Despite broad international attention to corruption and its consequences, the crime continues to be a problem throughout the globe. There is in fact very limited evidence that it is on the retreat. The following three explanations emerge as vital for understanding the lack of progress in curbing the crime: 

First is the oversimplification in policy design that fails to target the incentives behind involvement in corruption and fails to connect anti-corruption strategies to country-specific contexts, particularly the quality of institutions and power-structures. 

A second explanation is the excessively narrow focus on legal definitions, procedure control and the transfer of bribes, resulting in a reduced ability to tackle “legal forms” of corruption, including grey-zone influence for the purposes of establishing better framework conditions. The impacts of grey-zone influence are potentially similar to those found in more blatant forms of corruption. 

A third explanation for the lack of progress is connected to the unreliable signals of welfare orientation in politics. Multiple goals in governance make it possible to defend almost any political decision by referring to some – possibly very narrow – welfare perspective. Combined with the difficulty of distinguishing corruption from other private agendas that politicians might have, it becomes difficult to target corruption at the political level. 

The anti-corruption agenda can be strengthened through a better understanding of these difficulties and better collaboration between different disciplines involved in policy-design.

Senior researcher at CMI and former Governance and Anti-Corruption (GAC) advisor at the World Bank, Tina Søreide will present.

Discussant: Liz Hart, Director, U4 Anti-corruption Resource Centre