Corruption risks affecting military operations – from peace and stabilisation operations to security assistance – will vary from mission to mission and country to country. However, our survey of previous interventions indicates that the key pathways through which corruption affects international operations and, conversely, through which international missions can contribute to or mitigate corruption, do show similarities. We have selected and analysed five of them.
The pathways selected and discussed here are not guidance for a comprehensive corruption-related assessment of the mission area of operations. Rather, they are a focused look at the ways in which corruption can affect international operations, and the way in which missions can exacerbate or mitigate corruption risks. They are meant to guide mission analysis of its own potential impact rather than guide the design of an anti-corruption programme of reform, which needs to be a comprehensive, joint effort based on an assessment of host nation government institutions, prevalence and type of corrupt practices, and possible entry points for reform. Our goal is narrower: we aim to show the main pathways through which mission activities connect with the environment, and analyse mitigation measures which can help manage mission-related corruption risks.
These pathways run through three levels of military interventions: from strategic-political to operational and tactical, and their manifestations often affect all levels. For example, diverting money from mission sustainment contracts can affect the tactical level as contractors deliver poor-quality items or demand or offer bribes; however, depending on the scale of the contract, this can also be an operational or a strategic concern. Similarly, relations with local stakeholders can enable corruption at a tactical level if the mission turns a blind eye to checkpoint extortion; it can be strategic when mission leadership strengthens criminal patronage networks that capture the government. Each pathway comes with indicators and warnings that could suggest a particular type of corruption is occurring. However, while monitoring these indicators is the first step to identifying and ultimately countering corruption, observing them does not necessarily mean that there is corruption. In some cases, they could point instead to a lack of resources and low competencies, and the attendant remedies would be different.