Unpacking the Concept of Corruption and it effects on SSR Programmes

19/11/2013 @ 08:16
by David Udofia

Please help me to unpack the concept of corruption.  It  could make or mar SSR programmes in post-conflict as well as relatively stable states. However, corruption most often is viewed from the bribery perspective. What constitute corruption? What are the plausible hidden corrupt acts in security reforms whether in the police or defenced forces?

Thank you in Advance


19/11/2013 @ 18:06
by James Cohen

Hi David,

Great question! Here is a blog I wrote on the topic: http://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/james-cohen/anti-corruption-measures-in-security-sector-reform-necessary-and-achievable

As you're asking what to do, you're already taking a step in the right direction. Often corruption is regarded as far too sensitive an issue due to the it's political nature, but it can be the crucial issue holding an SSR process back.

Looking at the specifics of defence and police, you can look at corruption in terms of 'what are the risks' throughout the various functions and components of each institution. Breaking this down further you can examine the 'Political', 'Financial', 'Operational', 'Personnel' and 'Procurement' sections of each institution. Each one of these will have their own risks that you can map out to the context you're in. Transparency International's Defence and Security Programme as a 1 page typology of these 5 sections for both the military and police.

Happy to discuss further!

James Cohen


21/11/2013 @ 08:24
by David Udofia

Hi James,

You are right. Certainly corruption is a very sensitive issue. Most often international partners working on SSR overtly or covertly downplay on the issue while evaluating SSR programmes.  

Thank you for the link to your  publication on the subject matter.

David Udofia

21/11/2013 @ 16:40
by Smruthi Rammohan

Hi David,

You have hit the nail on the head with the question. Unpacking an ambiguous and loosely used term as corruption is absolutely critical and relevant  working with public institutions, particularly in the security sector . An interesting way of disaggregating the concept could be through the levels of what we may define as corruption - Is it at the level of individuals, institutions or has it permeated across the system to morph into a culture?

Since Transparency International's work has already been mentioned, one of their publications, albeit dated, addresses corruption in defence establishments. Here is the link http://www.ethicsworld.org/publicsectorgovernance/PDF%20links/national_defence_and_corruption.pdf

Hope this helps!


21/11/2013 @ 16:51
by Morgan Easter

Hello David, 

There have been a few interesting ISSAT blogs on the subject of corruption. Here is a link to Mark Bradley's blog called "Eradicating Corruption- Some Basics" and Dennis Blease's blog, "Tackling Corruption at the Systemic Level".

Thank you for this engaging discussion!


01/12/2013 @ 18:20
by Dennis Blease

Hello David,


As mentioned by Morgan, there are plenty of papers and blogs about corruption and countering-corruption on the ISSAT website.  As you specifically referred to the security sector, may I draw your attention to an event last month sponsored by SIPRI, where they hosted a lecture by Mark Pyman, Director of Transparency International's Defence and Security Programme.  The lecture was  entitled 

Transparency in the military sector: the role of parliaments and would be definitely worth listening to.


I would add, however, a couple of words of caution on the discussion.  First, as SSR practitioners we really need to  be holistic in our worldview of corruption and not just focus on the security sector otherwise we might be missing systemic corruption across the board.  Second, I would totally agree with you that corruption is not just about bribery.  Corrupt politics in a country can easily create a climate of impunity that goes well beyond the opportunity costs of lost government revenue in security and defence budgets.  This a point that James Cohen alludes to in his OpenSecurity blog.  I believe therefore that ISSAT might even wish to look again at the definition of corruption that they have on their SSR Glossary.  And finally, we always need to take into account the context, and particularly local culture, in our SSR interventions.  As a former NATO Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan said: "My obligation is your patronage is his corruption."


Happy to talk further.


Dennis Blease