Poverty, public disenfranchisement, conflict and violent extremism flourish where governments line their pockets at the expense of providing basic services. Corruption undermines democracy and strengthens extremist and organised crime groups; it also hollows out defence and security forces, rendering them more likely to exacerbate a conflict than to respond to it. And when defence and security forces fail in crisis, they fail big: it can take decades to rebuild a country whose police and military failed to stop extremist groups or alienated their own populations.

Most fragile and conflict states lack effective civil oversight of defence, and civil society and media freedom is often restricted. Furthermore, international interventions, while usually planned with the best intentions, often risk furthering corruption and supporting corrupt elites.

Our Conflict and Insecurity programme aims to address the links between corruption and conflict and help build the integrity of national and international bodies responsible for providing security and stability.

The goals of the Conflict and Insecurity Programme are to:

  1. Ensure that corruption is recognised as a threat to security and peace;
  2. Reduce corruption and increase accountability in defence establishments in a fragile and conflict affected states
  3. Advocate for international interventions that encourage accountability and don’t contribute to or sustain corruption.


Getting corruption on the agenda of security policy makers

The awareness that corruption poses a threat to stability and peace has increased, but it is still not widely reflected in security policy or in doctrine guiding military operations in crises. Based on our research into links between corruption and conflict, we advocate for corruption to become a key consideration in security and defence policy, from defence plans to counter-hybrid warfare measures and international assistance.  We have worked with national governments and international institutions – including NATO – to help design and implement anti-corruption policies and planning procedures that would equip them better to recognise and mitigate the threat.


Country programmes

We work with governments, oversight institutions, civil society and defence establishments in fragile and conflict-affected states to develop context-sensitive programmes that address corruption in the defence sector, increase transparency, accountability and effectiveness, and empower civil society. We work with defence establishments to support the creation of reform plans and assist with their implementation, and to provide training and capacity building. We partner with those that can put pressure on defence establishments to change—civil society, parliamentarians, oversight bodies, donor states—to build their expertise and strengthen their capacity to push for anti-corruption reforms, and to jointly advocate for reforms.


Improving international interventions

Interventions often have good intentions, but can—and do—increase corruption and entrench kleptocratic leaders. We work to reduce corruption on international interventions and operations by ensuring that armed forces, civilian practitioners, and policymakers have the incentives, awareness, tools and training that they need to counter corruption. In addition to our comprehensive Interventions Anti-Corruption Guidance – a toolkit for military and civilian planners – we work with armed forces in the UK and within NATO on military exercises, support military headquarters’ planning and education, and help shape national defence-related curricula that will equip policy makers to recognise corruption and mitigate its impact.




The Fifth Column: Understanding the Relationship Between Corruption and Conflict (September 2017)