5. Investing carefully and applying conditionality

Summary of recommendations

Make assistance, especially when material, conditional on improvements in governance and oversight.

Introduction to key mitigation

In fragile and conflict environments, there is often a temptation to push for quick wins, with a focus on short-term projects that can show tangible results fast. These ‘wins’ are often spurious, however, as they have little to do with long-term improvements in governance or economic development. Rather, if they come with a quick injection of significant resources, these projects may benefit corrupt networks and may undermine longer term stabilisation efforts, including sustainable governance reform.

Costs and benefits

Conditioning delivery of assistance on improvements in governance or respect for particular standards of behaviour usually requires political and financial investment. Politically, mission staff need to be prepared to acknowledge lack of progress and to accept spending below agreed levels if conditions are not kept. Financially, missions might need to invest in additional expertise needed to monitor compliance, for example staff who can vet individuals for records of abuse or check for required improvements in standards. But conditionality also has benefits: apart from exerting pressure to improve standards of behaviour, it allows mission personnel to identify problems in a timely manner and adjust programming accordingly. It also protects resources from waste and misappropriation.


Case Study: Afghanistan: Corruption and the making of warlords

Commitment letters: Afghanistan

Prior to 2014, there were no conditions on the funds disbursed to the Afghan Ministries of Interior and Defence through the US Combined Security and Transition Command-Afghanistan (CTTC-A). After 2014, CSTC-A used ‘commitment letters’ – documents setting out the conditions that Afghan institutions had to meet to receive tranches of funds or resources – to foster compliance and long-term planning. There is some evidence that conditionality did improve the performance of Afghan institutions: in 2016, DOD reporting indicated satisfactory progress in two-thirds of conditions.

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Case Study: Corruption and Plan Colombia: The Missing Link

Conditionality and vetting: Plan Colombia

US Congressional appropriations bills providing the resources for Plan Colombia conditioned the release of equipment and offers of training on Colombia’s armed forces respect for human rights: prior to units receiving assistance, their members needed to be vetted for any history of abuse. In 2006, $30 million in aid was frozen in response to the killing of counter-narcotics police officers by soldiers, allegedly in the service of a drug cartel. Conditionality was also used to force particular individuals with questionable records out of the armed forces.

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Key Personnel

  • J2
  • J4
  • J5
  • J8
  • Audit units