Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Peacekeeping forces are deployed to challenging environments where patronage networks and corruption often reign unchecked. Plagued by decades of conflict and weak governance, post-conflict environments such as Haiti, Guinea-Bissau and Kosovo are often fertile breeding ground for organised crime.
Yet, there is very little anti-corruption guidance on offer to peacekeepers. There is no U.N. peacekeeping policy specifically focused on corruption.
Peacekeeping mandates very rarely mention corruption, and peacekeeping training centres currently do not include specific guidance on how to address corruption. This has alarming implications for the success of missions and for the rights and security of civilians that peacekeeping forces are deployed to protect.
There is a sense among peacekeeping and foreign policy professionals that because corruption is difficult, it is better to adapt and to cope with it, rather than to recognise it more formally and address it. There are many cases in which turning a blind eye to corrupt practices has threatened the success of a mission.
While peacekeeping missions are expected to behave with integrity themselves, there have been a number of cases where they directly contributed to increased corruption levels, either by the misdeeds of a few individuals or a failure to understand the consequences of turning a blind eye.
A report that Transparency International UK’s Defence and Security Programme is releasing next week, “Corruption and peacekeeping: Strengthening peacekeeping and the UN”, will identify 28 specific corruption risks that can plague a peacekeeping mission and make concrete recommendations to reduce corruption in peacekeeping.
While tackling corruption early on may increase the complexity of the early stages of a mission, it will pay dividends in terms of subsequent institution building and stability. Above all, reducing corruption in peacekeeping missions will mitigate the risks it poses to civilians.
With the increasing number and complexity of peacekeeping missions, their annual cost has risen considerably in recent years: the current budget has more than doubled since 2004 when it was only $2.8 billion.
Analysts believe that peacekeeping operations will continue to increase in the future. Indeed, some will go so far as to say that peacekeeping will be “the flagship-endeavour” of the U.N., representing the organisation as a whole.
Peacekeeping is about protecting citizens and bringing stability. But when corruption gets in the way, it does nothing but the opposite, perpetuating conflict and increasing corruption.
It is only by understanding and preventing corruption early on that the “peace” in peacekeeping can become real.
Hiruy Gossaye is a project officer at Transparency International UK. The report will be released on Wednesday, Oct. 9 in New York.