different types of ‘conversation’ on/through your blog

    All our blog posts create a form of conversation between actors working in the field of anti-corruption in fragile states. In our experience, this is a helpful way to identify and categorize the manifestations of ‘blog conversation’ and its use:

    5.1 Content discussions: high in value, but hard to track, and harder to generate

    This form of ‘conversation’ happens when a reader sends the author, or fellow readers, opinions and information (through blog comments or by email). It is the more obvious meaning of conversation. Even though it is harder to track, but can offer useful content to the author and fellow readers.

    The first successful ‘content discussion’ we hosted this past year was catalyzed by Michael Johnston’s post on how to measure corruption. This prompted an interesting and well-articulated counter post written by Matthew Stephenson and posted on his Global Anticorruption Blog, spurring a follow-up rebuttal-post from Michael on the topic.

    Two other highly discussed posts were The Unhelpful Nature of Anti-Corruption Research, and Are Social Norms an Important Missing Link in Anti-corruption Programming?.

    Key tip: Team communication. Team communication is key to ensure that everybody is aware of important comments sent to various team members through different channels. We use a Google Sheet and Google Document to track key comments.

    5.2 Recommendations: lower in value, but easy to track, and easier to generate

    This form of ‘conversation’ happens when a reader recommends the blog post to a colleague (liking on Facebook, retweeting, forwarding). It is easier to quantify, but also adds less value to the author. We still measure this form of conversation as a litmus test for our relevance to readers. We do this using simple Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn analytics.

    Handing over the mic

    We hope this post has encouraged you to join future conversations as authors or as readers of our corruption in fragile states series:

    • Contact us (emails below) if you are interested in submitting a post.
    • Have your colleagues subscribe to our mailing list, so they will also receive our posts on unique insights, points of view, and experience on anti-corruption policy, program design, and implementation.
    • Comment below about new topics, in the realm of countering corruption in fragile states, you would like to read about, or any feedback on our series so far, and this overview in particular.

    It has been great chatting with you. Let’s talk again soon.

    About the authors

    Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church is Principal at Besa: Catalyzing Strategic Change, a social enterprise committed to catalysing significant change on strategic issues in places experiencing conflict and structural or overt physical violence. She has significant experience working on anti-corruption and state legitimacy in the DRC and Uganda. As a Professor of Practice, she teaches and consults on program design, monitoring, evaluation and learning.


    Jasmine Walovitch is Communication Associate at CDA. She helps CDA expand the reach and use of its lessons, tools, and resources, and supports the convening of CDA trainings and collaborative learning consultations. She admits she was ignorant to the anti-corruption world until beginning to co-curate and edit this blog series – but feels like she’s learned a lot since. Contact:


    Kiely Barnard-Webster is Program Manager at CDA, working on innovative approaches to tackling corruption in the DRC and peacebuilding and conflict sensitivity in Myanmar. Kiely is also a regular author and co-curator of the blog series on corruption in fragile states. Contact:

  • A Helpful Response to Unhelpful Research, and a Call for Ideas

    By Dr. Mark Pyman

    In January, Mark Pyman wrote a blog on this site on the unhelpful nature of anti-corruption research. Now Mark shares the key points from the many thoughtful and thought provoking responses it elicited. Inspired by the responses, he suggests what could be done to accelerate the usefulness of anti-corruption research, and ends with a call for ideas.


    In January, I wrote a blog on this site on the unhelpful nature of anti-corruption (AC) research. Speaking as a practitioner, currently working on curbing corruption in Afghanistan and in Greece, I was – and am – frustrated that so much of the corruption research literature focuses on corruption as a problem, not on solving the problem.

    The blog elicited a lot of responses, (both on the blog and in my inbox) all of them thoughtful and thought-provoking. Almost all the respondents felt that I was at least sort-of-right, and that the current thrust of anti-corruption research needs to change.

    The key points were 1) Too many researchers seem to like nothing more than to ‘admire the problem’. 2) We are desperately missing real sector-level insight. There are some good analyses, but these treasures are few and far between. 3) Why isn’t the whole anti-corruption research community moving away from diagnosis towards treatment? Surely, we have got to the point where researchers should be trying out approaches, such as new technical indexes at the sector level, to see whether they can help diagnosis and reform? And 4) Surely, we can get beyond yet more analyses of context, into analyses of the success or failure of specific reform efforts and how context affects this?

    So, what can we do better?

    Skip to: What research is out there that is good? or What could we do to accelerate the usefulness of anti-corruption research?

    Your suggestions

    First, I have collated the main points that appeared in the responses, as well as my take on them. I have organised them under the following headings: (1) getting published, (2) the theory around corruption, (3) the diagnosis of corruption, (4) the possible strategies and response measures, (5) country experiences, (6) making change happen and (8) sustaining change.

    1. Getting published

    Several respondents commented that practical experience, case studies and good results were not sufficient to get published, especially in academic, peer-reviewed journals. As one person put it, ‘theoretical and abstract’ pieces are favoured by good journals, and publications in good journals can make or break careers. This is not particular to corruption research, as the same being true in many social sciences, such as criminology.

    There is, thankfully, now a trend to demand that research be published in open source, peer-reviewed journals, but it is still by no means the norm.

    Other respondents made the point that practitioners are never going to write up their experiences for academic journals, or even for simple websites, unless they are forced to do so.

    Another made the point that it would help if donor agencies required ‘donees’ to have some sort of M&E research running in parallel with their projects.

    I share these views.  On the academic hand, everything surely has to be available on an open source platform or available as a summary on open platforms. On the practitioner hand, we need a culture where everyone writes up something about their work that at least lets the whole global AC community know that something was done on this topic/ in this country/at this time/ with roughly the following result.

    2. ‘Theory of government’ research

    The complex nature of governance and state building across the centuries, which provides the context for any theory of corruption has been the subject of a great deal of recent interesting academic work, such as North et al (Violence and Social Orders) and Acemoglu & Robinson (Why Nations Fail). The emerging wisdom is that we need to place the governance discourse in the context of a thorough understanding of elite bargains permitting or inhibiting effective collective action emerging from intra-elite struggles and the consequent political settlements. This is hugely helpful to anti-corruption work, not least because it is important to recognise the intensely political nature of the whole anti-corruption discourse. We are addressing issues that go to the very heart of the political process. Corruption is an essential ingredient in the struggle for political power and for those in power on how to keep it.

    On the theory around corruption, respondents agree that there has been significant progress in recognizing, for example, the deficiencies of principal-agent theory and the potential advantages of collective action theory. But also, they are not substitutes – each might explain some parts of corrupt behavior – and the quest for one overall theory is probably misplaced. Rather, we are still in the age of the alchemists, trying to make sense out of issues we don’t yet have more granular understanding of.

    Speaking as an experimentalist, whilst it would make our lives much easier if we had a robust theoretical base, we can get a long way without one. For example, at the analysis end, we segment the problem as much as we can, we gather up all the known evidence within each segment, and we do our best to connect the nature of the solutions being used to each particular context.

    3. Better diagnosis of the corruption issues

    One respondent summed it up by saying ‘we don’t yet have any standard diagnosis tools’. This is a bit of a shame, to say the least. There is also little research on whether diagnoses were correct or incorrect. In the sector I know best – defence – there is now a standard diagnosis tool, but it seems to be a lone example.

    4. Strategies and measures for tackling corruption

    Several respondents noted that corruption needs a lot more breaking down before either the research or the prescriptions can be useful in practice. Just focusing at the national level gives little prescriptive power. On the one hand, corruption increasingly has a large international element, through vehicles such as shell companies, international banking, service companies and international aid.

    On the other hand, respondents stressed the need for much, much more focus on sector-level corruption: in education, health, the police and so on.  As one respondent put it, ‘Like you I work on sector corruption problems, and here the air is very thin’.

    5. Country experiences

    Most responses related to this element. There were quite a few good examples quoted. But several respondents noted that the issue is not so much the experiences that are lacking, it’s the lack of a guiding framework on whether they could or could not work in other context. There are also several relatively new programmes that focus on constructive country solutions, such as Anticorpp, J-PAL, ISS and the new DFID ACE programmes through SOAS and the British Academy.

    6. Strategies for making change happen

    Regarding the critical aspect of strategies for making change happen, participants pointed to several strategies that come out of the research literature, such as those from KlitgaardKhan and Mungiu-Pippidi.

    7. Sustaining change

    This is still, to my mind and to others, a research-free zone. There was an impassioned plea from one of the key anti-corruption actors in Guatemala: “The problem is not in the usefulness or not of the research, but in that to bring about real changes it is necessary that many factors, knowledge, will of change, leadership and available resources need to come together. In Guatemala, we are living a unique experience with the creation of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala, which has succeeded in bringing to justice numerous networks of corruption in all sectors of the State. However, institutional and systems changes still do not find enough knowledge and leadership for this story to have a happy ending”.

    Similarly, there is almost no research on how the private sector can help advance national anti-corruption progress. For example, one senior business respondent in Saudi Arabia, pointed out how the right kind of engagement from business CEOs can lead to dramatic change. For example, as CEO of a large company, he created a safe means for major contractors to provide input to him anonymously, without fear for their personal safety, livelihood or business prospects.  The result was invaluable actionable inputs, resulting in significant cost reduction and around 25% reduction of delivery time, largely due to reductions in corruption blockages. Such experiences are mentioned generically in the corporate anti-corruption research literature, but hardly ever through case studies or proper research.  Engagement by the private sector, utilizing the power they can wield, is a key facet of enabling change in a country. These are the kinds of ‘voices from the field’ that need to be supported by good research.

    What research is out there that is good?

    So, what research is out there that is good? Lots of people mentioned Anticorpp, ISS, J-PAL and DFID/ACE and the Partnership for Transparency Fund (PTF). These are indeed hugely welcome, constructive programmes. But they don’t yet come close to giving us a solution set or a changed general direction.

    Several people recommended articles, reports and books that provide useful-, constructive guidance. For me, the most thoughtful came from Paul Heywood, with an article on rethinking corruption that has just been published, which seeks to explain why there has been such a mismatch between research and results. Other positive reflections include Klitgaard (here and here), Mungiu-Pippidi, the Princeton programme on innovations for successful societies and J-PAL’s 2013 Governance Review Paper. So, something positive is happening, and this is to be welcomed.

    What could we do to accelerate the usefulness of anti-corruption research?

    Here are some ideas: Getting more into the public domainresearchers and practitioners take collective actionrethinking corruption.

    Getting more into the public domain

    1. Researchers agree to focus 25% of each paper on thoughts about the practical usage of their work. Funders of research, and donors, also commit to this 25% element and make it a requirement of the funding.
    2. Every article published in a closed-access journal should be accompanied by a short article or policy paper 2-5 pages long, which can be put in open access sources and on the academic’s website, the university’s website. The full journal article could then carry a link to the shorter piece, in cases people find the academic bit first and see they don’t have access – then they can go to the piece that’s available.
    3. Practitioners agree to write 2-5 page articles on all work that they do, and place it in easy-access websites.

    [This has been the goal of the corruption in fragile states blog series – where CAASDI has posted our original theory of change, lessons learned blog posts, including how we updated our analysis, and a review of the results from our recent evaluation.]

    1. Academics encourage the establishment of a new journal on addressing corruption, that encourages both practitioners and academics whilst keeping to the normal academic peer review mechanism.. There is at least one good model for such a thing: see the Stability Journal (

    Researchers and practitioners take collective action

    1. Researchers subscribe to a new organisation of academics determined to see a reduction in corruption worldwide. This is not my suggestion, but an idea currently circulating among some US academics; and a great idea. After all, is this not collective action?
    2. Practitioners establish a web forum for practitioners and academics, dedicated to the practicalities of curbing corruption. It would focus especially on addressing sector-level corruption. Academics could place their research summaries here. This too is an idea currently circulating: if you are would like to contribute and/or support this, please be in touch with me:

    Rethinking corruption

    1. The time seems to be right for an in-depth debate about how corruption can be dis-aggregated and re-thought, especially at sector level. The purpose would be to craft better strategies and solutions.
    2. Can academics, donors and others create a range of events, and piggy-back this topic onto existing conferences and seminars?

    If you like these ideas, give me your vote for which ones you like the most. If you don’t like any of them, give me your ideas.

    This is not idle passing of the time. Individuals and societies suffer greatly from corruption, and we can be more active as researchers and practitioners in moving faster towards a more robust understanding of how we can curb it.

    Photo credits: Posted on Pixabay here.

    About the author

    Dr. Mark Pyman is an experienced advocate, scholar and practitioner at the forefront of untangling the nexus between corruption and insecurity worldwide. He is currently one of three International Committee Members on the Afghanistan independent Anti-Corruption Committee. For the previous eleven years he led the global Security and Defence Programme at the NGO Transparency International. This groundbreaking programme worked on the ways that corruption undermines countries, especially in relation to security and conflict. He has led the team’s field work in over 30 countries, including Afghanistan, Bulgaria, Burundi, Colombia, Georgia, India, Kenya, Latvia, Lebanon, Norway, Palestine, Poland, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, UK and the USA.

    His work has been instrumental in shaping the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty (2013), in influencing NATO policy and operations in respect of counter-corruption, in shaping the military doctrine of several countries, and in policy forums such as the Munich Security Conference. He has also led the development of techniques for evaluating the corruption vulnerabilities of all the world’s defence companies. His last publication for TI in 2015 reviewed the 165 largest defence companies worldwide in an analysis that is viewed by the industry as the most authoritative analysis available.

    He has authored or supervised some sixty publications. He has also supervised  detailed reports analysing the defence corruption vulnerabilities of 120 countries.

  • The Case for Systems in Corruption Analysis

    By Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church

    In this blog post we share a new video we created to reach those who are too busy to question the effectiveness of their current approaches, too invested in conventional methodology, or work in organizations that resist new ideas or – to be fair – reject our premise. Is the video clear and compelling? Could you imagine using it? With who and for what?

    Anyone who has been following the Corruption in Fragile States blog series knows by now that we (the Corruption, Legitimacy and Justice team and Central Africa Accountable Service Delivery Initiative teams) think systems thinking, offers practitioners a more useful way to analyze corruption dynamics in fragile states.  In the last year we have spent much time reaching out to the policy and practice communities explaining our rationale and offering to present our research.  There have been two fairly consistent types of responses; no response! and warm welcomes.

    When we hit the sweet spot of individuals who have an immediate need e.g. new strategy design or policy review and are simultaneously frustrated with past programming – they have been willing to give us the time to make our case.  This generally produces more follow-up and engagement with the team.

    However there has been a second set of people who have no interest in a four-hour presentation or 50-page document that uses words like dynamics and complexity multiple times a page.  (Can you really blame them; systems language can be a barrier in itself! ) This group is either too busy to question the effectiveness of their current approaches, too invested in conventional anti-corruption methodology, or work in organizations that resist new ideas or – to be fair – reject our premise.  Within the government donor world specifically, in addition to this myriad of reasons we also found the fact that we were working on the nexus of two sectors – corruption in the criminal justice sector – as a significant deterrent to engagement.  As a nexus issue – it suddenly became no one’s issue.

    What did we do?

    So for this audience, and all those who work with this audience –  we made a short and (hopefully) snappy video.  In under four minutes we explain why systems thinking generates a more useful analysis of corruption.  Using short examples from our research in the criminal justice sector in Northern Uganda, the video:

    • explains the difference between a systems-based analysis and conventional corruption risk mapping,
    • offers a key distinction around enablers and drivers of corruption, and
    • describes ways to use the corruption systems map once in hand.

    It is our hope that a video, with its easy to share and visually engaging medium will start to make inroads into this second category of key anti-corruption actors.    If you want to know more about the results of our Uganda research; the blogs (herehere and here) or the full paper are available.

    Who else might find this video useful?

    We also think the video has the potential for use in academic courses or professional training on corruption analysis or anti-corruption programming.   As a very short synopsis of a complicated set of ideas, it may respond to the always difficult challenge of getting professionals to do preparatory work prior to a training event.  Moreover, the audio-visual elements respond to different learning styles so it could be offered in conjunction with written resources/reading assignments.

    Finally, we think the systems community could use the video to show the application of systems thinking to a specific topic.  As systems is a burgeoning field that is slowly making inroads into more traditional donor and implementing agencies, our hope is that a short overview grounded in a real-life scenario may highlight the practical potential of the approach.

    What I learned about transitioning text to video

    For those who are considering generating alternatives or supplements to written products, video production offers a world of learning.   From picking the voice-over accent and gender that will lend the most credibility to the content, to figuring out appropriate visuals I learned a lot about communication.   If I could do it again, I would use shorter sentences in the voice-over script and have taken far more thoughtful and high quality pictures when we were on the ground doing the research.

    In terms of accessing and then influencing our core audience – those who are busy, not yet convinced or not willing to engage in a long-complicated document; well you tell me.  Is the video clear and compelling?  Could you imagine using it?  With who and for what?

    Your feedback will help us as we make choices going forward on form and structure of our products. All input is much appreciated!

    About the author

    Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church is Principal at Besa: Catalyzing Strategic Change, a social enterprise committed to catalysing significant change on strategic issues in places experiencing conflict and structural or overt physical violence. She has significant experience working on anti-corruption and state legitimacy in the DRC and Uganda. As a Professor of Practice, she teaches and consults on program design, monitoring, evaluation and learning.
  • Approaching Corruption through the Lens of Masculinities

    By Héctor Portillo and Sebastián Molanon

    Héctor Portillo and Sebastián Molanon propose three ways in which the expectations, pressures, and privileges of “being a man” may shed light on male attitudes towards corruption.

    Although corruption is not by any means our field of study, we both grew up in countries where corruption is normalized to the point where not engaging in it is not only considered rare but naïve. Coincidentally, both of our countries of origin, Mexico and Colombia, also have a deeply embedded culture of sexism and machismo. Our personal experiences with sexism, masculinities, and corruption motivated us to explore how the expectations, pressures, and privileges of “being a man” can encourage or deter an individual’s engagement in corruption.

    Masculinities and toxic masculinity

    The ideals men and boys are expected to live up to are called ‘masculinities.’ Masculinities are socially constructed and reinforced, they vary by time, place, and community, and have hierarchies – “some forms are prized as being more valuable for men and boys to aspire than others.” These expectations “often put men under pressure to conform to prevailing masculine ideals, which may or may not be what individual men would otherwise aspire to.”

    Some of the expectations of what it means to be a man may translate into violent and/or self-destructive behaviors. The Good Men Project calls those expectations ‘toxic masculinities,’ and defines them as those where manhood is formed by a cocktail of “violence, sex, status and aggression.” They are often associated with risky behaviors (e.g., higher rates of drug and alcohol abuse) and proneness to engage in violence (e.g. sexual violenceviolent crime). Others, like Michael Kimmel,* have argued that these expressions of manhood become socialized — that is, they are not just internalized by the individual, but also replicated by society.

    [To our best knowledge, there is no research (yet) on the links between toxic masculinities and corruption. If you know of any, please send us examples through the comments section below!]

    Three mechanisms of interaction

    We believe that male attitudes towards corruption can be analyzed through three mechanisms. We have presented them as separate for conceptual clarity, but we believe they interact with and possibly reinforce each other:

    1. Corruption as a male privilege;
    2. Corruption as a male performance of power and domination; and
    3. Corruption as a pathway for men to fulfill society’s expectation of them to ‘provide’

    Corruption as male privilege

    Let’s start with the proposition that gender inequality exists in most societies, and that this translates into men wielding more/most power –especially, “entrusted power” (i.e. political/policy power) – than women. Thus, men hold most of the resources and networks that maintain and give access to power.  Most women, then, do not engage in corruption because they are unable to tap into the structures and networks that men have access to. In this sense corruption, “the abuse of entrusted power for private gain,” presents itself as a male privilege.

    Corruption as a male performance of power and domination

    The social definitions of what being a man looks (and feels) like are frequently correlated to power. If what we understand to be “manly” is toxic (i.e. toxic masculinities) and what we understand as “power” is also thought of as “manly”, then the toxicity may permeate to power as well. Corruption, then, would be more likely where men are expected (and rewarded) for using their power over others; it would be a consequence and a symptom of toxic understandings of what it means to be a man, for men would understand corruption as another way to prove their manliness through power.

    Corruption as a pathway for men to fulfill society’s expectation of them to ‘provide’

    Our final proposed mechanism stems from the assumption that men are expected to provide for their families, and that their notion of value is assessed on the fulfillment of this role. However, as is the case in most of the world, only a small proportion of the population can meet all their needs. Although this pressure is true for both men and women, the expected role of provider (and sometimes sole provider) is often masculine.

    Studies have shown that, in extreme situations of poverty and/or conflict, when men are unable to fill the role of provider (a role they consider quintessential to their identity as men) they are likelier to engage in self-destructive behaviors or to join criminal or armed groups. It is, therefore, not unreasonable to imagine that some men in positions of relative power (lower-level public officials, for example) might engage in corruption to fulfill their role as providers. In some contexts, engaging in corruption practices can be a coping mechanism for individuals who are part of a power structure.

    Of course, there is nothing new in the notion that one of the reasons for some individuals to engage in corruption is economic distress or need. However, understanding how the economic pressures are gendered (i.e. different for men and women) may help understand how the mechanisms through which these pressures lead to corruption are themselves gendered.

    However, it is also common to see men in high-level positions of power engaging in corruption practices. In their case, the power attached to the positions they hold, the social networks they belong to or their last names, cover them with a veil of protection against the law. Thus, different hierarchies of power among men when engaging in corruptive practices differ in the scope and magnitude but the effects are the same: mistrust, impunity, and undermine of democracy.

    Interactions across mechanisms

    As we have written above, the three mechanisms we have proposed interact with each other:

    1. Access to positions of relative power or influence from which men can engage in corruption is an extension of their male privileges.
    2. The way men use (and abuse) said power for their private gain will be informed by a (masculinized and possibly toxic) understanding of how they ought to wield power.
    3. Corruption is a possible pathway for individuals holding positions of relative power to earn additional income and/or solidify their positions and networks of power, allowing them to provide more resources for their families.

    Can gender equality decrease corruption?

    This brief exploration introduces a more nuanced question. Can gender equality decrease corruption? Although this requires much further research, our analysis suggests that as social understandings of power and (toxic) masculinities become dissociated from each other, corruption’s appeal as a (male) performance of power will diminish. Likewise, as men’s identity is less associated with the role of provider, pressures to engage in corruption may diminish.

    Gender equality is not enough

    Gender equality may reduce men’s use of corruption as a mechanism to display power and domination over women, but it won’t necessarily reduce men’s (and women’s) use of corruption as a mechanism to display power and domination over people. As gender equality advances, corruption will stop being a male privilege and become available for both men and women with power.

    Programs that address corruption or gender equality ought to consider the way these two subjects interplay with each other. Existing and future programming on masculinities could be adjusted to incorporate notions of power and the construction of masculinity as a strategy to better engage with anti-corruption work. To the best of our knowledge, this has not yet been done in a purposeful, measurable manner. We hope this brief post will inspire researchers and practitioners to ask how work on masculinities and on corruption better complement each other.

    * Kimmel, Michael, “Masculinities and Gun Violence: The Personal Meets the Political,” Paper prepared for a session at the UN on “Men, Women and Gun Violence,” July 14, 2005.

    About the authors

    Héctor Portillo is involved in a variety of peacebuilding programs in Guerrero and Michoacán, two of the most violent states in Mexico. He has a BA in Political Science from the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México and a Master’s degree from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, where he focused his studies on the intersections of gender and conflict resolution. Previously, he worked in different positions for the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and of Public Education. He is currently Project Coordinator for Catholic Relief Services Mexico.


    Sebastián Molano is an international development worker from Colombia. He holds a Master on NGO Management and Human Security from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Sebastián has worked for over 11 years on development issues in Latin America and the Caribbean. His experience ranges from providing humanitarian response in Haiti, development work in Central America to participating in 20 political and electoral observation missions across the continent. As a gender specialist, Sebastián has developed an expertise in gender and masculinities and how to engage purposefully men and boys to enable gender equality. He is the founder of Defying Gender Roles an advocacy initiative that seeks to openly challenge harmful gender roles, gender norms, and traditional notions of masculinity. You can learn more about his work on his TEDx talk. Currently, Sebastián is a Gender Advisor for Oxfam America.
  • Are Social Norms an Important Missing Link in Anti-Corruption Programming?

    By Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church and Russell Hathaway

    In this post Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church and Russell Hathaway begin their deep dive into the world of social norms and its potential applicability to anti-corruption programming. They invite you to help further develop this line of inquiry.


    The Corruption, Justice and Legitimacy (CJL) project is developing a process to generate more effective anti-corruption programming through the creation of a systems-based analytic process. Through our work to date, CJL has come to believe that social norms are a critical omission in the vast majority of corruption analysis in fragile states. Critical, we argue, because social norms help explain how seemingly negative behaviors, such as corruption, are sustained over time. This gap in understanding the context undermines the effectiveness of much anti-corruption programming.

    Our question is: Can experience in social norm change on other issues – such as preventing addictions, diminishing campus binge drinking or stopping littering – inform theories of change within anti-corruption programming?

    The role of social norms in the system of corruption

    One of the reasons we think there is potential in focusing on social norm change comes from our assertion that corruption in a fragile state is a complex adaptive system; where the parts – including actors, attitudes, institutions etc. – interact with each other to form a complex dynamic that is not linear. In the systems thinking field, mental models – intuitive generalizations from observations of real world events which are used to guide decisions– are understood to have some of the most significant potential to create change in a system. It is possible that social norms could have some of the same high-impact potential.

    We feel that in complex systems, social norms can often be a key driving factor behind patterns of corrupt behavior and the subsequent resiliency of corruption as a system. In other words, despite the best intentions and even short-term successes of anti-corruption programs, the system will revert to its equilibrium. Some of the elements of the system may have changed, but the phenomena of corruption will not, if our assertions hold true.

    These arguments can help explain the ineffective nature of the many anti-corruption programs that do not address the factors behind normalized behaviors. These behaviors (e.g. paying bribes, nepotism) generally serve a purpose in the context. They may be counter-intuitive for an external actor or from the collective perspective, yet there is a rationale behind the behavior. If this rationale is not addressed then it is unlikely that corruption can be diminished through interventions that assume corruption is a deviation from, or malfunction within, the system, as is generally the case with programs based on a principal-agent model.

    Commonalities in defining social norms

    “…the capacious content of a social concept or its diverse manifestations may often be lost or diminished through the maneuver of trying to define it in sharply delineated terms.” – Amartya Sen

    A social norm is one of these “rich phenomena” where the capacious content makes definition difficult and the variety of competing attempts testifies to its diversity and complexity. While there are common features that social norms discussions generally cover, no definition dominates the discourse.

    It is generally agreed that a social norm is

    1. unwritten or informal, and
    2. is not to be confused with the behavior generated by the rule. For instance, that act of paying a bribe is not a social norm; rather, there is a rule that generates this behavior.
    3. involves some degree of social sanction for not complying; this can be external – like being laughed at or dishonored by others – or internal – through guilt or anxiety.

    Disagreements in the meaning of social norms

    There are differing opinions on the role of social interaction or a social group (sometimes called a reference group) in the development and maintenance of a social norm. For instance, some argue that it is through interaction with others that social norms are created and maintained and this critically differentiates it from a personalized value; others do not draw this distinction.

    There is much debate about whether social norms must serve a functional purpose in a society. Muddying the waters somewhat is the fact that authors in these debates use different understandings of “functional.” Some argue that for a social norm to be considered functional, the resulting behaviors must be socially efficient.

    What do we think?

    Our current, very nascent and sure to change, sense on these debates is that “social norms are the informal rules governing behavior that emerge unintentionally through social interaction.”

    In systems thinking actors, institutions etc. all interact and are related. It stands to reason then that social norms are developed through social interaction and are group dependent. People can conform to different social norms pending which group they find dominant in a particular moment. We also believe that these interactions with others involve sanction. In other words, non-conformity with the social norm could result in an external sanction e.g. disapproval of contemporaries or an internal sanction e.g. shame.

    Systems thinking also asserts that patterns of behavior always meet a function. And there is no requirement for that function to be socially positive.  We feel that social norms do serve a function, which is why they are both resilient and malleable. Social norms are known to change, at times quite rapidly, which suggests that the purpose they were serving has been rendered or shown to be no longer necessary. However, they are also resilient to efforts to change them that do not address the function that they are serving. It is from these beliefs that we feel that moralizing about corruption (corruption is “bad” or “evil”) is not helpful because it ignores the real needs the norms behind these behaviors are serving.

    Social norms are not formal rules, morals or values

    In our understanding, social norms are distinct from formal rules or laws, which are usually the product of explicit deliberation and debate among the public, policymakers, and academics and can be enforced by official structures. Further, there can be numerous behaviors resulting from a single social norm; these behaviors can be positive or negative from a societal perspective. For instance, through working together a police unit may have developed the expectation that team members always back each other. This can result in positive behaviors of help and support and as we found in DRC, and also in negative behaviors of turning a blind eye to a member of the unit using his position to sexually abuse someone in pretrial detention.

    We also draw a distinction between a personalized value (e.g. moral norm) and a social norm. A personalized value is not derived from on-going social interaction and is not changed through sanction. Finally, social norms are not to be confused with culture. Culture is more expansive including other things besides norms such as laws, rituals, personal values, institutions, and physical artifacts.

    Seeking research, cases, evaluations and expert opinions

    We are at the beginning of our deep dive into the world of social norms and its potential applicability to anti-corruption programming. Our first step is mastering the literature from a diverse set of disciplines ranging from evolutionary biology to social psychology. From this we hope to develop a workable concept applicable to corruption.  From there we will mine existing wisdom for insights on changing social norms that may be useful in the corruption field. At that point we hope to return to Uganda – one of our research cases – to test these ideas with implementing actors.

    As we embark on this effort, we would be keenly interested in hearing from those who have worked on identifying social norms that drive corruption or any other phenomena. What process did you use to identify the unwritten rules?

    We would also like to hear from those who have developed programs to change social norms related to corruption or in other sectors. Research papers, case studies, program designs and evaluations would all be tremendously useful.  Please send along to Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church at

    About this article

    What is the Corruption, Justice and Legitimacy Project?

    The Corruption, Justice, and Legitimacy (CJL) project advances systems approaches to corruption analysis in fragile and conflict-affected contexts.  Focusing on the CJS, the project supports more holistic efforts to diminish corruption in core state activities related to human security.  The work is built on the premise that corruption is a complex adaptive system.  CJL encompasses work funded by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement in DRC and CAR, housed at CDA, as well as Carnegie-funded research in Uganda, housed at the Henry J. Leir Institute at The Fletcher School.  It is led by Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church, Professor of Practice at The Fletcher School, and Diana Chigas, JD, Senior International Office and Associate Provost at Tufts University.

    Image source: From “The Essentials of Business Etiquette” by Barbara Pachter; posted on “15 meeting etiquette rules every professional needs to know” by Samantha Lee, Business Insider August 10, 2015.


    About the authors

    Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church is Principal at Besa: Catalyzing Strategic Change, a social enterprise committed to catalysing significant change on strategic issues in places experiencing conflict and structural or overt physical violence. She has significant experience working on anti-corruption and state legitimacy in the DRC and Uganda. As a Professor of Practice, she teaches and consults on program design, monitoring, evaluation and learning.

    Russell Hathaway is a Masters student at the Fletcher School of Tufts University studying conflict resolution and development economics. He received his BA from The University of Chicago, where he studied the linkages between post-conflict disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) and transitional justice. Outside of the classroom, Russell has researched sexual violence in the Syrian Civil War at UN Headquarters, authoring a report on the subject for UN Women. He also served in a project support capacity at the international development organization Heartland Alliance and has traveled extensively in Turkey and Germany. Most recently, Russell served in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs and the political section of U.S. Embassy Berlin as a U.S. Foreign Service Intern with the State Department. Following graduate school, he will join the Foreign Service through the Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship.
  • Why is Our Anti-Corruption Program Working?

    By Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church

    L’évaluation mi-parcours est disponible en version française. Veuillez trouver cette publication, « La justice sans corruption, c’est possible – j’y suis engagé » sur le site web de CDA Collaborative Learning Projects

    Is ‘Strength in Numbers’ creating the ability to resist corruption? In this blog post, Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church, shares lessons learned and a few questions raised by the evaluation of Kuleta Haki; an anti-corruption ‘Network’ or dedicated community within the judiciary committed to fighting corruption.  What about the network has encouraged concrete action? and, why is greater resistance by the network not occurring?

    Some background

    Kuleta Haki celebrated its first-year anniversary in October 2016, marked by a formative evaluation; what could be a better way to celebrate!  RCN J&D, accompanied by CDA, established Kuleta Haki, an anti-corruption ‘Network,’ or dedicated community within the judiciary in late 2015 all of which are committed to fighting corruption. The Network has a diverse membership; predominately actors within the criminal justice system (CJS) pertinent to pre-trial detention, but also individuals external to the CJS, such as defense lawyers, judicial reform advocates and journalists.

    The theory of change behind the program is that by connecting previously disparate ‘islands of integrity’, that is, individual judicial actors already taking a stand against corruption they will have strength in numbers which will allow them to resist more systematically and expand those who reject corruption as a matter of course.

    The theory is based on CDA’s systems analysis of corruption in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and countless Skype calls with local partners … normally over a poorly connected line, fluctuating between two languages.  The purpose of this evaluation was to determine if this theory of change was working.  More specifically, what elements of the Kuleta Haki pilot project have catalyzed change within participants and beyond, what have we learned about why change happens, and what needs to be altered to increase the likelihood of making a difference on corruption in the criminal justice system (CJS)?

    Conducted internally by CDA, Besa and RCN J&D, with the support of one external academic from the region, this evaluation adopted a Utilization-Focused evaluation approach with mixed-method data collection.  Significant preparation was invested to ensure that the evaluation questions were meaningful to the Network and program coordination team. Forty semi-structured interviews were conducted, plus two focus groups and a questionnaire.  The evaluation team recognizes that this is not an enormous amount of data and the conclusions should be reflected upon accordingly.  Finally, a two-day workshop was held with a core group of the Network to discuss the veracity of the draft conclusions and recommendations.  Their feedback was incorporated into the final evaluation report: available in full here.

    What did we learn through the evaluation?

    Our evaluation found that instances of resisting corruption is on the increase amongst members of the Network.  However, the core tenet of the theory of change –  strength in numbers – may or may not be the reason behind this increase.

    Corruption is more regularly resisted by members

    We’ve learned that Kuleta Haki has given those with existing personal convictions greater confidence, motivation and practical strategies for resisting corruption.  The evaluation, supported by the monitoring data, showed that members across the Network are taking more concrete actions to resist corruption and, for a small cohort, such actions are increasing in frequency.

    For example, 55% of network members interviewed gave examples of concrete actions taken to resist corruption or support others in their resistance. Four types of action were noted (in order of most to least frequently referenced):

    1. talking to people/colleagues/corrupt individuals,
    2. saying no to money,
    3. waiting rather than giving in to corruption,
    4. saying no when a boss asks a case to be passed through. 

    Decreasing the occurrence of corrupt transactions involving members of the Network is a critical initial rung in the ladder of success for this project.  However, it is not systemic change in the system itself.  In terms of the next tier of influence, the evaluation found that Network members are actively seeking to influence peers and colleagues who are not participating in Kuleta Haki.  Members report positive reactions to these overtures, a sentiment found in the evaluation as well; yet little behavior change is apparent amongst colleagues.  In reflecting on the youth of the project, the size and status of the Network, the evaluation team felt that this was understandable at this stage.

    Different types of corruption are difficult to resist for actors

    We’ve learned there is no discernible pattern in the types of corruption most often resisted by the Network.  The three types of corruption identified as most difficult to resist cover a wide spectrum and include

    1. corruption within the judicial hierarchy,
    2. paying at each step in the judicial process, and
    3. paying ‘preemptive gifts’ to those you would like to curry favor with in advance.

    These types of corruption were difficult to resist for diverse reasons and by various people.

    Is ‘strength in numbers’ creating the ability to resist corruption?

    The answer is; we don’t know!   Only 17.5% reported that a group (or, ‘strength in numbers’) helped them resist corruption.  This could mean that there is a different dynamic within the group which provides the catalysis for greater resistance; in other words, the theory is inaccurate. Conversely, it could simply be that the Network is not yet at a sufficient size to create a sense of strength.

    Alternatively, the membership is notable in their desire for the Network to be more visible.  This appetite for visibility could be derived from a sense that the strength in numbers is about others in the context being aware of the group which provides a sense of protection and/or power to the membership.  This would mean that it is with visibility that the strength can be felt.

    Therefore the ‘safety in numbers’ theory may be debunked or it may simply need expanding and reinterpretation about who is able to provide safety, and how.

    Why concrete action is occurring

    1. Network members, internal to the CJS especially, explain that they now recognize the collective harm caused by corruption. Forty percent of the interviewees identified a “prise de conscience” – or an “awakening” – to corruption in their professional lives. This is a particularly important finding because systems thinking posits that a shift in a ‘mental model’ (values, assumptions and beliefs that shape a system) have significant potential to change the system.   The corruption systems map developed by the Network identifies one mental model as “corruption is normal”.  It seems there is early evidence of a shift in this ‘mental model’, that corruption is seen as less normal and more as potentially harmful.
    2. The most common reason Network members gave for acting against corruption was their personal conviction (i.e., that personal values were more important than professional ethics in motivating anti-corruption efforts).
    3. Some members have found newly acquired knowledge about corruption created more motivation and confidence to resist corruption.

    One finding that was quite surprising to the evaluation team, but not to the program team, was that the Network T-shirts with the slogan “It’s possible, I’m committed” have motivated members.

    Why greater resistance is not occurring

    1. There exist both perceived and real financial needs that lead Network members to participate in corruption.
    2. Some CJS professionals do not resist corruption because they do not want to resist. Among interviewees, 33% explained that CJS professionals do not resist because they are not motivated to resist corruption.

    The evaluation has a number of other conclusions along with 22 recommendations and can be read, in full, here.

    ‘Strength in numbers’ efforts that bridge the formal and informal sector

    We have seen many case studies on mobilizing groups to advocate against corruption in a sector e.g. health or education and we have found examples of multi-stakeholder dialogues about corruption.  We have not yet come across anti-corruption programs based on a strength in numbers theory of change, that has membership that crosses the official and unofficial line in the sector that is being addressed.  If you have any suggestions of resources, we would gladly read them.

    We would also welcome your insights on the theory of change and what we found in this evaluation. Please contact Kiely Bernard-Webster, Program Manager at, or Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church at


    About this article

    The Central Africa Accountable Service Delivery Initiative

    This work is part of a wider program, made up of CDA’s Central Africa Accountable Service Delivery Initiative (CAASDI), funded by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL) and the Carnegie funded Corruption and Legitimacy effort at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.  The wider program came about in response to the increasing realization that most anti-corruption activities in fragile, conflict-affected countries are not working and that innovative approaches are needed.

    About the author

    Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church is Principal at Besa: Catalyzing Strategic Change, a social enterprise committed to catalysing significant change on strategic issues in places experiencing conflict and structural or overt physical violence. She has significant experience working on anti-corruption and state legitimacy in the DRC and Uganda. As a Professor of Practice, she teaches and consults on program design, monitoring, evaluation and learning.
  • Framing Corruption: Do Our Frames Limit Our Effectiveness?

    By Diana Chigas

    Diana Chigas, JD, argues that the way we are framing the problem of corruption in fragile states is limiting our vision and leading us to ignore the key drivers to corruption. In particular, Diana discusses what she observed during her research in northern Uganda regarding reactions to the ‘moral frame’ through which corruption is commonly addressed.


    I have been a practitioner in negotiation and conflict resolution for most of my career. In my field, it is commonly understood that the way we frame a problem or issue has a powerful effect on how we discuss it and what solutions are available to resolve it.  By framing I mean the way we define or characterize a problem or issue, and what aspects we emphasize as the most meaningful.  For example, characterizing a rebel group as “terrorist” or “freedom fighters” will affect what kinds of responses will be chosen, including whether a government agrees to engage in negotiation. This is why a debate is raging about whether to characterize narcotics use as a “disease” as opposed to a “crime”; policy responses will be dramatically different depending on the framing.

    Some “frames” are better, and lead to more effective responses, than others. Our experience suggests the same is happening in anti-corruption, and that some “frames” are limiting both the range and the effectiveness of anti-corruption programming.

    In October 2016, Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church and I shared our systems analysis of corruption in the criminal justice sector in northern Uganda with staff and partners from the different focus areas of the Democratic Governance Facility in Uganda.  This provided an opportunity for us to validate the analysis, while also providing a forum for the group jointly to analyze the drivers of corruption and the potential for their programming to address them – including through collaboration across their programs. Participants posted on the systems map what aspects of corruption dynamics their programs were addressing. The programs were quite similar, and focused overwhelmingly on a few factors or causes:

    • lack of oversight and accountability mechanisms,
    • strengthening of formal rules,
    • lack of knowledge (education).

    Some programs also tried to encourage individual resistance to corruption by providing mechanisms for people to report it such as I paid a bribe websites.

    Why is there such a limited range of approaches?

    And why were there so few programs dealing with factors and dynamics the participants themselves acknowledged, based on their lived experience, were key drivers (e.g., peer pressure on officials to conform, social and family pressure to gain status and money, and fear and desperation)?

    In part, this is a direct result of what we had already observed in our research on anti-corruption responses:  that they are based on the “principal-agent” model of how corruption happens (and is eliminated). But I think there is something deeper going on – related to the way we frame corruption. There are two frames that stood out as particularly important, and limiting.

    [You may also be interested in reading The Financial Journeys of Refugees: Charting a research agenda – Is corruption a relevant framework?]

    Is corruption an expression of “greed” and “evil”?

    It is often portrayed that way. Although many analysts distinguish “corruption of need” from “corruption of greed”, the very definition of corruption, “the abuse of entrusted power for private gain,” and the usual responses (strengthening accountability and punishment, limiting discretion, promoting “integrity”), imply an equivalency.  While the literature does distinguish “corruption of need” (for survival) from “corruption of greed”, the implicit (and often not so implicit) message is that we are dealing with a moral problem, as corruption is bad and indecent. If corruption reflects immoral behavior, the way to contain it is to make sure that people do not have an opportunity to indulge their greed, or are punished for their abuses.

    Reactions to ‘the moral frame’

    The moral frame ignores real dilemmas that people face when deciding how to behave.  While there is no doubt that greed can be, and is, often a motivating factor for corrupt behavior, our analysis suggested that moralizing campaigns against bribery (e.g. don’t bribe, it’s evil), and efforts to punish, shame or otherwise stigmatize officials who engage in bribery won’t work, because, as we learned in our analysis of corruption in the criminal justice system in Northern Uganda, there is a much more complex set of influences on behavior.

    Police and judicial officials have to manage often competing obligations and pressures:  to provide for their family, to meet social expectations and sustain relationships, to avoid professional sanction for not engaging in corruption.  Citizens as well face difficult choices that education about the evils of corruption, its illegality or citizen rights to services may not change.  As one interviewee in northern Uganda put it, “life is more valuable than money.” For them, the prospect of losing their loved ones far outweighs moral aversion to paying a bribe, and their fear of the consequences of imprisonment, as well as the real power a clerk, police officer or judicial official holds over them often leads them to pay. Even though there is consensus that it is bad.

    Is it just about corruption?

    Are we framing the problem too narrowly? For many people who engaged in corruption (either paying bribes or demanding them), it is not about corruption.  For citizens paying bribes, it is about survival, or it is about livelihoods:  will their loved one survive in prison, and how can they maintain a living?  For police and judicial officials, it may be about supporting family, or retaining their own livelihoods (avoiding professional sanction).

    But programming remains quite siloed. When asking donors responsible for judicial reform how they address corruption, we were told to go to the anti-corruption unit, which, in turn knew little about judicial reform. As a result, there are missed opportunities to address drivers of corruption in an integrated way.

    I am not suggesting that these frames are false.  They are not. But they are also not the only ways to characterize the problem of corruption. We know in northern Uganda that most programming barely touches key driving factors of corruption in the criminal justice sector—and this threatens to undermine the impact of the programming that is being implemented.

    If the way we are framing the problem is limiting our vision and leading us to ignore these key drivers, perhaps we should be questioning our assumptions about the problem.


    About this article

    Images, top to bottom:

    • CDA Collaborative Learning Projects, with Canva
    • Diana Chigas
    • CDA Collaborative Learning Projects, with Canva

    About the author

    Diana Chigas, JD, is the Senior International Officer and Associate Provost at Tufts University and a Professor of the Practice of International Negotiation and Conflict Resolution at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Prior to joining Tufts, Diana co-directed the Reflecting on Peace Practice Program (RPP) at CDA and was Co-Director of Collaborative Learning.  Diana has worked with governmental and non-governmental organizations on systemic conflict analysis, strategic planning, and reflection and evaluation to improve the impact of peace programming. Diana has over 25 years’ experience as a facilitator and consultant in negotiation and conflict resolution, as well as supporting and evaluating social change programming in conflict-affected countries. Her interest in corruption emerged from her experience supporting peacebuilding programming, where corruption has consistently been a key factor hindering effectiveness and driving conflict.
  • The Financial Journeys of Refugees: Charting a Research Agenda – Is Corruption a Relevant Framework?

    By  Roxanne Krystalli and Kim Wilson

    In this post, Roxanne Krystalli and Kim Wilson, who collectively specialize in financial inclusion, gender and violence, and research methods in vulnerable settings, discuss some of the emerging questions that their research has identified at the intersection of forced migration, money, relationships along refugee journeys, and corruption.

    In March 2016, Transparency International mapped the ways in which corruption affects refugee journeys across the Mediterranean. Key points to consider included bribes to border officials and landowners to allow refugees to pass, the role of smugglers, the use of fake life vests, and risks of refugee coercion by formal authorities and smugglers alike. Transparency International concluded, “fighting corruption is critical for mitigating refugee smuggling and ending the conflicts which are driving people to flee their homes.”

    The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) further reinforces the view that the international community needs to fight corruption and “understand the intricate connections between corruption and refugee smuggling.”

    Yet, our research has shown that experiences and interpretations of corruption may vary among refugees and the authorities that interact with them.

    In July and August 2016, our research team conducted a research study on the financial journey of refugees: How do refugees amass, store, move, and spend the assets they need to finance their journeys of forced migration?

    This starting point of our inquiry allowed us to explore an additional set of questions: What risks and opportunities do refugees identify along their journeys? How do refugees’ assets shape their relationships with formal authorities—such as police, border patrol officers, and humanitarian actors—and informal authorities affecting migration – such as smugglers and money transfer agents?

    In this post, we discuss some of the emerging questions that our research has identified at the intersection of forced migration, money, relationships along refugee journeys, and corruption.

    In subsequent posts, we will explore some of our findings in response to these lines of inquiry, based on 109 semi-structured interviews with refugees in Greece, Jordan, Turkey, and Denmark. These insights were complemented by observation at sites of displacement (including formal refugee camps, refugee sites in urban settings, and informal settlements), as well as consultations with humanitarian staff, interpreters, and other key informants who shape the refugee experience.


    1. How do refugees conceptualize their relationship to smugglers, money transfer agents, and other informal authorities along the journey of forced migration?

    While international organizations have framed smugglers as part of corruption networks, our initial research has suggested that the corruption frame—and, indeed, the language of corruption—does not emerge in refugees’ own interpretation of these interactions. Instead, our initial research has suggested that refugees frequently frame interactions with smugglers or informal money transfer agents as a livelihoods choice, as “the way things are done.”

    We, therefore, ask: For whom does corruption resonate as a frame in understanding forced migration, and in which contexts? What are the consequences of this framing? What understandings of forced migration experiences does the corruption framing enable or foreclose?

    2. What is the relationship between formal, informal, licit, and illicit networks in forced migration?

    Our initial inquiry into the financial transactions underpinning migration—such as paying smugglers, interacting with money transfer agents, bribing officials, and transferring money between kinship networks or neighbors—has revealed that informal actors are essential to the functioning of this ecosystem. Informal actors are not synonymous to illicit, nor are their operations entirely distinct from formal systems of border control, finance, or humanitarian action.

    We, therefore, ask: How do refugees move between formal and informal systems, and how do they make sense of regulations that affect their experiences? How do formal authorities—including border officers, police, and humanitarian staff—shape refugee experiences and their interactions with the informal system? How do various actors move between the formal and informal spheres in ways that affect the refugee experience? And, if corruption is defined as the abuse of power for personal gain, how can we make sense of experiences in which formal authorities use their power for refugees’ gain?

    3. How do gender, family status, social class, ethnicity, and religion shape interactions with formal and informal authorities along the journey of forced migration?

    Much existing work on refugees and corruption treats refugees as an undifferentiated category. Our research has suggested that both the access to assets needed to finance migration and interactions with formal and informal authorities along the journey are hierarchical. Refugees’ gender, family status, social class, ethnicity, and religion organize access to resources, affect relationships with smugglers, border patrol, police, and humanitarian staff, and shape perceptions of certain refugees as vulnerable or threatening in different contexts.

    We, therefore, ask: How do men, women, boys, and girls have different strategies for accessing funds during migration, keeping assets safe, and moving them across borders? How are informal networks of smugglers and money transfer agents gendered and ethnicized? How do ethnicity and religion—particularly at sites in which refugees of different nationalities temporarily reside—shape perceptions of who is most in need of assistance or protection? How does gender and family status—such as whether refugees flee alone, or alongside heterosexual family units—affect perceptions of vulnerability or threat, and thus structure relationships between refugees and authorities?


    An overarching theme in our research has been that inquiries about financial transactions in forced migration open up a window to understanding refugee livelihoods, decision-making, relationships with formal and informal authorities, and perceptions of formal and informal (as well as licit and illicit) systems that affect refugees’ experience. In our next post, we will preview some of the findings that map on to each of these areas of inquiry.

    What questions would you add to better explore the corruption framing of a research agenda on forced migration, financial transactions, and refugee relationships with authorities?

    About this article

    This blog post was referenced on the Tufts University Fletcher School website, here.

    Photo: Informal Refugee Settlement at Piraeus port. Piraeus, Greece, July 2016. Credit: Roxanne Krystalli

    About the authors

    Roxanne Krystalli is the Humanitarian Evidence Program Manager at Feinstein International Center, Tufts University. She has worked as a researcher and practitioner at the intersection of gender and armed conflict in collaboration with various UN agencies and international organizations, including the UN Bureau of Crisis Response and Prevention, UNDP, UN Women, UNICEF, IOM, the World Bank, and the Norwegian Refugee Council in Egypt, Pakistan, Uganda, Sudan, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, and other areas. For her work, Krystalli has been recognized as a P.E.O. International Peace Scholar, Social Science Research Council Fellow, Ogunte Featured Social Innovator, TEDx speaker, and as a recipient of the Presidential Award for Citizenship and Service at Tufts University. She holds a BA from Harvard College, an MA from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and is pursuing a PhD on the politics of victimhood in armed conflict at The Fletcher School. You can find her on Twitter at @rkrystalli.

    Kim Wilson is a Lecturer at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. At Tufts, Wilson is senior fellow for the The Council on Emerging Market Enterprises (CEME) and a visiting fellow for the Feinstein International Center. She is a former academic director of The Fletcher School Leadership Program for Financial Inclusion, and on the board of The Hitachi Center for International Affairs. She won the James L. Paddock For Excellence in Teaching in 2009. Prior to joining Fletcher, Wilson directed the global microfinance operation for Catholic Relief Services (CRS). Wilson regularly takes on field assignments for organizations such as the United Nations Development Program, World Bank (CGAP), Bankable Frontier Associates, The MasterCard Foundation, and the Aga Khan Foundation. She is a co-founder of Lean Research, an approach for rigorous, respectful, relevant, right-sized research in vulnerable settings. Wilson and Krystalli have most recently co-directed a study on refugees’ experiences in Greece, Jordan, Turkey, and Denmark.
  • When Cows Facilitate Court, the Culture of Gifting and Corruption in Modern Courts

    By Juliet Hatanga

    In this post, Juliet Harty Hatanga, who has ten years of experience working with the Courts of Judicature of Uganda, discusses two cases in which the social norms of corruption and the culture of gifting challenged her ethics and training as a judicial officer. She argues that, despite the challenging cultural environment, it is well within the power of judges to make sure that justice is done – and seen to be done – at all times.


    In December 2006, I joined the Uganda public service as a judicial officer and was posted to work in Lira as a magistrate. At the time, most of the government infrastructure responsible for upholding the rule of law had totally broken down. I recall that most of the internally displaced people camps were beyond full capacity. The majority of people preferred to stay in the camps where they were assured of some form of protection from the Uganda Police, in spite of a government disbarment in the peace recovery and development plan program.

    As I sat in the bus, en-route to Lira it was apparent from Karuma Bridge that the place had been mostly deserted. There were no longer chickens and cattle crossing the road, nor women riding bicycles with babies strapped to their backs. When I reached the Loro prison farm, just a few meters off the Lira-Kampala highway, I saw that the once blooming farm (especially in the planting season) was covered in brown dirt.

    I wondered what I had signed up for. As a young judicial officer, I was eager to enter the courtroom and dispense justice – but where were the people?

    The context of fragility

    I had fond memories growing up in Lira as a child. These fond memories had been abruptly disrupted by Alice Lakwena’s holy-spirit movement that turned into a civil war under the leadership of Joseph Kony. From 1986 to 2006 the Northern region in Uganda plummeted into severe humanitarian crisis. The people were subjected to mass atrocities, which caused loss of life, assets and destruction of property.

    The wrath of the civil war did not spare the criminal justice system. The state’s ability to provide appropriate legal service and access to justice was greatly undermined by the absence of appropriate duty-bearers like the police, courts, and prisons. Consequently, the type of justice delivered depended not on the rules of criminal procedure as taught in law school, but rather on the social norms surrounding a particular judicial officer and his or her ability to navigate through the justice system.

    Something small

    Nonetheless, at the courtroom, people wanted justice. Some litigants who had lost trust in the legal system were willing to part with kitu kidogo (“something small”) so that they could get justice. These corrupt tendencies were fed by social norms such as the culture of gifting (a social norm that may support interactions that outsiders see as corrupt, but the participants treat as acceptable or even moral.)

    Delivering the right justice to the right person

    The following incidents are only two examples of how some cases have challenged my ethics and training as a judicial officer.

    [For more analysis on corruption in the judiciary in Northern Uganda please see here.] My mother came from the Northern Uganda region, so I can speak Lou, one of the native languages. However, because the language of court is English, and my name comes from Western Uganda the court staff didn’t realize I spoke Lou.

    So, I was shocked to find out that the court clerk, who usually also acted as the official interpreter, often misinformed litigants. At first I thought this was an innocent problem of not appreciating the Queen’s Language, but later I realized that these mistakes were intentional.

    On several occasion the clerk would tell an accused person at plea hearing that they had a right to bail only if they “passed through him” or that he imprisoned them for a few days. Generally, he was feared, and commanded a lot of power over the accused.

    One day, after I delivered a ruling in favor of his adversary, a very angry litigant accused me in open court of not delivering “justice” after “taking his only choice bull.” When I invited him to my chambers, he asked me why I had not ruled in his favor even though he had delivered a bull to my clerk, as the clerk instructed him.

    By this time the clerk had disappeared. We sent police to his home, some 3-kilometer away from court, only to find the him relocating a huge white bull and a heifer to another location. Apparently, he had read my half-written ruling. I had a tendency to complete my ruling just the day before court seating, and at the time it looked like the litigant was winning, so the clerk had approached him and demanded on my behalf a bull and a heifer for him to turn things in his favor.

    Refusing appreciation for a job well done

    In yet another unprecedented incident, one morning the court clerk came to my office in a state of panic and told me that Jacinta,* a very old widow who could not even recall her own age, was at the court gate with a bull which she insisted to hand over to me in person.

    This widow had her two grandchildren, aged about five and seven, help her drag the bull to court. She was adamant that she had to give it to me in person. So, you can imagine the melee that her actions were causing, given that any right-thinking member of the public would most definitely conclude that this was a bribe.

    On checking her file, I discovered that Jacinta had been disposed of her land after the demise of her husband during the LRA insurgency. He left her with eight children. She had previously been arrested on accusation of being responsible for the death of her husband and banished from the village. Over the years, Jacinta had sold everything she had to “facilitate” her case. My ruling had restored her right of ownership over her late husband’s land.

    When asked why she had brought a bull, all Jacinta had to say was that

    “I have walked for over four years to get justice. This young girl completed my case in just six months. I have lost everything… for restoring my land she deserves this last bull. Because of her I now know that when God calls me my spirit shall have a place to rest and my grandchildren shall not forget me.”

    Everybody was touched by her story, but I found myself in a dilemma. To refuse this gift would be a very big insult to this lady because in Lango culture it is customary to gift/thank a person for a job well done. Either way, my reputation was at stake.

    To this day I still wonder what the appropriate action ought to have been.

    How do we fight corruption in the context of kitu kidogo?

    Like most developing countries, Uganda has institutions with specific mandates to fight corruption, including an Anti-Corruption Court where public servants suspected of engaging in corruption are prosecuted. Yet in spite of the anti-corruption sanctions, corruption has continued much to the detriment of the functioning of state institutions.

    As a practitioner my biggest challenge is that most of the formal regulations designed to fight corruption are ignorant of the cultural context. While the culture of gifting is deeply entrenched in almost every tribe in Uganda, public service regulations prohibit civil servants from accepting gifts or tips in any form. The judicial code of conduct equates receiving a gift or tip to a criminal act.

    The support staff in the courts find it difficult to discern a corrupt act from an innocent thank you. In this state of confusion, corruption subsists through social norms even when most people condemn the practice.

    The iron fist is not enough

    While we focus our fight against corruption in the justice system, social norms should not be understated lest we risk making a wrong diagnosis of what feeds, and will continue to feed, corruption in the justice system.

    Over the years the judiciary has handled incidents of corruption with an iron fist. Many judicial officers and support staff have been prosecuted or interdicted. In my humble opinion, this is not enough.

    Perhaps more effort should be geared towards individual accountability and developing a clear rewards system that recognizes those officers who resist corruption. Judges are custodians of the law, and it is well within our power to make sure that justice is done – and seen to be done – at all times.


    A note from the author

    Before I take leave of this subject permit me to add that decades of war in northern Uganda eroded the traditional cultural practice through which traditional forms of justice could be sought. The criminal justice system in the region has seen renewed forms of conflict, regarding land disputes, and how the government has been handling them. The current situation has been attributed to insufficient recovery and development efforts for IDP camp returnees, even though the camps have long been closed.

    *Real names have been replaced in the post to preserve individuals’ privacy

    About the author

    Juliet Hatanga holds a Masters in International Legal Studies from Georgetown University and ten years working experience with the Courts of Judicature of Uganda. She has experience working with people in conflict with the law, in particular with vulnerable communities in post conflict situations. Most recently Ms. Hatanga was part of a research team that contributed to the paper: Facilitation in the Criminal Justice System: A Systems Analysis of Corruption in the Police and Courts in Northern Uganda.

    Ms. Hatanga’s areas of expertise are reproductive health rights, and access to justice for women and children. As a legal practitioner, she developed a strong and successful track record for promoting international human rights standards in courts and advocating for the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution.

    Hatanga was an independent consultant for Tufts University researching the impact of corruption on the Criminal Justice System and State Legitimacy. Most of her work has been dedicated to protection of human rights, the rule of law, women peace and security. She co-founded “Over the Moon” a charity that seeks to promote education for schoolgirls by reducing menstrual absenteeism in conflict affected-northern Uganda. This earned her special award by the Women’s Law and Public Policy Fellowship Program of Georgetown University.

  • Do Anti-Corruption Agencies Really Matter? Some Lessons on State Legitimacy from Indonesia

    By Sergio M. Gemperle

    In this post, researcher Sergio Gemperle questions the role of anti-corruption agencies (ACAs) in increasing state legitimacy. He argues that state legitimacy can suffer from ACA success, as well as from ACA failure. He shares Indonesia’s struggle between the KPK, the police and the government. Have you had similar experiences with ACAs in other countries or contexts?

    In the early 2000s, corruption regained prominence in development policy debates, culminating in the adoption of numerous international anti-corruption conventions such as the United Nations Convention Against Corruption. Henceforth, many countries established specialised anti-corruption agencies and expectations about their effectiveness were high.

    [Here’s a (very) short list of some countries that have an ACA: IndiaKenyaLiberiaMalaysiaNigeriaPakistanRomaniaRussiaSierra Leone.]

    The increasing number of anti-corruption agencies in fragile and conflict-affected countries reflects the high priority of anti-corruption reforms on statebuilding agendas; In these states corruption was (and is) understood to hamper efforts in building or rebuilding efficient and stable state institutions, for example by undermining political reforms or impeding state capacity. As a consequence, anti-corruption agencies (ACAs) were often believed to provide a ready institutional solution to corruption.

    Working towards state legitimacy

    With similar intent, the main rationale for establishing and supporting ACAs today is to reduce corruption. However, in fragile and conflict-affected states reducing corruption is assumed to have wider effects on the acceptance of state institutions. That is, ACAs are seen as a visible institutional expression of a government’s commitment to anti-corruption reform. Furthermore government efforts to reduce corruption are said to create trust in the state in general by strengthening an undistorted state-society relationship. Among academics and development practitioners, reducing corruption is often seen not as an end in itself but as a means to foster the (international and domestic) legitimacy of the state.

    While assuming that reduced corruption levels lead to higher state legitimacy is intuitively plausible, I argue that the assumed positive role ACAs play in improving this relationship should be questioned, for the following two reasons:

    State legitimacy, a victim of ACA success

    First, state legitimacy can become a victim of ACA success. An ACA’s capability to improve state legitimacy depends on its effectiveness in reducing corruption, because people’s general trust in state institutions should improve the less they are perceived as corrupted. However, if an ACA consistently returns high success rates in investigating and prosecuting corruption cases this might create distrust in state institutions among the population because a perception of high and omnipresent corruption emerges or solidifies. In this situation, people who trust the ACA for its effectiveness do not automatically translate this into higher legitimacy of other state institutions.

    Do you know of a case where state legitimacy has become a victim of ACA success ?

    Weakness leads to negative impact on state legitimacy

    Second, if ACA’s are weak, particularly because they are politically compromised, their effect on state legitimacy may even be negative. The early enthusiasm about establishing ACAs gradually gave way to disillusionment when many of these bodies proved ineffective in reducing corruption. The reason behind weak agencies is in many cases a lack of political support, which is reflected in inadequate provision of resources (including human resources) or power. Indeed, political influence exerted on ACAs, for example through the appointment of either unqualified or allegiant commissioners, sometimes leaves little more than a fig-leaf organisation. Agencies which are weakened and compromised in this way have only limited capacity to reduce corruption and, as a consequence, the citizens’ confidence in the state is further weakened. Hence, politically influenced, or instrumentalised, ACAs are detrimental to developing trust in other state institutions as they convey the perception that even the one institution that should be the frontrunner against misbehaviour of persons in public positions is compromised.

    Indonesia’s struggle between the KPK, the police and the government

    Both phenomena can be observed from the recent developments around Indonesia’s ACA, the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK). The KPK gained much public support by successfully prosecuting high level politicians and government officials in its early stages (surveys in 2008 and 2015 found that the KPK was perceived as the most credible state agency). However, the public trust in the KPK did not rub off on other state institutions.

    A particular example showing why this trust in the KPK was not transferred to other institutions is the feud that developed between the KPK and the powerful national police starting in 2009 and lasting for several years. The KPK investigations of high-ranking police officers did not convey a picture of a less corrupt and therefore more trustworthy police but rather cemented the widespread perception of police corruption. Transparency International’s Global Corruption Barometer (GCB) repeatedly ranked the police among the three most corrupt institutions in Indonesia. Furthermore, while the parliament and the judiciary (the two other most corrupt institutions, according to GCB) tried to curtail the power of the KPK, several of its commissioners were met with retaliatory actions from police.

    Latest developments from Indonesia

    The latest episode of clashes between the KPK and the police from 2015 were ignited when the KPK investigated President Joko Widodo’s nominee for the national police chief. Following the established scheme from earlier cases, the police retaliated with investigations of two commissioners of the KPK on allegations of criminal offences. While the government’s hesitation to back the KPK led to public rallies of activists and citizens supporting the KPK in earlier standoffs, the public did not take to the streets to express their dissent this time: Because of the political attacks on the KPK and its weakened position vis-à-vis the police, civil society started fearing retaliatory reactions from the police too. In the same year the House of Representatives appointed new commissioners who, according to anti-corruption activists, lack credibility and commitment to reducing corruption which is perceived as a further move to weaken the KPK. These developments had delegitimizing effects on the government of President Widodo which started losing support from its constituency.

    Anti-corruption agencies elsewhere – similar patterns?

    The Indonesian example shows that supporting ACAs does not necessarily improve the legitimacy of states. To have a positive effect on state legitimacy the achievements of the ACA need to be transferred to the state at large. This is unlikely if ACAs are perceived to be influenced or at odds with the government or other state institutions. I assume, unfortunately, that Indonesia is not the only example to observe the unintended (negative) effects of an ACA on the legitimacy of the state. I wonder if you have similar experiences with ACAs in other countries or contexts?

    Is this a question reserved for researchers? Are practitioners addressing the impact of ACAs through programming? Do you feel comfortable (or able to) share those experiences?  

    About the author

    Sergio M. Gemperle holds a MA in International Relations and Development Policy from the Institute for Development and Peace of the University of Duisburg-Essen (Germany). He is currently a PhD candidate on a doctoral scholarship from the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) at the University of Basel and the Swiss Peace Foundation, swisspeace. His doctoral research focuses on the role of anti-corruption agencies in statebuilding processes.

    Gemperle is interested in research on statebuilding, the political economy of corruption and anti-corruption reforms as well as in multi-method research and comparative methods. Before joining swisspeace in 2012, he worked as a research assistant for the Swiss chapter of Transparency International and interned with the Institute of Social Sciences in New Delhi and with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation in Mongolia.

  • The Unhelpful Nature of Anti-Corruption Research, As Seen by People Trying to Develop Solutions

    By Mark Pyman

    Dr. Mark Pyman, who is deeply involved in efforts to reduce corruption in Afghanistan, pinpoints what frustrates him about anti-corruption research, in this latest post from the corruption in fragile states blog series. Few sector-specific approaches or insightful typologies of the multiple sorts of corruption within each sector, few analyses of sub-national variations, and an anti-corruption research community that is slow to move beyond diagnosis into treatment and politics. Continue reading to find some helpful treasures Pyman has found, and let us know if you share Pyman’s frustration, or if you have any great resources to add to the forum.

    A colleague asked me some years ago “Why is it that people working and researching in corruption seem only to enjoy showing how bad it all is? They seem to like nothing more than to ‘admire the problem’.” Sadly, this is also my experience, and I’d like to vent my frustration here: because this is deeply unhelpful to everyone who is trying to address the problem in each of their countries. Surely, researchers know more than just how to explain the problem?

    Needed: sector-specific tools and approaches to help shape reforms

    I am one of three international Committee members in the ‘Afghanistan Joint Independent Anti-Corruption Monitoring and Evaluation Committee’ (Corruption people like snappy titles, too). This Committee, known by its acronym as ‘MEC’,  was set up in 2011 by the Government of President Karzai and the international donors, to act as a counter-weight to the official anti-corruption agency, which was well known to be highly corrupt. We are six Commissioners – three international, three Afghan – plus a secretariat in Kabul of some 25 professional staff led by an Executive Director. We watch over what the government does, or does not do; we review the performance of the Ministries and Agencies in relation to corruption; we do analyses to identify the principal corruption vulnerabilities and how they might be addressed; and we speak out publicly in areas where there needs to be more progress.

    So, I am intensely interested in what research there is that can tell us about addressing corruption in conflict and fragile environments. There must be so much more that we can do in practice to implement reforms, learning from successes and failures equally. We need to know much more about tackling corruption in health, in education, in the police, in the judiciary, in mining, in commerce and industry, in revenue-generating Ministries, in the civil service, in local government, and so on. Although a country index is helpful, we need more granular detail. I need to see inside the health sector, say, and see reform results in technical areas like forensics, or the health management system; in the political areas of senior appointments, in local corrupt elite eco-systems, or in patronage for major elements like hospital construction or medical service out-sourcing. Equally, I need insights in to how civil services can be gradually – or rapidly – reformed, at a level that shows how the situation varies according to different parameters: such as between different Ministries, or between agencies, or between revenue-generating agencies and service delivery agencies, or between agencies that belong to rival political factions.

    Found treasure

    I have been looking hard over the past 18 months at what could be helpful to me and my colleagues in relation to Afghanistan. There are some articles or reports that really do help me. For example, the work of Merilee Grindle on civil service reform against corruption in 5 countries in Latin America is a tremendously insightful and research-rich book. It really helps in seeing all the ways that civil service reform was contested, and the multiple 
    different strategies used by various groups of reformers. Similarly, the research from the University of Gothenburg by Nicholas Charron and his colleagues on differences in civil-service corruption between different Ministries within the same country, () and how these differences are much larger than the differences between countries in the region, is really helpful. (here, and here) Similarly, Francesca Recanatini at the World Bank has useful observations about using disaggregated data to identify corruption distinctions across agencies and regions within a single country. There have been a few that develop decent-looking typologies of the specific corruption types in the sector, and collate actions that have been taken by others, such as by U4 in the education sector. There is the useful evidence paper from DFID. I am very happy to take these and use them.

    But such treasures are few and far between. I have recently trawled through the research in the education and health sectors, and been deeply disappointed. Hundreds of articles admiring the corruption problems from an ethnographic point of view, from a political economy perspective, and above all from a shopping list point of view “Let me describe the many ways that education is corrupted in this country… “

    Lesson learned after tackling corruption in the defence sector

    Let me declare something of a bias here. For twelve years I led the Transparency International programme on tackling corruption in the defence sector. I found very early on that there was almost nothing in the research other than ‘the defence sector is rife with corruption. Defence corruption was lazily equated with defence procurement corruption. My team and I got on and developed a whole system of sector-specific tools; a typology, an index, technical guidance on how to tackle each of the problems, a technical index for the relative performance of defence ministries and militaries, a technical index for the relative strength of the anti-corruption systems of the defence companies, corruption-testing exercises for the military forces, etc, etc.  We worked with about 30 countries in some depth, with considerable success, and evaluated about 130 countries in all.

    But, in my ignorance, I thought that the defence sector was lacking in sector-specific tools because it was special – it is a tricky sector, it is shrouded in secrecy, it is not a natural target for researchers or NGOs, it is highly technical; and so on. Only now do I realise that almost all sectors seem to be similarly un-researched in relation to tools and analysis that can help shape reforms.

    I know there are some good things going on in response to this lack, for example the EU Anticorpp programme led by Professor Mungiu-Pippidi, and the ‘Anti-Corruption Evidence Partnership (BA/DFID ACE Partnership)’ being run by the British Academy on behalf of DFID. But these are drops in the ocean; they hardly get into individual sectors, and mostly do not cover fragile states.

    From diagnosis towards treatment

    Why isn’t the whole anti-corruption research community moving away from diagnosis towards treatment? Surely the political economy community can do more on how powerful elites and corrupt patronage networks can be countered, based on examples from the many countries where such efforts are underway? Surely we have got to the point where researchers should be trying out approaches, such as new technical indexes at the sector level, to see whether they can help diagnosis and reform? Surely we can have more of the analysis pointed up by such as Grindle and Mungiu-Pippidi, who show the impact of committed groups of individuals and how we can foster and support such groups in hostile political climates? Surely we can get beyond yet more analyses of context, into analyses of the success or failure of specific reform efforts?

    Is there someone out there who can tell me I am hopelessly wrong, and that there is a library of research somewhere that I have just totally missed? Please, someone?

    About this article

    This blog post was referenced on the Anti-Corruption, and Global Integrity.

    Image: Treasure map with x storage auction gold 900 x 444. Uploaded by Steven Johnson

    About the author

    Dr. Mark Pyman is an experienced advocate, scholar and practitioner at the forefront of untangling the nexus between corruption and insecurity worldwide. He is currently one of three International Committee Members on the Afghanistan independent Anti-Corruption Committee. For the previous eleven years he led the global Security and Defence Programme at the NGO Transparency International. This groundbreaking programme worked on the ways that corruption undermines countries, especially in relation to security and conflict. He has led the team’s field work in over 30 countries, including Afghanistan, Bulgaria, Burundi, Colombia, Georgia, India, Kenya, Latvia, Lebanon, Norway, Palestine, Poland, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, UK and the USA.

    His work has been instrumental in shaping the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty (2013), in influencing NATO policy and operations in respect of counter-corruption, in shaping the military doctrine of several countries, and in policy forums such as the Munich Security Conference. He has also led the development of techniques for evaluating the corruption vulnerabilities of all the world’s defence companies. His last publication for TI in 2015 reviewed the 165 largest defence companies worldwide in an analysis that is viewed by the industry as the most authoritative analysis available.

    He has authored or supervised some sixty publications. He has also supervised  detailed reports analysing the defence corruption vulnerabilities of 120 countries.

  • Finding My Way Around the Corruption System with a Map: Mapping the Effects of an Intervention and Extending Systems Mapping to New Areas

    By Peter Woodrow

    Peter Woodrow is the Executive Director of CDA Collaborative Learning Projects. For nearly a year, Peter has accompanied the Kuleta Haki project providing support to our local partners (RCN J&D) on using systems maps as an analytical tool for better understanding corruption dynamics in the criminal justice sector. In April, Peter shed some light on this process, and updates us now on how both the tool, and techniques for facilitating these types of workshops, have developed since his initial engagement.

    For the past year and a half, we at CDA have been working with local stakeholders and partners to develop a strategy for combating corruption in the criminal justice system in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). After completing a broad national level analysis of corruption dynamics, the project focused on Katanga Province in southeastern DRC. As discussed in other blog posts, the main approach has been to establish a local network of people, including judges/magistrates, lawyers and others dedicated to promoting change in the system of corruption in the local criminal justice sector. Click here to see the theory of change for the project.

    Updating the previous systems map

    Last April (2016), I traveled to Lubumbashi, DRC to facilitate the development of a systems analysis among the local anti-corruption network with a particular focus on corruption dynamics in preventive detention and police custody. Upon my return, I wrote a blog post to present the systems map and narrative generated by workshop participants. During that trip, I was impressed by the courage, intelligence and dedication of these local citizens, determined to ensure the development of their nation, and convinced that corruption is one element that holds them back.

    [See: A Systemic Analysis of Corruption in the Criminal Justice System in Lubumbashi, DRC] In this and previous posts, we have been discussing systems maps—in this case, maps of the way corruption works in the criminal justice system (CJS). As noted, a systems map is not an end in itself; rather, it is a tool that enables participants to consider where and how to intervene to promote positive changes. Therefore, systems mapping remains an important step for the project to develop specific action plans for combating corruption in the medium-to-long term.

    [See: Identifying Leverage Points in Systemic Analysis and Planning for Anti-corruption Action] With these principles in mind, I visited Lubumbashi again in November, 2016 to engage many of the same participants in the April working in a further a process to update the systems analysis and to engage in additional forward planning. The group also developed a new systems analysis of how corruption works among the police in Lubumbashi. It happens that my visit also coincided with a preliminary report from an evaluation process, which provided a further basis for lively discussion.

    At this critical juncture of programming (mid-term), I would offer two observations since the systems work with the group seven months prior. First, the group found that the core systems dynamics have not changed, although they made a few minor adjustments to the map based on their recent experiences. Second, the group was able to place their own interventions in the map.  That is, they could show the places in the system where their efforts are beginning to have an effect, mainly in challenging the dominant acceptance of corruption as “normal.” It was also clear that the group is not yet in a position to confront political abuses of power that lead to preventive detention for purely political purposes. That remains a longer-term objective, but is not feasible at this point.

    The B3 loop above shows the intended effects of the local anti-corruption network’s work, which assumes that acts of resistance will, eventually, lead to a change in attitudes, which, in turn, will reduce the persistence and normalization of corruption and begin to change how people view the justice system. In essence, the group is working towards a fundamental paradigm shift in the ways that judicial actors and the general public view corruption and its harmful effects.

    As with any analytic process, the analysis needs constant updating, in order to remain useful. In November, participants agreed that it seemed the project had achieved early successes in changing the attitudes of colleagues through a “prise de conscience” or “awakening” to the harm corruption can have on society and the nation (as shown in B3 loop above).  Ongoing monitoring of the project will reveal whether this basic theory of change is valid or not.

    Systems mapping when the right people are not in the room

    In addition to updating the systems map of preventive detention and police custody, the group also began the process of analyzing how corruption works in relation to the police. However, members of the network who work in the police were not available for the workshop, so the group had to proceed based on their own basic knowledge of how the police function. They found that many of the same corruption dynamics of the larger criminal justice system also operate among the police—but magnified by an extremely hierarchical culture. Other CJS actors have more latitude to change their behavior, whereas police officers must obey the commands of superior officers, which makes it difficult to resist corruption. On the positive side, if a superior officer decides to curb corruption, those who report to him/her are more likely to comply.

    Despite these insights, the workshop group was clear that additional engagement with police officers would be needed to validate and enhance the draft map. Plans are in place to create a new subgroup among police colleagues to undertake dialogue and discussion of potential approaches to combatting corruption among police.

    During this second encounter with systems thinking, the network members appeared more comfortable with the mapping process—and used it effectively to consider strategies for change. Due to time limitations, we have not been able to train them to generate the systems maps on their own. Inevitably, then, the group does not have as much ownership of the systems analyses as they might if they performed the analysis completely independently. That said, overall, updating the map proved useful and the utility of the process was highlighted. Further adjustments will be made going forward, and more updates and learning will be shared!

    About the author

    Peter Woodrow joined CDA in 2003 as Co-Director of the Reflecting on Peace Practice Program, and became CDA’s Executive Director in 2013. As RPP Co-Director, he worked with civil society organizations, multilateral agencies and government entities through the Great Lakes Region to apply RPP concepts and frameworks to peacebuilding programming. RPP has been working with systems thinking tools, especially working with causal loop diagrams (systems maps) as an aid in identifying ways to intervene to promote change in a system. He has been supporting the Central Africa Accountable Service Delivery Initiative since CDA became involved in 2012.

  • Thinking of Attending IACC 18 in Denmark?

    By Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church

    Two weeks ago, over a thousand lawyers, journalists, civil society and government professionals came together for the 17th Annual International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) in Panama.  Though IACC 18 is not until 2018, those who will have to raise the funds to attend or get it worked into annual budgeting process may want to start thinking about this now.  As a first time attendee at the IACC, Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church shares a few reflections that may aid you in your decision making.

    Do you want to meet someone who works for Transparency International or U4?

    If you want to connect with U4 or Transparency International  (TI) – Secretariat or Chapters – then this event is the place to be.  U4, TI Secretariat and Chapters are very well represented so making contact is almost impossible to avoid.  The event also helpfully includes lunch and a number of receptions that provide the opportunity to make new connections.  All good stuff.

    That said, don’t expect to meet the private sector.  After U4 and TI staff, NGOs are the next best represented with a fair scattering of government and multi-laterals like the World Bank.  However the private sector is almost entirely absent.  I didn’t come across a single private sector person, but was told that there were a few on a panel.

    You are sure to learn something, but…

    Sessions cover a wide range of issues: everything from civic technology to women’s rights to investigative journalism.  The good news is that there is likely something for everyone.  I learned a number of things that will inform my work.  Let me share a few nuggets:

    • Body Currency Corruption as a term for what I had known to be sextortion.
    • Anders Kompass was not the only staffer that the UN took retaliatory action on for reporting the sexual assault of children by French peacekeepers in CAR. According to this panel, the UN and World Bank have shockingly poor whistleblower reputations with cultures that are marked by secrecy and staff fearful of repercussions for whistleblowing.
    • A person’s belief about whether or not they are able to influence government, will impact the way they receive a message e.g. public service announcement to fight corruption, about corruption

    In my opinion there is some room for improvement that could increase the value of this event.

    • Shorten the sessions and/or create discussion-led formatsg. think tank sessions that simply pose a question for discussion around roundtables. The sessions are two hours long and in some cases have up to seven presenters.  The average appears to be four plus a chair who acts as a facilitator and discussant.   This is a lot to listen to especially in the instances where the description in the agenda did not align to what was actually presented.
    • Make plenaries more interactive: plenaries are always difficult to make engaging for everyone, but there are ways to make them more interactive.  For instance, allow questions from the audience for instance, participants could tweet questions that would appear on the big screen or just to the moderator to select.
    • Proactively seek out cutting edge research or programming for the sessions: In the sessions I attended there didn’t appear to be a lot of new information, models, theories etc., being offered; as someone said at a session’s Q&A  “what you presented seems very old fashioned.”  To be fair I can only comment on what I saw – it is entirely possible that other sessions were full of new insights.
    • Offer a publications fair: have an area that offers books, new publications, copies of research reports etc., (for free and for sale) as a venue to promote this material. This would be enormously helpful for those participants from countries that do not have access to these materials and weak internet access.

    In-session discussion strangely apolitical

    With a few exceptions, politics and political power seemed to be substantively absent from discussions except for standard quick references to ‘leadership’ and ‘political will’.  Let’s start with the fact that the government of Panama was the local host, including a speech from the President himself and the Panama Papers were the main theme of a whole afternoon. Yet in these sessions, no one spoke truth to power.  I’m all for respectful dialogue, but it felt like a glaring absence to not speak about the current state of affairs in the conference’s host country. Also surprising to me was that the only place I heard mention of Brexit and its impact on the international anti-corruption agenda was in the hallways where we discussed the absence of the topic.

    Most disappointing to me, (yes in this instance I am professionally biased) was that I didn’t manage to pick sessions that clearly grounded their presentation in the fragility evident in the context they were discussing.   This is perhaps because of the key overlaps between fragility and the conference’s under-discussed topics of politics and power. Fragility of course having key overlaps with politics and power.   Overall I felt the representation of research and programming from fragile states was pretty sparse on the agenda.  If this is your area of work, I encourage you to submit a panel proposal, to put anti-corruption in fragile states on the IAAC 18 agenda.

    Fun fact: anti-corruption professionals can turn a good phrase

    In reviewing my notes from the various days it struck me that many times – presenters and audience members alike – had particularly clever turns of phrase.  Here are just a few of them (I am not providing full citations as not everyone gave their names when speaking):

    • People create institutions and then institutions create people
    • When you fight corruption, it fights back (an oldie but still a goodie)
    • Corruption grows in the shadows of society and is watered by secrecy
    • An email is like a postcard these days
    • Whistleblowers are the best, cheapest way to fight corruption
    • When a rich country is affected, suddenly a problem is a global crisis.

    Other attendees – what did you think?

    I would welcome others to share their two cents about the pros and cons of IACC 17.  If you think I misrepresented a session or topic you feel strongly about, please feel free to correct me! Looking forward to putting new knowledge into good use in our continued blog series on corruption in fragile contexts.


    About the author

    Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church is Principal at Besa: Catalyzing Strategic Change, a social enterprise committed to catalysing significant change on strategic issues in places experiencing conflict and structural or overt physical violence. She has significant experience working on anti-corruption and state legitimacy in the DRC and Uganda. As a Professor of Practice, she teaches and consults on program design, monitoring, evaluation and learning.
  • What Dynamics Drive Police and Judicial Officers to Engage in Corruption

    By Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church

    Use the systems maps below to follow the police and judicial officers’ experience of corruption in the precincts and courts of Northern Uganda.  These maps, based on research conducted in Gulu and Lira in early 2016, explain what drives their behavior, what enables it, and the relationships between these factors.

    In survey after survey, police in Uganda are consistently ranked the most corrupt state institution, with the judiciary following in the top three.  Crime such as theft, burglary and robbery are experienced by a large swath of citizens, particularly those in vulnerable groups and rural communities; while corruption has proven to be highly resilient.  According to the 2013 Transparency International Global Corruption Barometer for Uganda 55% of respondents felt that the level of corruption had increased a lot over the past 2 years.

    The third in our Northern Uganda series follows the police and judicial officers experience of corruption in the criminal justice system (CJS). Based on research conducted in Gulu and Lira in early 2016, we used systems mapping to explain what drives their behavior, what enables it and the relationships between these factors. If you are new to systems mapping, we recommend you read “How to Read a Systems Map” before continuing.

    In Northern Uganda, bribery is at the heart of the corruption system that is part and parcel of the criminal justice experience.  Our research uncovered two different sets of dynamics that feed this vicious cycle; one set of dynamics that drive citizens to engage in or accede to corruption, and another set driving police and judicial officers’ behavior.  Below, we try to make sense of the latter.

    Police & judicial officer perspective

    Pressure on Criminal Justice actors to demand bribes

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    Police and judicial officials experience significant social pressure to own or display status symbols which reflect the power of their position.  Our research found that magistrates and police experience particularly sizable social pressure from their family and communities to live up to expectations. Cars, clothes and a house (and ideally big weddings and funerals as well) all offer signals of success that are deemed necessary to garner respect from one’s community.   Notably the lack thereof (i.e. not accumulating visible markers of success regardless of one’s legitimate means), results in ridicule often from those closest to the individual.  Many people talked of a general mentality of “grab what you can today”—accumulating wealth quickly—that has been, in part, a response to general uncertainty about the future.   This pressure to have status symbols as indicators of personal success —whether for magistrates or for citizens who use them to gain influence in the justice system to pursue their cause—fuels the perpetual cycle of bribery.


    Resource constraints

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    Resource constraints include material infrastructure (e.g. supplies, equipment and fuel) and staff competencies (e.g. inadequate knowledge of proper evidence collection procedure or the law). Mainly noted in relation to the police, these constraints create incentives for bribery and challenges to prosecuting cases. For instance, a legitimate lack of fuel generates a ‘fee for service’ request that often gets topped up to benefit the police officer. When such constraints lead to a flawed investigation or poor quality evidence, the resulting acquittal is also perceived as corruption (see: “citizens perceive all justice must be bought” in Three Lessons About Corruption in the Police and Courts in Northern Uganda)


    Normalization & peer pressure

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    Corruption has become so habitual among the police and judicial officers that it is now considered normal behavior. Implicit peer and professional sanctioning systems have developed over time to ensure that people do not deviate from this “norm.” For example, police or judges who refuse to engage in corruption may be ostracized personally and/or suffer professional consequences (e.g. being transferred). The sanctioning systems strengthen the normalization of corruption, undermine the strength of formal rules (including rules against corruption), and increase opportunities (and behavior) to demand bribes.


    Limited oversight

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    Scant oversight weakens the formal rules that should constrain corrupt behavior. Incentives to provide oversight are limited because all levels in the hierarchy—even at the level of the regime itself—are participating in some form of corruption, and it would not be in their interest to pursue an agenda of control or transparency.  Unlike in other countries, the participation throughout the hierarchy is not vertically integrated; meaning in the criminal justice sector money does not flow up and power down.  Rather each level operates to maximize its own advantage and that behavior is seen as a model; legitimatizing these behaviors at lower levels.  Without oversight (and senior officials modeling these practices), opportunities for corruption are capitalized upon without concern.



    Click to enlarge

    Respondents external to the CJS spoke with great respect of people within the criminal justice system who were not corrupt. These people take personal risks in order to step out of the expected pattern of behavior, namely, corruption. This stance comes at a social and professional cost to many.   It is possible, that the ability to resist could serve as a limiting factor for bribery, keeping it to implicitly understood ‘reasonable’ levels.  However, only weak evidence of such was found. Its worthy of note that our research found no examples of citizens resisting corruption without external support e.g. legal aid; except in cases where they simply had no ability to obtain the required funds.


    The system of corruption

    Click to enlarge

    The full corruption systems map shows how bribery is the central anchor of the system.  The left side, depicted in orange, demonstrates how the citizen demands feed that vicious cycle.  While the right side, depicted in purple show how the police and judicial dynamics fit into the system.


    How these maps inform action

    The causal loop map above may be used in a number of ways, depending on where you are in the life cycle of an intervention. It:

    • demonstrates how different drivers and enablers of corruption interact so that one can review programming to make sure both drivers and enablers are being targeted appropriately;
    • offers insights on where an intervention within the system would be most effective and potential positive and negative effects of an intervention;
    • can act as a tool to test the plausibility of a theory of change;
    • can facilitate coordination between development actors, who can divide up their work to address different elements of the systems map.

    If you are leading an intervention in Northern Uganda we will be interested to hear if this map resonates with your experience.   Please comment or email Kiely Barnard-Webster at to get in touch.

    Want more resources on systems and corruption?

    Do you have favorite resources on corruption and systems?  If so, please send us your recommendations. Kiely Barnard-Webster at

    About this article

    What is the Corruption, Justice and Legitimacy Project?

    The Corruption, Justice, and Legitimacy (CJL) project advances systems approaches to corruption analysis in fragile and conflict-affected contexts.  Focusing on the CJS, the project supports more holistic efforts to diminish corruption in core state activities related to human security.  The work is built on the premise that corruption is a complex adaptive system. Building upon prior research for the U.S. Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, the CJL project puts policy makers’ assumptions about corruption’s effects on state legitimacy to evidential tests.  This project is one of four projects funded by the Carnegie-funded project and convened at the Henry J. Leir Institute at the Fletcher School.

    Led by Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church, Professor of Practice and Diana Chigas, JD, Professor of Practice at The Fletcher School and Senior International Office and Associate Provost at Tufts University, the project team included Saskia Bechenmacher, Teddy Atim, Juliet H. Hatanga and Sophia Dawkins.


    About the author

    Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church is Principal at Besa: Catalyzing Strategic Change, a social enterprise committed to catalysing significant change on strategic issues in places experiencing conflict and structural or overt physical violence. She has significant experience working on anti-corruption and state legitimacy in the DRC and Uganda. As a Professor of Practice, she teaches and consults on program design, monitoring, evaluation and learning.

  • What Dynamics Drive Citizens to Engage in or Accede to Corruption

    By Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church

    Uganda has almost every institution, law, procedure, and body that one expects to find in a robust criminal justice system, as well as an impressive array of anti-corruption laws, institutions, and initiatives.  Despite this strong framework, corruption in criminal justice proves to be robust and resilient in Northern Uganda, with bribery at its heart.  This week we look at one set of dynamics that feed this vicious cycle; the people’s perspective.

    In Uganda, corruption studies, annual indexes, investigative journalism, and citizen reporting are ubiquitous. Yet the enablers and drivers of corruption and the way those factors interact have received little attention.  Social change actors targeting corruption need to understand how the system of corruption operates as well as the functions that corruption serves in order to develop contextually-specific, effective interventions.

    The second in our series tells the story of the citizen experience of corruption in the criminal justice work of the police and courts in Northern Uganda [read part one of the series here].   Our work conceptualizes corruption as a complex adaptive system driven by interrelated and reinforcing enablers and drivers.   Using causal-loop mapping to visually depict the system, this abbreviated summary is drawn from  Facilitation in the Criminal Justice System in Northern Uganda.

    Uganda has almost every institution, law, procedure, and body that one expects to find in a robust criminal justice system, based on English common law and customary law. Similarly, the country has an impressive array of anti-corruption laws, institutions, bodies, and initiatives, such as the Anti-Corruption Court, the Inspectorate General, and the Data Tracking Mechanism.  Significant anti-corruption initiatives specific to the police and courts also exist.  So much so that in 2011, Global Integrity gave Uganda a 98/100 (very strong rating) on its legal framework.

    Despite the robust framework for anti-corruption the administration of justice and rule of law remains uneven across the country. The same Global Integrity 2011 report gave implementation of said legal framework a 51/100 or a ‘very weak’ rating. As the Inspector General, Irene Mulyagonja Kakooza notes, “despite this strong framework, corruption remains a menace in our society.” Examining the drivers, enablers and their interactions is key to understanding the resiliency that corruption has shown in this context. 

    In Northern Uganda, bribery is at the heart of the corruption system that is part and parcel of the criminal justice experience.  Our research uncovered two different sets of dynamics that feed this vicious cycle; one set of dynamics that drive citizens to engage in or accede to corruption, (‘the people’s perspective on corruption’) and another set driving police and judicial officers’ behavior. Today we will examine the former using a systems map. If you are new to systems mapping, we recommend you read “How to Read a Systems Map” before continuing.

    Before we can understand the people’s perspective on corruption we must examine what is at the centre of the system: bribery.


    Click to enlarge

    It is a self-perpetuating vicious cycle at the heart of the way police and courts function in Northern Uganda. Judicial officers and police, driven by a variety of factors, are poised and pressured to seize opportunities for bribery.  This feeds the reality that justice is influenced heavily by money and power as well as the perception among citizens that justice is always for sale. Yet this very perception leads citizens to accept and even anticipate bribery (i.e. pay before there is even a demand for payment), reinforcing the very phenomenon (officials’ demands for bribes) that is so heartily disliked.   One interviewee summed up this sentiment, “Many times, if you do not pay you will not receive the service you need. You are aggrieved and you become a secondary victim because the duty-bearer did not respond to the crime.”

    The people’s perspective

    Fear & desperation

    Click to enlarge

    People acquiesce to demands for payment and proactively offer bribes because they fear the consequences of being trapped within the criminal justice system. As one person explained, “[police] do everything possible to make people fear them, they do anything to get what they want.” Citizens believe that they or their loved ones will suffer dire consequences if they come into contact with the criminal justice process; specifically physical abuse by police while in custody or in prison. This has led to the common refrain “Life is more valuable than money” which out of desperation justifies any action, most commonly paying, to see someone released.

    Uncertainty & helplessness

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    The perception that justice is for sale creates tremendous lack of trust by citizens in the police and courts as state institutions. This often drives them out of the formal system; seeking justice from other formal or informal mechanisms such as traditional leaders or Local Council Courts which do not have criminal jurisdiction. Having multiple possible paths contributes to a pervasive sense of uncertainty about where one should go to obtain justice.   This forum shopping undermines the credibility of the criminal justice sector.  It also contributes to an overall sense of helplessness in the face of a crime and often results in citizen’s giving up (e.g. dropping cases).  This can contribute to an increase in violence and in particular mob justice as well fueling the use of corruption to achieve one’s ends via the formal system.   Together this creates systematic barriers to accessing justice.

    Lack of knowledge

    Click to enlarge

    Citizens do not know the laws and procedures used by police and criminal courts and often possess erroneous beliefs of what these are supposed to happen.   The primary source of information when faced with a criminal justice crisis is one’s social network which makes this misinformation and rumors exponentially powerful.  The lack of accurate information makes citizens vulnerable to manipulation by police and judicial officers whereby they become complicit to a corrupt act without knowing it.  It also can lead citizens to characterize all inefficiencies and negative experiences (e.g., delays, acquittals, etc.) as caused by corruption.  In turn this reinforces the perception that justice is for sale, and the likelihood that citizens will participate in bribery.


    Click to enlarge

    Manipulation of the justice system for personal gain is real. Used in both predatory and protectionist manners; wealth and powerful connections are capitalized upon to get favorable outcomes. “Godparents,” or significant relationships with powerful people, are key to access and navigate the system for citizens.  They are also used by those within the system as a form of protection. This deepens the dependence of justice on wealth and power, and strengthens the vicious cycle of bribery.





    To learn more

    To learn more about corruption in the police and courts in Uganda, read as we explain the perspective of the duty bearers (e.g. judge or court clerk) in this system and lay out three key lessons we learned from the research in Uganda.

    About this article

    What is the Corruption, Justice and Legitimacy Project?

    The Corruption, Justice, and Legitimacy (CJL) project advances systems approaches to corruption analysis in fragile and conflict-affected contexts.  Focusing on the CJS, the project supports more holistic efforts to diminish corruption in core state activities related to human security.  The work is built on the premise that corruption is a complex adaptive system.  Building upon prior research for the U.S. Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, the CJL project puts policy makers’ assumptions about corruption’s effects on state legitimacy to evidential tests.  This project is one of four projects funded by the Carnegie-funded project and convened at The Institute for Human Security at the Fletcher School.

    Led by Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church, Professor of Practice and Diana Chigas, JD, Professor of Practice at The Fletcher School and Senior International Office and Associate Provost at Tufts University, the project team included Saskia Bechenmacher, Teddy Atim, Juliet H. Hatanga and Sophia Dawkins.


    About the author

    Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church is Principal at Besa: Catalyzing Strategic Change, a social enterprise committed to catalysing significant change on strategic issues in places experiencing conflict and structural or overt physical violence. She has significant experience working on anti-corruption and state legitimacy in the DRC and Uganda. As a Professor of Practice, she teaches and consults on program design, monitoring, evaluation and learning.
  • Three Lessons about Corruption in the Police and Courts in Northern Uganda

    By Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church

    This week, Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church presents three non-intuitive insights about corruption in Northern Uganda: (1) Citizens perceive that all justice must be bought. (2) Corruption serves many important functions. (3) Corruption in the police and courts does not diminish legitimacy of these institutions. These are some of the key lessons from her new paper Facilitation in the Criminal Justice System in Northern Uganda, co-authored with Diana Chigas. Continue reading to see how those perceived realities may affect the effectiveness, or relevance, of certain anti-corruption initiatives.

    Corruption is the system for handling criminal issues in Northern Uganda; not the exception.  Duty bearers systematically require money in order for citizens to access the justice system.  For those in the police and courts (e.g. Magistrates, court clerks or station commanders) there are social and professional consequences for non-compliance.  Citizens who try to avail of the justice institutions also face significant pressure to participate in bribery; though it should be remembered that citizens are also often the instigators of corrupt acts.

    With crime reaching almost 90% of Ugandans in the past four years, tackling how corruption undermines criminal justice is a critical development issue.

    In this four-part blog series, I will highlight key findings and the results of the systems analysis from my new paper, Facilitation in the Criminal Justice System in Northern Ugandaco-authored with Diana Chigas.  Our focus on Northern Uganda speaks directly to where citizens are most at threat, as criminal acts – namely theft, burglary and robbery are the most prevalent in the North.  The findings from 111 interviews of citizens in Gulu and Lira districts as well as duty bearers in the criminal justice system (CJS) have been field tested with Ugandan activists for their validity.  What did we learn?

    Citizens perceive that all justice must be bought

    Rural, urban, male, female, professional and unskilled laborer; all stated that justice comes with a monetary price.

    While it is a fact that duty bearers demand bribes for services that should be free under the law, we also found that most times a transaction with the police or courts did not go according to the citizen expectation it was labelled as corruption.  For instance, the slow pace of cases moving through the courts is commonly interpreted to result from the other side paying a bribe to slow down the process, or the court clerk seeking to pressure one of the parties into paying a bribe to schedule a court date.   It is common for these inefficiencies in the system and, at times even due process that is not understood by the citizen, to be labelled corruption.

    These perceptions matter beyond just the measurement challenge that they raise.  They matter because if the prevalence of true corruption in the criminal justice system decreased, the citizen perception may not.  It also matters because of the substantial public awareness work that takes place around corruption. Research from other fields shows that stating the extent of a problem in the hopes of shocking people into stopping that action can sometimes have the reverse effect; increasing their likelihood of that behavior.

    Corruption serves many important functions in Northern Uganda

    Systems theory states that systems always serve a function.  Our research found that the system of corruption serves different functions for different actors relevant to criminal justice in Northern Uganda.  Corruption is used:

    • by citizens as a means to access the police and courts in pursuit of justice, or to manipulate the police and court to advance an agenda or protect oneself;
    • by the elite to maintain their position and/or power (and, ultimately, dominance) in an unstable environment;
    • by those inside the CJS as a means of paying for operating expenses, generating resources to ensure day-to-day survival, buttressing against the uncertainty of the context, signaling power, and feeding greed.

    Current programming to diminish corruption in Northern Uganda and globally do not take these functions sufficiently into account. 

    Corruption in the police and courts does not diminish legitimacy of these institutions

    The citizen perception that all justice must be paid for diminishes their trust in the police and courts as state institutions.  Citizens clearly state that they do not approve of the behavior of the individuals who represent these institutions.  Practically it drives them to seek justice through other formal and informal mechanisms such as traditional leaders or lower level government structures.  It also feeds greater corruption as people see the formal system as something to be manipulated to one’s own end.  Despite all of this, citizens do not question the legitimacy of these institutions.  They distinguish between the current negative behaviors that are the norm and the right of these structures to implement the rule of law.   Further they acknowledge the citizen obligation to follow the direction of these institutions.


    To learn more

    To learn more about corruption in the police and courts in Uganda, read our blog posts on the citizens’ experience and on the perspective of the duty bearers (e.g. judge or court clerk) in this system.


    A note on the Corruption, Justice and Legitimacy Project

    The Corruption, Justice, and Legitimacy (CJL) project advances systems approaches to corruption analysis in fragile and conflict-affected contexts.  Focusing on the CJS, the project supports more holistic efforts to diminish corruption in core state activities related to human security.  The work is built on the premise that corruption is a complex adaptive system.  Building upon prior research for the U.S. Department of State Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, the CJL project puts policy makers’ assumptions about corruption’s effects on state legitimacy to evidential tests.  This project is one of four projects funded by the Carnegie-funded project and convened at The Institute for Human Security at the Fletcher School.

    Led by Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church, Professor of Practice and Diana Chigas, JD, Professor of Practice at The Fletcher School and Senior International Office and Associate Provost at Tufts University, the project team included Saskia Bechenmacher, Teddy Atim, Juliet H. Hatanga and Sophia Dawkins.


    About the author

    Cheyanne Scharbatke-Church is Principal at Besa: Catalyzing Strategic Change, a social enterprise committed to catalysing significant change on strategic issues in places experiencing conflict and structural or overt physical violence. She has significant experience working on anti-corruption and state legitimacy in the DRC and Uganda.  As a Professor of Practice, she teaches and consults on program design, monitoring, evaluation and learning.
  • Your Donor is Not Evil

    By Alex Snider

    In this post, Alex Snider, a Foreign Affairs Officer covering West Africa at the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), discusses how, against all odds, donors and implementers can navigate flexibility, risk, and creativity to develop effective anticorruption programs. These actors balance one another’s constraints, offer complementary perspectives, and hold each other to high standards, he argues. This post continues our conversation about the donor-implementer relationship, and how both play a unique role in the development of anti-corruption programming.

    It would be bizarre if implementers looked kindly upon their donors. Yes, no one mourns winning a grant but the gauntlet of requirements it comes with can take a toll. Donor work plans are rigid but priorities and circumstances on the ground can change daily. Funding cycles are slow but demands for results are immediate.

    Unfortunately the complexity of tackling corruption further raises the level of difficulty. This blog series has shown that rigid contracts work for tons of concrete but not tons of corruption. Flexibility, risk, and creativity are necessary for anticorruption programs to actually work. The donor-implementer relationship is not naturally conducive to any of this. Add in end-of-fiscal-year deadlines and plenty of oversight and it only becomes more challenging. I don’t blame implementers for occasionally wondering if the funding is even worth the reporting requirements.

    Yet, against all odds, it can work. Donors and implementers balance the others’ constraints, offer complementary perspectives, and hold each other to high standards. They test hypotheses about addressing hard problems through a humble, collaborative approach. Yes, there are unicorns and rainbows spinning in infinity too.

    For the last five years, I’ve worked for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) at the State Department. As the lead for international criminal justice reform policy, INL helps partner countries improve security and justice service delivery by strengthening their police, courts, and corrections systems. You may guess that targeting corruption, both as a problem in itself and as it relates to the functioning of the criminal justice sector, is central to our work.

    I’ve worked on programs related to corruption that range from inspiring to insipid. Here are three ideas for how implementers can best work with donors on the innovative approaches fighting corruption requires.

    1. Listen, then educate

    Win a grant? Congratulations! The priorities of your donor are now yours. That doesn’t mean you must grovel before them. Instead your task is to explain how your approach solves their problem. This is true even as, annoyingly, priorities and circumstances shift. You may be tempted to stick to your guns but be careful about winning the battle and losing the war. Advocate for the enduring need for the original objective but be open to reframing or readjusting to what’s at the top of your donor’s inbox. Being willing to work toward a common solution can pay dividends, perhaps through timely policy support or encouraging your donor to find new funding for that option year.

    It may not shock you to hear that donors are fallible. They too juggle too many projects, are never as smart on a given project as they wish, and may send curt emails in between back-to-back meetings (sorry!). Help inform their decision making. Give them grace and empathy.  Request the same from them.

    A more radical proposition is that donors can be useful. As an implementer you have a nuanced understanding of local culture that can educate donors.  But donors know the culture of their bureaucracy and can help you navigate the choppy waters of policy constraints and funding streams. Their relationships can help with thorny political problems at the core of corruption. They are flattered when you ask for their advice and, who knows, it may actually help.

    2. Help donors tell a story

    Even in the hardest contexts, the demand for results from your donor’s bureaucracy is probably intense. But donors can be trusted with nuance. The need to slowly build coalitions or that progress does not come in the scale of weeks is not lost on those who are tasked with dreaming up policy solutions to corruption.

    You don’t need to turn water into wine but you need to give them something. Numbers are important.  Quantitative data are more “legible” – they allow bureaucracies to aggregate incidents and accidents across projects and provide a more objective story than hints and allegations.

    But donors realize “numbers trained” is not the holy grail of M&E.  Although the most important things can’t be measured, please remember that qualitative measurement is not an alibi. The difference between lazy anecdotes and thoughtful case studies is visible from space. “Hoping” participants use training occupies a different universe than reporting on work plan adaptations designed to implementation of training or emergent opportunity to build on success.  Luckily there is much interesting work that demonstrates that qualitative data can be rigorous and, without it, we can’t even begin to understand complex contexts.

    3. Process permits risk

    The Washington Post Test means that your innovative program needs to take into account the possibility – and potential risk – of it showing up on the front pages.  A “Circus to Combat Corruption” program is the other side of the “Elephantgate” coin. This creates incentives for risk-aversion and inertia.  The quip “no one ever got fired for doing the same thing as last year” is at least half true.

    But, all is not lost. Risk is not just about results.  Donors know that making progress on complex, intractable problems is far from assured.  Whether an unsuccessful innovative project is a reckless waste of taxpayer money or valiant effort that deserves a shot at redemption comes down to process.  Documenting a thoughtful, legal (!) process that included key stakeholders and weighed risks with the potential gains is worth all the cattle in the marketplace.

    The word “failure” is too blunt and misunderstood for these conversations. No one is omniscient.  Sometime the only way to learn is through action. So explain why decisions were made, where you are now, and how you will adapt to this new knowledge. Whenever possible involve the donor; surprises are only good on your birthday.

    A focus on process doesn’t imply a rigid blueprint.  It can follow a “Questions not Plans” or “Sailboats not Trains”approach that focuses on learning and feedback.  The key is to prove to your donor – and yourself – that you are not winging it. If you want to pioneer flexible, multifaceted strategies to fight corruption , “Hey trust us” won’t work. You need to help your donor advocate for how thoughtful and deliberate you are. Take the risk to say the three hardest words – I don’t know – and explain how you’ll learn and adapt.

    In the field of corruption, there have never been more good ideas about where to start. Many of these have been captured in this blog. But good ideas are not enough. If you meet donors where they are, help them tell the story, and use process to pave the way for risk, you just might get a chance to see how good your idea really is.

    About the author

    Alex Snider is a Foreign Affairs Officer at the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. His work involves developing, managing, and coordinating criminal justice sector programs and policy in West Africa including citizen-focused police, corrections and anticorruption work. Alex previously served as a Political Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Cote d’Ivoire, sanctions advisor at the U.S. mission to the UN, and political economy consultant at the World Bank. Alex has a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill a Master of Science in Foreign Service degree from Georgetown University. He is passionate about bureaucracy (really!) and integrating systems thinking and behavioral insights into programs. He occasionally blogs at
  • Who is Leading the Fight Against Corruption? A Review of European Bilateral Donors

    By Hank Nelson

    In this post Hank Nelson reviews which European Bilateral Donors have prioritized anti-corruption initiatives, and how they are fighting corruption. Finally, he reminds donors not to neglect funding the research that will ensure that their anti-corruption programs are effective. Next week’s post will supplement this review by offering tips on how implementers can best work with donors on the innovative approaches fighting corruption requires.

    In May 2016, the United Kingdom hosted the first ever Anti-Corruption Summit, which brought together more than 40 countries to discuss and strategize new anti-corruption initiatives. Many of the participating countries increased their commitments to transparency and accountability initiatives at the Summit, continuing a global trend of increasingly prioritizing anti-corruption in international development (as demonstrated in the explicit promotion of anti-corruption in the Sustainable Development Goals).

    With an increased international focus on anti-corruption, it is important to recognize who is leading the fight when it comes to putting dollars behind the commitment. This blog post will look at which bilateral European donors have prioritized anti-corruption and how these donors conceptualize anti-corruption. Identifying the anti-corruption initiatives of various donors is important not only for descriptive purposes, but also because a more in-depth analysis of donor priorities can help us identify which aspects of corruption are being addressed, and which are slipping through the cracks.

    Which donors have prioritized anti-corruption initiatives?

    Perhaps unsurprisingly given its role as the chair of the 2016 Anti-Corruption Summit, the UK is one of the largest and most anti-corruption donors in Europe. So far in 2016, the UK Department for International Development (DFID) has devoted approximately £683 million ($833 million) to governance and civil society initiatives, including £33 million ($40 million) in direct support to anti-corruption agencies, £36 million ($44 million) in support for decentralization efforts, and £69 million ($85 million) in support for public financial management. DFID’s funding for governance and civil society initiatives accounts for 7.64% of its budget, making this sector DFID’s fourth most funded (after education, health and disaster relief). DFID stressed its commitment to anti-corruption in its 2015 report to Parliament on tackling global aid in the national interest. In the report, DFID stresses that investing in anti-corruption initiatives strengthens global peace, security and governance—one of DFID’s four strategic objectives. While DFID’s engagement on governance issues has been impressive in recent years, post-Brexit politics in the UK might push anti-corruption off of the development agenda.

    Along with DFID, some of the Scandinavian countries have prioritized anti-corruption. DANIDA, the international development agency contained within the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has a history of prioritizing anti-corruption initiatives. In its most recent set of development priorities for 2017-2020, DANIDA stresses the importance of anti-corruption initiatives as part of a broader effort to improve democracy, human rights and gender equality. While contributing less to governance and civil society promotion than DFID, DANIDA contributes a much greater portion of its development aid to this sector—approximately $420 million, or about 22% of Denmark’s total development budget.

    In addition to Denmark, Sweden considers fighting corruption as one of its priority areas. While Sweden devoted $598 million to governance, democracy, human rights, and gender equality in 2015, the aid tracker tool unfortunately does not allow for a deeper dive.

    It should be stressed that this description is not exhaustive and that many European donors engage in anti-corruption activities. For example, despite prioritizing migration, climate change and food security, Germany continues to implement anti-corruption programs around the world. Other countries are beginning to rapidly increase their funding for governance and civil society promotion programming as well. For example, the Italian government has increased its funding for Government and Civil Society initiatives from a low of less than €18 million ($20 million) in 2012 to more than $120 million ($132 million) in 2015. While the Italian aid tracker does not make clear how much of these funds were spent on anti-corruption programming, it will be interesting to track how Italy and other bilateral donors adjust their priorities to include governance issues in the future.

    How are donors fighting corruption?

    While there are myriad ways in which donors define and address corruption, many European donors have constructed two-pronged anti-corruption strategies that seek to address both corruption within donor initiatives, as well as corruption within the recipient country. This strategy—embraced by the DFID, Germany’s GIZ, Sweden’s Sida and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland—is broadly aligned with the concept of mainstreaming anti-corruption. First gaining prominence in the 2000s after a string of anti-corruption reform failures in the 1990s, mainstreaming anti-corruption involves “implicitly and explicitly incorporating anti-corruption in all sectors and intervention levels of development cooperation.” DFID’s anti-corruption strategy perhaps best encapsulates this concept by creating a separate set of guidelines for each partner country. For example, DFID’s 2013 Anti-Corruption Strategy for Nigeria calls for increased internal and external audits to prevent program fraud, but also calls for a strategy that would increase transparency in the country’s oil sector.

    While most country anti-corruption strategies and initiatives are independent, there is some evidence that European and other bilateral donors are increasingly cooperating in the fight against corruption. For example, in Uganda DFID leads the Accountability Working Group, an informal organization for Uganda’s development partners to coordinate on corruption and governance issues. Through the AWG, donors in Uganda have developed the Joint Response to Corruption, a tool that facilitates coordination and information sharing in anti-corruption.

    In addition to increased cooperation and information sharing, increased anti-corruption research can help donors better prioritize and improve the effectiveness of their initiatives. For example, research projects funded by both bilateral donors and other development actors are helping to reshape anti-corruption effectiveness paradigms. Donors should continue to fund not only anti-corruption programs, but also the research that will ensure that these programs are effective.

    About the author

    Hank Nelson is a recent graduate of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, where he wrote his Master’s thesis on incorporating an understanding of corruption into conflict sensitivity efforts. He is a consultant at CDA Collaborative Learning Projects and with the Corruption, Justice and Legitimacy project.
  • 1.39 Cheers for Quantitative Analysis

    By Michael Johnston

    We thank Matthew Stephenson for his sincere response to Michael Johnston’s post “Breaking Out of the Methodological Cage”, in “The Level-of-Aggregation Question in Corruption Measurement” on the Global Anticorruption Blog. Professor Johnston keeps the conversation going with his response below.

    There is a lot to like in Matthew Stephenson’s blog post: the more we debate the issue of measuring and comparing corruption the better off we all are. And I’m not even sure that our disagreements run very deep.

    In fact, toward the end of his critique he summarizes my fundamental position quite well: “…for the research questions we do or should care about regarding the causes and consequences of corruption, identifying correlates of these summary measures is not useful.” That’s a major aspect of that methodological “cage” I hoped to highlight and criticize.

    I do not in any way object to quantitative methods as a way to study corruption issues; indeed, as I noted I have used corruption indices myself. Rather, my problem is with what I see as a tendency to reify many of the measures we use, to overgeneralize from statistical results (which after all are usually probabilistic inferences based in part on proxy measures), and – by extension – to chase what ought to be big and important questions down the rabbit hole of substantively insignificant methodological elaborations (again, I could tell stories about manuscripts I regularly review).

    Follow the conversation between Michael Johnston and Matthew Stephenson! Start with “Breaking out of the Methodological Cage” >“The Level-of-Aggregation Question in Corruption Measurement” > “1.39 Cheers for Quantitative Analysis”  > and read next > “Are Aggregate Corruption Indicators Coherent and/or Useful?: Further Reflections

    Understanding the origins, consequences, and reform challenges of corruption problems

    Corruption matters, among other reasons, because it raises major issues of justice, and questions about whether and how people can govern themselves, and govern themselves well. I doubt we would differ greatly at that level.

    With respect to corruption indices themselves, I do maintain that they flatten out critical variations among and within societies. Some kinds of corruption involve abuses of wealth in pursuit of power, as Huntington pointed out many years ago, while others involve abuses of power in pursuit of wealth. In some settings corruption serves as an alternative to violence, while in others corruption and violence feed upon each other. At times corruption capitalizes upon the insecurity of citizens and business people, while in others it underwrites a degree of de facto stability.

    There are cases in which much of what might be termed corrupt is legal, or at least unclassified by the law, others in which corrupt lawbreaking makes up the bulk of the problem, and still others in which powerful individuals or factions enjoy a degree of impunity that makes legality irrelevant.

    We can and should think carefully what such patterns have in common that we can call corrupt.

    But particularly in light of our longstanding inability to come to a working consensus over how to define corruption, to summarize the differences among such cases with just a more-versus-less number is to obscure contrasts critical to understanding the origins, consequences, and reform challenges of corruption problems in contrasting settings.

    In my previous work I have argued that four qualitatively different syndromes of corruption can be identified in various parts of the world; while that number of syndromes and my understanding of them may well be in error, I do believe that understanding qualitative variations in corruption is at least as important as the sometimes dubious precision we impute to scores on one-dimensional indices.

    Levels of aggregation

    The second issue has to do with levels of aggregation. In no way do I object to aggregating evidence at the national level; most of the statistics we routinely employ about whole countries are aggregations of one sort or another.

    But what is being aggregated? GDP per capita statistics are indeed aggregations, but they bring together diverse activities that can generally still be assessed and added up on a common underlying dimension – money – and whose estimated totals do tell us something of importance (though far from everything, it is true) about a national economy. But what do corruption indices aggregate?

    Overwhelmingly they aggregate perceptions of a problem whose full scope is unknown, that are gathered from different groups of respondents (some within a society, some not) who are asked at different times to make contrasting kinds of judgments, and whose relationships with that being judged (as international experts, small business owners, extortion victims) can differ starkly. There are few clear-cut ways to weigh cases of perceived corruption in terms of their significance. GDP figures reflect corrections for domestic versus cross-border economic activities, but corruption indices generally do not: indeed, corrupt schemes orchestrated from abroad often end up depressing index scores in struggling societies.

    The core concerns that corruption perceptions may share – or are assumed to share – point us toward fascinating and important questions. More innovative proxy variables not tied to perceptions are emerging, at times with highly suggestive results; but it is telling that many of them focus upon detailed sorts of data about specific interactions.

    Still, the major international country-level indices, judged in terms of understanding and comparing the corruption problems of real people in actual societies (not to mention, generalizing about “cultures of corruption” or the overall quality of institutions and leadership, which are among the uses to which such data sometimes are put) seem to me to obscure what is most interesting and important about corruption for the sake of producing interval-level data.

    I would be the last to argue that such indices should be abandoned, but I am not as ready as some analysts seem to be to treat them as literal truth.

    About this article

    Photo: By uwdigitalcollections – Early women cheerleaders at UW Madison Uploaded by nusumareta, CC BY 2.0

    About the author

    Michael Johnston is Charles A. Dana Professor of Political Science Emeritus at Colgate University. He lives, works, and overindulges in enchiladas in Austin, Texas.
  • A View on Corruption and Gender in Lubumbashi

    By Kiely Barnard-Webster

    This week, Kiely Barnard-Webster follows up her post about gender and corruption with insights from RCN J&D’s Longin and Patricia about the Lubumbashi context. Click here to read the post in French.

    This week, RCN J&D – implementers for the Central Africa Accountable Service Delivery Initiative (CAASDI) – spoke with me about the Are Women Less Corrupt? blog post. Together, the team of two, Longin (Head of Office) and Patricia (Project Manager), possess a rich and deep understanding of the criminal justice sector – as a Burundian ex-judge and practicing lawyer in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) respectively. They are currently working with a network of anti-corruption actors in Lubumbashi, DRC.

    During our conversation it was important for me to hear whether, and how, the stories and challenges I reviewed last week are experienced in the Lubumbashi context. Longin and Patricia affirmed that the general arguments seemed to hold relevance to Lubumbashi. However, their eagerness to dig deeper was clear, especially as after more than an hour of conversation, we had only made our way through half the interview questions!

    It was quite obvious more still remains to be known.

    Yet, they shared their observed experience of how these issues have come to pass in particular ways throughout their years working in Lubumbashi; the team clearly expressed frustration with discrimination and with sextortion’s negative effect on societal gender roles during our conversation – as well as their motivation for change.

    Here’s what they said.

    (Q) In which ways does it seem women suffer more from corruption, specifically while trying to access public services, in Lubumbashi?

    Patricia: Women generally hold much more integrity than men. But, when corruption is a forced act for women [and frequently sexual in nature] they talk about it a lot with one another. And, on the other side, women are under-served compared to men. They are much more reflective than men when it comes to corruption – for example they might ask themselves the question ‘why should I pay’?

    Longin: Women aren’t often speedy when acquiescing to corruption, thus public services might reach them slowly or be refused to them outright. Having little income, or limited resources, women might be more tempted to dispute the price of corruption thus – in the meantime – their access to public services might be delayed.

    “Having little income, or limited resources, women might be more tempted to dispute the price of corruption thus – in the meantime – their access to public services might be delayed.”

    Patricia: Yes, and women think as well of the scandals that corruption might cause for them – these are usually fairly serious, like scandals you see within the political sphere. Women thus ask themselves many more questions when accessing public services. They also think much more frequently about their families and the consequences. When we talk about “consequences” of corruption, it’s usually in reference to consequences for their family or communities (“leurs sociétés”).  That does not mean that women are all honest or that honest men don’t exist! Women are just more limited by culture and the perceptions of their communities.

    “That does not mean that women are all honest or that honest men don’t exist! Women are just more limited by culture [in Lubumbashi] and the perceptions of their communities.”

    Longin: Related to this, women often refuse to prostitute themselves for a service and will then not receive the service; if, through extraordinary circumstances a woman gives in, she might receive the service but regret the decision for the rest of her life.

    (Q) In which ways do women face more difficulty accessing political processes, or decision-making positions, because of corruption?

    Patricia: This is more anchored in culture. For many, women are meant to stay at home and manage a household – women aren’t often called to public service. And that creates prejudices. If a woman aspires to public office, one would say she’s ‘behaving like a man.’ Generally, within political parties, you see that there are many women but there aren’t many that actually fill positions requiring much responsibility. There are often female candidates, but not many move into decision-making roles or to important departments – there’s never been a single female president for example, or prime minister. It’s cultural.

    “Generally, within political parties, you see that there are many women but there aren’t many that actually fill positions requiring much responsibility.”

    Women also don’t have the means to engage in corruption – to get themselves on political tickets, for example – because in politics it’s very much about exchanging large sums of money and women, in general, don’t have this. Laws about equal gender representation exist, but don’t really secure enough women. From a legal standpoint, equality is a widely recognized right but there is little done to enforce respect of these laws.

    Longin: Also, if women run they may not win because they don’t know how to be corrupt, or might not have the resources or the experience with political corruption to know the best way forward (i.e., they won’t have access to insider circles, access to grand corruption…). There may also be fear about political scandals.

    Men have a significant advantage. Women have continued to think that they must stay at home and take care of a household, that politics is reserved for men. This, in my view, has led to a lack of self-esteem – for even though women are interested in this field and have gone through school and studied politics, they are still confronted with a lack of resources or support.

    (Q) Have you heard of any unique approaches, from individuals or groups of women in particular, that have worked to stop corruption?

    Login: From our work, we might think a network with the aim of fighting against corruption and discrimination through collective action would be one strategy (we have already seen this network forming – with some of our participants convening a small group of judicial actors and CSO’s focusing on gender and corruption). There seems to be merit in better understanding the strategic value of this type of network…

    Patricia: Another strategy is that women might also look for allies. Allies that will support their cause. And these allies should also be men – those working in the criminal justice sector, if this is where women are trying to fight corruption. It’s necessary that these be judicial actors as well who are also evading corruption on a daily basis. This strategy is one way to combat corruption.

    Longin: It’s also necessary to have allies during childhood, as youth will then feel compelled to pick up the baton and fight discrimination and corruption. In coming years, then, there would already be those willing to take on this fight. It’s with feminist rights movements like these – and advocating for equal gender rights – that the question will begin to be addressed. Women are taking the first steps, but the next will be finding ways to engage male allies and examining how men’s roles play into this movement.

    Patricia & Longin: [to us] both women and men are involved in corruption, but to different degrees. Which means that they can be pioneers in the fight against discrimination based on gender, and against corruption; it remains that they adopt strategies to combine efforts with allies and young men in this fight for equality.

    I want to thank Patricia and Longin for taking the time to share their experiences. Have you seen similar phenomena in your region? Send us the answers to these questions if you would like to share with the practitioner community reading this blog. Are there other questions you would have wished I asked? Leave your comments below, and we will pass them on to Patricia and Longin.

    About this article

    * This discussion does not represent CDA or RCN & J&D’s official opinions. Rather, the opinions expressed are solely those of the persons interviewed. *

    Patricia works for RCN Justice & Démocratie. She is a Project Manager in Lubumbashi, currently supporting the efforts of a Network of local anti-corruption actors from the criminal justice sector. She consistently observes the challenges they face in their daily interactions with corruption, and helps the group devise strategies for tackling these challenges.

    Longin also works for RCN Justice & Démocratie. He is the Head of Office in Lubumbashi, and works very closely with the Network of local anti-corruption actors to coordinate their efforts and similarly support the group in their fight against corruption.

    Photo: Lubumbashi: 1920s Palace of Justice. By Piet Clement – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,


    About the author

    Kiely Barnard-Webster is Program Manager at CDA Collaborative Learning Projects, working on innovative approaches to tackling corruption in the DRC and peacebuilding and conflict sensitivity in Myanmar. Kiely focused her studies on gender and development at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.
  • La Corruption et le Genre à Lubumbashi : quelques points de vue

    By Kiely Barnard-Webster

    Cette semaine, RCN J&D – exécutants du programme de CAASDI – a parlé avec moi en ce qui concerne les éléments du blog « les femmes sont-elles moins corrompues ? ».  Ces deux praticiens, Longin (Chef d’Antenne) et Patricia (Chargée du Projet), possèdent une connaissance énorme du secteur de justice criminelle, en tant qu’un ex-juge burundais, et une avocate pratiquante de RDC. Ils travaillent en ce moment avec un réseau anti-corruption d’acteurs judicaires à Lubumbashi en RCD.

    Au cours de notre conversation il était important pour moi d’apprendre si, et comment, les histoires et les défis de ma revue sont expérimentés dans le contexte de Lubumbashi. Longin et Patricia ont affirmé qu’il y avait des arguments généraux, pertinents à Lubumbashi. Cependant, durant l’interview leur désir à creuser plus profondément était clair ; après plus d’une heure de conversation nous avions fait notre chemin à travers seulement la moitié des questions ! Il était tout à fait évident qu’il reste plus encore à être connu. Pourtant, ils ont partagé leur expérience de la façon dont ces questions étaient venues à passer tout au long de leur travail à Lubumbashi. L’équipe a clairement exprimé leur frustration avec la discrimination et l’effet négatif de « sextorsion » (l’extorsion de nature sexuelle) sur les rôles de genre de la société – ainsi que leur motivation pour le changement. Voici ce qu’ils ont dit.

    Kiely: Quelles sont les façons dont les femmes souffrent de la corruption en essayant d’obtenir les services publics à Lubumbashi?

    Patricia : « Les femmes sont beaucoup plus intègres que les hommes…en général. Mais, quand la corruption est une  action forcée [et fréquemment de nature sexuelle] elles la discutent beaucoup. Et, en retours, elles sont moins-servies que les hommes. Elles sont beaucoup plus réfléchies que les hommes – elles se posent la question ‘pourquoi est-ce que je dois payer?’ Elles souffrent.

    Longin : la femme, n’étant pas prompte à donner la corruption exigée, le service lui est rendu difficilement ou lui est refusé. Ayant des revenus ou ressources limitées, elle est tentée à discuter le prix de la corruption et entre temps le service ne lui est pas rendu rapidement. »

    Patricia : « oui, et les femmes pensent aussi aux scandales que donner la corruption pourrait engendrer, et ça c’est dans des niveaux assez élevés … comme on voit en politique. Les femmes se poseront beaucoup plus de questions,  parce qu’elles n’ont pas suffisamment de revenu à gaspiller avec la corruption [pour accéder aux services publics]. Elles pensent beaucoup plus que l’homme à la famille, aux conséquences pour la famille. [Quand on parle des « conséquences »] de  la corruption, c’est la conséquence du point de vue de la famille et du point de vue de la société.  Cela ne veut  pas dire que les femmes sont toutes plus honnêtes que les hommes et qu’il n’existe pas d’hommes honnêtes! Les femmes sont un peu limitées par la culture ou la perception de la société.

    Longin : Attachées à leur intimité, elles refusent de se faire prostituée pour un service public et elles n’obtient pas le service ; et si par extraordinaire elles cèdent, elles obtiennent le service tout en regrettant toute sa vie durant. »

    Kiely : De quelles façons les femmes ont des difficultés à accéder aux processus politiques, ou la prise de décision, parce qu’elles sont victimes de la corruption ?

    Patricia : « C’est un peu ancré dans la culture. Pour beaucoup, les femmes ont pour rôle  de s’occuper du  ménage – les femmes ne sont pas appelées aux choses publiques. Et, cela a créé des préjugés. Si on voit une femme briguer un mandat politique, on dit qu’elle se comporte comme un homme en fait. Généralement dans les parties politiques, vous verrez qu’il y a beaucoup de femmes mais il n’y en a pas beaucoup qui occupent de postes de responsabilité. Il y a des candidates femmes mais on n’en voit pas beaucoup qui  passent à des postes de responsabilité ou à des ministères importants – il n’y a pas une seule femme qui est passée présidente, ou premier ministre.  C’est  culturel.

    Elles n’ont pas les moyens de corrompe en politiques pour figurer sur des listes des candidats aux élections  par exemple parce qu’en politique c’est vraiment des grandes sommes qui doivent souvent être déboursées et les femmes en général n’en ont pas. La loi de la parité existe, mais elle ne sécurise  pas suffisamment la femme. Donc  du point de vue légal, la parité est consacrée mais il n’y a pas de contrainte pour ceux qui ne la respectent pas »

    Longin : « Aussi, si les femmes posent leurs candidatures, elles ne passent pas car elles ne savent pas corrompre faute de moyens et suite aussi au manque d’expérience dans les corruptions politiques (grandes corruptions dans les  cercles des grands initiés) ainsi que la peur des scandales. »

    Longin : « les hommes avaient une avancée significative. Les femmes ont continué à penser qu’elles doivent s’occuper des activités du ménage et que la politique est réservée aux hommes. Et là, elles se sous-estiment, Quand elles se sous-estiment, elles sous-estiment leurs consœurs aussi. Bien  qu’il y en a qui ont fait les études et sont intéressées à la politique, elles sont confrontées au  manque de moyens. »

    Kiely : Connaissez-vous des approches pour endiguer la corruption par des femmes (en général?)

    Longin : « Se constituer en réseautage pour une action collective de résistance à la corruption et la discrimination (un début existe avec le sous-groupe genre et corruption, les organisations féminines comme UCOFEM qui travaille beaucoup plus sur le genre, …). Mais c’est vraiment un aspect stratégique qui mérite d’être approfondi. »

    Patricia : «l’autre stratégie, c’est que  les femmes doivent aussi se chercher des alliés. Ces alliés vont quand-même soutenir leur cause. Et ces alliés doivent être des hommes œuvrant dans la secteur justice pénale si la lutte concerne la corruption dans le secteur judiciaire par exemple– il faut que ce soit des acteurs judicaires qui évitent la corruption au quotidien. Cette stratégie est ça une manière de combattre la corruption. »

    Longin : « Il est important aussi d’avoir ces alliés dans la jeunesse parce que c’est cette jeunesse-là qui sera  acquise à la lutte contre la discrimination et la corruption. Et dans les années qui viennent, il y aurait déjà des personnes adultes acquises à cette lutte. C’est avec les mouvements de revendication des droits de la femme et de l’égalité des genres que ces questions ont commencé à être soulevées. Les femmes ont pris les devants, il reste qu’elles cherchent des alliés hommes pour que le rôle de l’homme soit aussi examiné.

    Patricia & Longin : [Pour nous] les femmes comme les hommes s’adonnent à la corruption mais à des degrés différents. Ce qui fait qu’elles peuvent être pionnières dans la lutte contre la discrimination basée sur le genre et contre la corruption; il reste qu’elles adoptent la stratégie de conjuguer les efforts avec les alliés  hommes et jeunes dans la lutte.

    Je tiens à remercier Patricia et Longin d’avoir pris le temps de partager leurs expériences. Avez-vous vu des phénomènes semblables dans votre région? Y a-t-il d’autres questions que vous auriez aimé demander? Veuillez envoyez-nous vos histoires et suggestions!

    Restez à l’écoute – la semaine prochaine …

    Veuillez l’envoyer un email d’intérêt à Kiely Barnard-Webster si vous voudriez écrire pour le blog (

    About this article

    * Cette discussion ne représente pas CDA ou des opinions officielles de RCN Justice & Démocratie. Les opinions exprimées sont uniquement celles des personnes interrogées. *

    Patricia travaille pour RCN Justice & Démocratie. Elle est la Chargé du Projet à Lubumbashi, et soutient actuellement les efforts d’un réseau d’acteurs locaux de lutte contre la corruption du secteur de la justice pénale. Elle observe systématiquement les défis auxquels ils sont confrontés dans leurs interactions quotidiennes avec la corruption, et aide le groupe à élaborer des stratégies pour faire face à ces défis.

    Longin travaille également pour RCN Justice & Démocratie. Il est Chef du Bureau à Lubumbashi, et travaille en étroite collaboration avec le Réseau des acteurs locaux anti-corruption de coordonner leurs efforts et de soutenir de manière similaire le groupe dans leur lutte contre la corruption.

    Photo: Lubumbashi: 1920s Palace of Justice. By Piet Clement – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

    About the author

    Kiely Barnard-Webster is Program Manager at CDA Collaborative Learning Projects, working on innovative approaches to tackling corruption in the DRC and peacebuilding and conflict sensitivity in Myanmar. Kiely focused her studies on gender and development at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.
  • Are Women Less Corrupt?

    By Kiely Barnard-Webster

    This latest posting encourages us to ask more pointed questions about how corruption is experienced and propagated by different genders, and about the importance of those differences. In this latest post from the series on corruption in fragile states, Barnard-Webster asks us to reconsider assumptions underlying efforts to utilize gender differences to stem corruption. Click here to read the post in French.

    Are women less corrupt than men; until recently, researchers have often associated the idea of “corruption and gender” with the pursuit of answering this question. Working on innovative anti-corruption approaches in Lubumbashi, DRC, we have repeatedly grappled with this question. Why? How might knowing more about this intersection help our network of local anti-corruption actors fight corruption in the criminal justice sector? What do those working on corruption in fragile contexts need to know? Before diving in, I wanted to learn more about how others in the field have unpacked these issues.

    Are women less corrupt than men?

    Many attribute assumptions that ‘women are less corrupt’ to a 1999 World Bank multiple-country report claiming that governments with more female-representation were often less likely to be corrupt due to the fact that women are “more trust-worthy and public-spirited than men.” At this point, most feminists have probably changed the blog channel – but don’t just yet! The state of research in this regard is still inconclusive. Including women in politics as an attempt to reduce corruption has not been a definitively successful approach (you may see how it’s been attempted, through efforts to “feminize” local administrative posts in Uganda). What research in this area has clarified is that gender groups experience corruption’s effects differently and may have diverse approaches for stemming corruption.

    Differential experiences

    Now, practitioners, donors and researchers have started to ask different [read: better] questions. For example, what are the ways that corruption affects certain groups of women differently than men? Luckily for all, more definitive conclusions have been reached using this line of inquiry.

    Access to resources

    There is now considerable evidence to show that the way women interact with public service delivery often leads them to experience corruption’s effects more harshly than men. Women are already an often-marginalized gender group within and across societies. Some might think of women as a gender group that thus bears the additional brunt of corruption’s “indirect effects” – the ripple effects when corruption drains resources – while also directly experiencing corruption in their daily lives.

    For example, a 2015 Sida Gender and Corruption brief asserted that corruption in public service delivery will often affect women more than men. Women – impoverished women in particular – in need of these services are generally already more vulnerable than men thus, when corruption reduces these resources, are often more indirectly affected in a variety of ways. Women, overall, are also often responsible for the care of children and elderly, and thus “may be subjected to corruption, for example in the form of bribery, by health service providers at different stages of their [and other’s] health care needs.” Here, the gendered roles women often play are likely to bring them (and not men) into contact with corrupt health service officials more frequently. A U4 2009 assessment of the state of research regarding gender and corruptionsupported this thinking, asserting that “bribes requested for the delivery of basic services such as health, education and water and sanitation affect women in a significant way” as many women will often have “fewer alternatives to acquire these services” than men.

    In addition to public service delivery, corruption often abounds within informal markets where women are frequently the main contributors, vendors and consumers worldwide, placing these groups under constant pressure to yield to corruption when accessing key resources. [Does this reflect what you have seen in fragile and conflicted-affected contexts?]

    It is all the more difficult to understand how women experience corruption differently from men when you add into the mix that, for women, ‘sextortion’ (or the “carpet interview” in Uganda) is more frequently a part of the experience when accessing services and resources. It is thus “less likely to be reported than other forms of corruption.”

    Women’s experiences: participation in governance

    In addition, there’s been a recent push among researchers to decipher how corruption has affected women’s political participation (compared to men’s). A widely-cited 2010 U.N. primer on Corruption, Accountability and Gender asserts evidence exists that “corruption blocks women’s access to politics in both parliaments and senior public administration or acts as a deterrent to women contemplating entering these domains.” The main point here: selecting leaders is not always a merit-based process in corrupt contexts; instead – who you know, who you trust, and who can help finance a campaign might act as key criterion for political participation. (I know you might be thinking – ‘is this really all that different from a ‘noncorrupt’ system?’ Perhaps not, in which case might we need to further challenge our understanding about how corruption dynamics affect women’s political participation in different political contexts?). Thus, the literature explains that women as those often without “access to the important (and often corrupt) networks that mediate entry into politics” are excluded. However, to counter this point, cases do exist in which women drive corrupt behavior within government if such opportunities exists (see here for a case in India involving high-ranking women officials skimming money from a maternal health services program).

    So, what? Diverse approaches for stemming corruption?

    The intersection of gender and corruption is complex. Though it’s nearly impossible to predict if gender fuels engagement with corruption, it’s clear that gender groups experience and even understand corruption differently. Women are seen to have less tolerance for corruption than men (here, and here) and, in U4’s 2009 assessment, are “more likely than men to perceive high levels of corruption and feel that their lives are affected by it”. Women believe there is more corruption in public service delivery, within political, judicial and security sector institutions, as well as market institutions (here). And some women are even well placed to take a stand: it’s been suggested that women leaders focused on education and health reform might be adept at “reducing corruption via policies” within these sectors.

    Yet we are left wondering – are women leaders responsible for tackling corruption on their own, when possible? What role do men play across contexts? What more needs to be understood about societal gender roles, inequality and discrimination as these issues relate to corruption dynamics? How can evidence in this field help anti-corruption groups plan strategically to fight corruption? More good data is still needed to understand this nexus (as only 1/5 of the common tools to measure corruption are disaggregated by gender, and while some good regional quant data exists to shine light on important corruption & gender dynamics, more is needed to link micro-level findings to the macro-level).

    How are men or other gender groups vulnerable to corruption?

    During this review, women were often the focus of “gender and corruption” studies, rather than men, women or other vulnerable gender groups (e.g., LGBTQ). While it’s understood by many that women suffer more, and differently, than men when it comes to corruption, the general focus on women’s experiences implies much research is also still needed to understand the unique ways men experience corruption based on their societal gender roles. For example, men might be more vulnerable to corruption under certain circumstances simply because they engage more frequently with highly corrupt traffic police. Yet, is this because, as men, they carry a set of cultural signals pre-disposing them to be extorted – or simply because, as individuals, they are for some other reason more frequently in contact with a corrupt police force? In other words, how do the gender roles defined by social norms influence whether and how men, women and others encounter corruption differently?

    A very big thank you to our team at RCN Justice & Démocratie for their support, and help with the translation of this blog post to French!


    About the author

    Kiely Barnard-Webster is Program Manager at CDA Collaborative Learning Projects, working on innovative approaches to tackling corruption in the DRC and peacebuilding and conflict sensitivity in Myanmar. Kiely focused her studies on gender and development at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.
  • Les femmes sont-elles moins corrompues ?

    By Kiely Barnard-Webster

    – click here to read the post in English  –

    Les femmes sont-elles moins corrompues que les hommes ; jusqu’a maintenant, plusieurs chercheurs et académiciens avaient fréquemment associé la phrase « genre et corruption » avec la recherche de la réponse à cette question. Travaillant sur les approches innovantes en matière de lutte contre la corruption à Lubumbashi en RDC, l’équipe de projet CAASDI de CDA a, à plusieurs reprises, étudié cette question. Pourquoi ? Comment pourrait-il aider les acteurs locaux anti-corruption de CAASDI luttant contre la corruption d’en savoir plus sur cette question? Ou même ceux qui travaillent sur la corruption dans les états fragiles, comment pourrait-elle en être utile ? Avant d’approfondir ces questions, je voulais en savoir plus sur la façon dont d’autres dans le domaine les ont analysées.

    Les femmes sont-elles moins corrompues que les hommes?

    Beaucoup attribuent la supposition que « les femmes sont moins corrompues » à un rapport de 1999 produit par la Banque mondiale. Ce rapport a affirmé que les gouvernements qui emploient plus de femmes étaient souvent moins susceptibles d’être corrompus en raison du fait que les femmes sont «plus dignes de confiance et de civisme que les hommes. » A ce point, la majorité des féministes ont déjà cessé de lire – mais arrêtez-vous ! Actuellement, l’état de la recherche dans ce domaine est toujours peu concluant. L’inclusion des femmes dans la politique comme un effort de réduire la corruption n’a pas été une approche définitivement réussie (voir le résultat des efforts visant à « féminiser» les postes administratifs locaux en Ouganda. Cependant, il reste à voir comment elle a été tentée). Ce qui est plus claire de la recherche dans ce domaine est que les groupes de genre vivent des effets de la corruption différemment et peuvent avoir diverses approches pour combattre ou résister à la corruption.

    Expériences différentes

    Maintenant, les praticiens, les bailleurs de fonds et les chercheurs ont commencé à poser des questions différentes. Par exemple, quelles sont les façons par lesquelles la corruption affecte différemment les genres ? Heureusement pour tout, des conclusions plus définitives existent de répondent à cette ligne d’enquête.

    Accès aux ressources

    Il existe une preuve suffisante qui affirme que la façon dont les femmes interagissent avec la distribution des services publics les amène souvent à ressentir les effets de la corruption plus durement que les hommes. En effet, les femmes sont déjà un groupe de genre marginalisé au sein et entre les sociétés. Certains pourraient même imaginer les femmes comme un groupe de genre qui porte le poids des «effets indirects » de la corruption, c’est-à-dire, qui souffre des effets indirects de la corruption dans leurs vies quotidiennes, et en souffre à nouveau quand la corruption dissipe des ressources essentielles pour la survie.

    Par exemple, une publication de « Sida » (daté de 2015) sur le genre et la corruption affirme que la corruption dans la prestation des services publics affectera davantage les femmes en général et les femmes pauvres en particulier que les hommes. Les femmes sont généralement déjà plus vulnérables que les hommes et font face à une bataille difficile dans les tentatives d’accès aux services de base. Donc, lorsque la corruption réduit ces ressources, les femmes sont souvent plus touchées d’une manière indirecte. Les femmes sont aussi souvent responsables de la prise en charge des enfants et des personnes âgées, et donc « peuvent être soumises à la corruption par les fournisseurs de services de santé à différents stades de leurs [et d’autres] besoins en matière de soins de santé. » En effet, il est plus probable que les femmes seront exposées plus fréquemment que les hommes aux fonctionnaires corrompues dans le secteur de santé public. Une évaluation par U4 (daté de 2009) de l’état de la recherche concernant le genre et la corruption a soutenu cette pensée, affirmant que « des pots de vin demandés pour la prestation des services de base tels que la santé, l’éducation, l’eau et l’assainissement affectent les femmes de manière plus significative », car beaucoup de femmes ont souvent  «moins d’alternatives que les hommes pour acquérir ces services ».

    Outre la prestation des services publics, la corruption abonde aussi souvent dans les marchés informels où les femmes sont souvent les contributrices principales, les fournisseuses et les consommatrices, en plaçant ces groupes sous la pression constante à céder à la corruption pour avoir accès aux ressources clés. [Est- ce que cela réfléchit ce que vous avez vu dans des états fragiles?]

    Il est d’autant plus difficile de comprendre dans quelle mesure les femmes subissent la corruption lorsque on considère que pour les femmes ‘sextortion’ [ou le ‘carpet interview’ en Ouganda] est plus fréquemment un élément de l’expérience pour accéder aux services et aux ressources. Il est donc «moins susceptibles d’être signalés 

    Expériences des femmes: participation à la gouvernance

    En outre, il y a eu une avancée récente entre les chercheurs pour comprendre comment la corruption  affecte la participation politique des femmes (par rapport aux hommes). Un reportage des Nations Unies sur la corruption, la responsabilité et le genre (daté 2010) démontre que « la corruption bloque l’accès des femmes à la politique et à l’administration publique de haut rang, ou agit comme un effet dissuasif sur les femmes qui envisagent d’entrer dans ces domaines.» Le point essentiel ici: dans les contextes de corruption, la sélection de « leaders » n’est pas toujours un processus fondé sur le mérite; mais plutôt sur la capacité à se faire des relations, à forger la confiance, et à aider à financer une campagne pour la participation politique. [Maintenant vous êtes en train de se poser la question – une système non-corrompu… est-il vraiment diffèrent ? Peut-être non. Dans ce cas, il est nécessaire pour nous d’approfondir notre compréhension des effets de corruption sur la participation politique des femmes aux différents contextes politiques)  Ainsi, la recherche explique que les femmes qui travaillent sans «l’accès aux réseaux importants (qui sont souvent corrompus) essentiels pour entrer en politique» sont souvent exclues de ce domaine. Cependant, des cas existent où les femmes contribuent à la corruption au sein du gouvernement  (il y avait un cas en Inde impliquant des femmes hauts fonctionnaires qui ont détourné l’argent d’un programme de santé maternelle).

    Et alors? Diverses approches pour éradiquer la corruption ?

    Le lien entre le genre et la corruption est complexe. Il est complexe à tel point qu’il est presque impossible de prédire si le genre augmente l’engagement à la corruption. Mais, il est clair que les groupes de genre connaissent et comprennent la corruption différemment. Les femmes tolèrent moins la corruption que les hommes (ici, et ici), et sont « plus susceptibles que les hommes de percevoir des niveaux élevés de corruption et d’estimer que leurs vies sont affectées par elle.» Les femmes croient qu’il y a plus de corruption dans la prestation des services publics, au sein des institutions politiques, judiciaires et secteurs de la sécurité, ainsi que les institutions non officiels, dont les marchés (ici). Et certaines femmes sont même bien placées pour la combattre: il est suggéré que les femmes leaders travaillant sur l’éducation et la réforme de la santé pourraient être aptes à « réduire la corruption par le biais des politiques » au sein de ces secteurs.

    Alors, il nous reste encore à nous demander – les femmes leaders sont-elles responsables de mener la lutte contre la corruption? Quel rôle jouent les hommes dans ce contexte ? Qu’est ce qu’il reste à comprendre sur les rôles de genre dans la société, la discrimination, et l’inégalité par rapport à la dynamique de la corruption ? Quel type d’évidence est nécessaire pour soutenir la création des plans stratégiques pour aider les luttes contre la corruption ? Plus de bonnes données sont encore nécessaires pour comprendre ce lien (par exemple, seulement 1/5 des outils communs pour mesurer la corruption sont désagrégés par sexe, alors que, quelques bonnes données régionales existent pour éclaircir les grandes dynamiques de corruption et de genre). Il nous reste alors encore beaucoup à faire pour mieux comprendre le lien entre le micro-niveau et le macro-niveau).

    D’autres groupes: Comment sont-ils vulnérables à la corruption ?

    Au cours de cette recherche, les femmes ont souvent été l’objet des études «genre et corruption», plutôt que les hommes ou d’autres groupes vulnérables (par exemple, LGBTQ). Bien qu’il soit compris par plusieurs que les femmes souffrent différemment à cause de la corruption, l’attention singulière aux expériences des femmes implique que beaucoup de recherche sont encore nécessaires pour comprendre comment les hommes éprouvent la corruption basée sur leurs rôles sociaux de genre. Par exemple, les hommes pourraient être plus vulnérables à la corruption dans certaines circonstances pour la simple raison qu’ils engagent plus souvent avec la police corrompue de la circulation. Est-ce parce que, chez les hommes, il y a quelque chose qui informe la police corrompue « oui, je suis plus vulnérable à la corruption » ou tout simplement parce que, en tant qu’individus, les hommes sont plus fréquemment en contact avec une force de police corrompue? Autrement dit, comment est-il que les rôles sociaux de genre influencent les façons duquel les hommes, les femmes et d’autres rencontrent la corruption ?

    Très grande merci à notre équipe RCN J&D pour le soutien, et l’aide à la traduction !


    About this article

    Elle possède également une expérience dans le domaine du genre et développement. Veuillez l’envoyer un email d’intérêt si vous voudriez contribuer au blog (


    About the author

    Kiely Barnard – Webster est gestionnaire de programme au CDA Collaborative Learning Projects. Elle travaille sur des approches novatrices pour lutter contre la corruption en RDC. Kiely a étudié le genre et le développent au Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.
  • Breaking Out of the Methodological Cage

    By Michael Johnston

    Esteemed corruption author and academic Michael Johnston encourages us to look up from our data from time to time, to challenge the evidence we often rely on to define and analyze corruption. In this latest post from our series on corruption in fragile states, Profes