Countries curbing corruption

Mark Pyman, Jasmine Elliott Publication | March 2018
Countries curbing corruption

This new report reviews the anti-corruption commitments of countries perceived to have low levels of corruption in the world. The analysis, by Mark Pyman of the Institute for Statecraft and Sam Eastwood, Jason Hungerford and Jasmine Elliott of the law firm Norton Rose Fulbright, examines the anti-corruption strategies of the 26 countries that were ranked highest in Transparency International’s 2016 Corruption Perceptions Index.1 It augments an earlier analysis by the same authors of the national strategies of 41 countries ranked in the middle of the Index.2

What we found was, at first sight, unexpected. Only three of the 26 countries have published national anti-corruption strategies; Estonia in 2013, Finland in March 2017 and the UK in December 2017. Though a few other countries have informal or unpublished strategies, this is still unsatisfactory.

Both countries and the international community will benefit significantly if each government develops its own national anti-corruption strategy: one that takes into account and integrates trans-national, national, sectoral and local government priorities. Formalising the strategy means that each part of government agrees on the objectives, the rationale and the priorities. Published strategies play a role too in signalling the government’s intent and ambition in fighting corruption; and they make it easier for civil society and other stakeholders to hold governments to account.

The purpose of our report is to gain insights that can guide governments into having more impact against corruption. We hope, through more research in this area, to foster stronger connections between governments, business and civil society, developing innovative ways to fight corruption collectively. There is much potential synergy that we hope to highlight, particularly between government and business and through an international and sectoral perspective, that could encourage an emergence of the next generation of national anticorruption strategies for all countries to implement.

Anti-corruption approaches can be significantly improved

Based on our analysis of various anti-corruption commitments made by the top-ranked countries, we recommend several areas for improvement in a country’s anti-corruption approach:

  • Clarity about the objectives: wider than reducing corruption.
    ‘Reducing corruption’ is not usually an objective, more a means towards some other desired impact. National strategies should be explicit about what their desired beneficial outcomes are: examples include better access to services, better value for money or more trust in institutions. The UK anti-corruption strategy is a good example of taking this approach.
  • Greater focus on integration with multi-national initiatives.
    The increasing importance of multi-national collaboration to tackle corruption and economic crime is recognised by the engagement of most of the 26 countries. This aspect is particularly important for developed countries who can play a much more strategic and effective role in combatting corruption internationally.
  • Establishing national anti-corruption initiatives in high-risk sectors.
    Developed countries will have sectors that are high-risk, but little attention to date has been paid towards specific sector reforms.
  • Developing multi-national initiatives in sectors.
    Initiatives from diverse organisations – international agencies, nationally sponsored entities, industry collaboration, NGOs - have started to provide international expertise in particular sectors. However, there is great scope to reduce sector corruption both in the countries and internationally via such initiatives.
  • Establishing or strengthening anti-corruption initiatives in local government.
    Both sector reforms and local government reforms are at least as important as the more conventional national-level elements of anti-corruption, and, for developed countries, are arguably more important.
  • Recognising and integrating private sector efforts.
    Countries could require much more from companies, especially on a sector-by-sector basis, and would benefit from promoting collective action and integrating corporate efforts more clearly into the national strategy.
  • Developing other validation mechanisms.
    We highlight an additional consequence of a more international approach, in that it offers new ways to give feedback to countries and to make cross-country comparisons.

A new framework

We propose a new framework for national anti-corruption strategy development. The concept is simple: that the total effort on anti-corruption by the country comprises three broad categories of actions: sub-national actions, national-level actions and trans-national actions. Using this framework for this new generation could help address the weaknesses mentioned above and more easily enable coordination and collaboration across countries in tackling the problems.


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