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U4 Practitioner Experience Note

Twenty years with anti-corruption. Part 10

Keeping the vision alive: new methods, new ambitions

The last 20 years has seen a solid international architecture established to fight corruption. However, the pace of progress has slowed in recent years. Two critical problems are that the present system of accountability is weak, while many donor practices undermine impact. A new approach is needed, which both secures genuine accountability of governments and uses improved donor practices to help generate incentives for behaviour change in governments. Such an approach comes from pressure from below (citizen voices, the media), the side (accountability bodies such as a Public Accounts Committee), and above (contributions from different parts of a donor’s government).

27 August 2020
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Twenty years with anti-corruption. Part 10

Main points

  • The first two decades of the global fight against corruption established some essential building blocks, without which there could not have been any chance of making further progress. These were a necessary stage on the journey. But momentum has waned in recent years.
  • As a global framework for holding countries to their commitments, the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) review mechanism is weak. It absorbs huge resources without commensurate benefits. A shift in approach is urgently required to bring about authentic testing of a country’s actions.
  • Support for anti-corruption from providers of development assistance is constrained by a range of donor practices that serve to undermine impact. A new conceptual basis for donor action is needed, one built on understanding the incentives for behaviour change.
  • Despite the difficulties that have surfaced, the one conclusion we should not draw is that we would be better off simply giving up.

Cite this publication

Mason OBE, P.; (2020) Twenty years with anti-corruption. Part 10. Bergen: U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre, Chr. Michelsen Institute (U4 Practitioner Experience Note 2020:10)

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About the author

Phil Mason OBE

Phil Mason OBE was senior anti-corruption adviser in DFID from 2000 until March 2019. He formally retired from the UK public service after 35 years, 31 of which were with ODA/DFID. He continues in the anti-corruption field in an independent capacity.


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)