Case Studies

Corruption and UN peace operations


While UN peace operations have made a significant contribution to international peace and security, their legitimacy and effectiveness has often been undermined by corruption – both among mission personnel and in the host country. The UN’s attempts to address corruption have included increasing monitoring and oversight and introducing better resource management systems. However, these mechanisms are inconsistent in their quality and rigour. Moreover, TI research indicates that both the organisation and the troop contributing nations need to work on the recruitment, preparation and oversight of mission personnel if corruption risks are to be mitigated.


UN peacekeeping missions have been a fixture of the international environment since the 1950s, and have made a significant contribution to the preservation of peace and security.[iv] But they have also faced serious challenges which interfered with their efficacy and legitimacy. Among those, corruption and sexual exploitation and abuse are among the most troubling, undermining both the perception of UN missions and their ability to operate in fragile and conflict-affected environments.

Risk Pathways

Anti-Corruption Measures

While in most cases countering corruption was not directly included in the UN mandates, efforts to prevent abuses among UN personnel and to build host nation institutions did target corrupt practices, aiming to better prevent and detect them. These include beefed-up investigative and audit bodies, attempts to put in place more effective materiel management systems, and capacity building for host nation institutions, with perhaps the most visible attempt at curbing corruption being the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), which has since its establishment uncovered significant instances of wrongdoing.

For a full assessment of the UN’s preparedness to address corruption at the HQ level, see TI-DS analysis here.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Following high-profile deployments – and high-profile scandals – in the 1990s, the UN did put in place anti-corruption safeguards such as the Office of Internal Oversight (OIOS), charged with preventing and detecting corruption and fraud. It has also adopted rules and regulations governing both staff and financial resources, as well as related guidance to prevent and control misconduct and corruption. Finally, in a key development, the UN has recognised that corruption can contribute to conflict and needs to be considered in the analysis and planning leading up to a deployment.


All online sources were accessed between November 2016-November 2018.

[i]UN Security Council resolution 1168/1998, Adopted by the Security Council at its 3883rd meeting, on 21 May 1998. S/RES/1168 (1998).