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Strengthening the ethics framework within aid organisations

Good practices from the compliance approach and the values-based approach

Development aid organisations can develop and implement ethics frameworks and policies as part of a strategy to prevent corruption. Ethics policies aim to make the principles of integrity clear for the aid organisation’s staff and the organisation’s implementation partners, and ensure respect for these principles. New approaches are emerging to enhance integrity and reduce corruption risks. Aid agencies can now complement compliance-based approaches with values-based approaches. This can be achieved through promoting employees’ well-being, building trust, and supporting open communication.

14 September 2022
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Strengthening the ethics framework within aid organisations

Main points

  • Ethics policies typically aim to ensuring that the principles of integrity are clear and respected by aid agency staff, and by external partners.
  • ‘Organisational integrity’ is an approach used to enhance compliance with ethics policies, and help reduce corruption risks. A common model of organisational integrity has 4 main elements: 1) the quality of rules, procedures and activities of an organisation; 2) the relationship between employees and their organisation; 3) the integrity of employees; and 4) the ethical quality of employees’ interactions.
  • Compliance-based approaches are needed to ensure that integrity standards are met by ensuring compliance with rules and processes.
  • A values-based approach complements the compliance approach, focusing on a more positive and enabling environment for the internalisation of ethics by employees. It relies on an employee’s capacity to connect with and to act in accordance with the organisation’s principles and values. Values based approaches are used, in particular, to help tackle implicit biases and informal norms, such as gender discrimination.
  • The internalisation of ethical norms depends on the control system, the employer-employee relationship, and wider interpersonal interactions. It can be useful to consider different levels for internalisation, from the micro level (personal) to macro levels (group, leadership, and organisation).
  • Models such as ‘psychological contracts’ and social norms approach offer perspectives to enhance integrity. They shift focus from the individual to the network in the design of anti-corruption policies as a way to better reflect organisational and social factors related to corruption. They can also connect anti-corruption policies with employees’ well-being and satisfaction at work.

Cite this publication

Nicaise, G.; (2022) Strengthening the ethics framework within aid organisations. Bergen: U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre, Chr. Michelsen Institute (U4 Issue 2022:8)

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About the author

Guillaume Nicaise is a Senior Adviser for the U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre at the Chr. Michelsen Institute. He leads U4’s work on corruption risk management, organisational integrity, and the private sector. He previously worked for the German and Belgian development agencies – GIZ and BTC. He also has work experience from the NATO Parliamentary Assembly and NATO itself, as well as the International Crisis Group. Guillaume completed a PhD on the transfer of good governance norms in Rwanda and Burundi from the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, France.


All views in this text are the author(s)’, and may differ from the U4 partner agencies’ policies.

This work is licenced under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International licence (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)


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