• 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. For a summary of this approach and lessons learned in two years of implementation see here.

    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 Institute for Human Security, 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 [link to innovative paper as we define adaptive there] 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

    Illegal-fishing-scenario-tests-maritime-operations-1000x405In 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.