2.6 Communicating anti-corruption: the role of StratCom
A consistent communications strategy can help promote integrity-based behaviours (both among mission personnel and among host nation actors), publicly and privately condemn corrupt practices, and set expectations as to the standards that are expected. A long silence on the issue by key decision-makers can undermine the mission’s legitimacy, as it did in Afghanistan.
StratCom, however, is unlikely to do much good if it does not reflect and communicate an agreed, widely accepted approach to anti-corruption. Consistency requires that communications out of the public eye – for example in meetings with key host nation leaders – is not wildly at odds with public messaging, and differing approaches are likely to put the credibility of public messaging at risk. Both need to reflect an agreed take on what can be tolerated and what cannot, and promote the agreed level of ambition in reform and push for similar solutions. A StratCom approach that seems too ambitious in comparison to actual mission actions is more likely to undermine than build support, while consistency can help build trust between mission leadership and host nation stakeholders. Trust and familiarity can in turn help open up avenues for reform and behavioural changes.
Importantly, public affairs officers need to be prepared to respond to events on the ground, especially if mission personnel themselves are accused of dubious conduct. Maintaining credibility will likely require an ability to acknowledge issues when they arise and communicate what remedial measures are being taken.