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U4 Practitioner Experience Note

Twenty years with anti-corruption. Part 2

Fighting the ‘seven deadly thins’ – starting the DFID journey

DFID’s experience between 1997 and 2010 saw a fundamental shift in the accepted role of a development agency and unique innovations in anti-corruption thinking and operations. The years would also spur a transformation of the international anti-corruption framework. These were foundational years for DFID’s anti-corruption journey, with Clare Short’s leadership and the passing of the Bribery Act – a milestone moment for the UK. DFID stimulated domestic developments and started spending aid money at home to stop financial leaks from aid-recipient countries.

25 March 2020
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Main points

  • Political leadership was crucial for DFID’s success. It won’t always be present, but this should not mean that practitioners forsake preparations for the moment when a strong personality appears. Developing in advance, and keeping under review, innovative ideas can enable sudden windows of opportunity to be capitalised on.
  • Practitioners must extend their horizons beyond the ‘victim’ country when tackling corruption, in particular to recognise the cross-border nature of the problem and that the donor’s own government may be part of the problem.
  • Imaginative use of aid resources in domestic activities can unlock crucial capacity at home that addresses the ‘supply side’ of the corruption equation. This is entirely allowable under the OECD rules for Official Development Assistance.
  • Clare Short’s mandate to DFID was truly radical. As practitioners, we (or rather I for most of the first few years before a team grew around me) were given licence to challenge orthodoxies, press for change in other departments as well as our own, and encouraged to think transformationally about our ambition at the global level.

Cite this publication

Mason OBE, P.; (2020) Twenty years with anti-corruption. Part 2. Bergen: U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre, Chr. Michelsen Institute (U4 Practitioner Experience Note 2020:2)

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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)