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U4 Practitioner Experience Note

Twenty years with anti-corruption. Part 3

The international journey – from ambition to ambivalence

The UN Convention against Corruption is an instrument that changed the face of the global corruption dialogue. It created agreement on what corruption is, the damage it causes, and the joint responsibility for countering it. But the anti-corruption journey has been far from smooth. It is a story of gradual accumulation of institutions, lacking in strategic coherence. Early energy and enthusiasm has ebbed. And donors are currently not set up to deal with the deeply political nature of the corruption challenge.

5 April 2020
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Twenty years with anti-corruption. Part 3

Main points

  • The evolution of international instruments and tools has been a fragmented process. The lack of coherence in the global response is a major weakness and complicates action.
  • The current system is further undermined by an emerging gap between formal commitments and actual implementation in practice. Words on paper need to be turned into action on the ground
  • UNCAC does represent the first and only global consensus on what constitutes corruption, the damage it causes and everyone’s responsibilities for tackling it. It is a truly landmark achievement – but it urgently needs to be reinvigorated

Cite this publication

Mason OBE, P.; (2020) Twenty years with anti-corruption. Part 3. Bergen: U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre, Chr. Michelsen Institute (U4 Practitioner Experience Note 2020:3)

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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)


Gilbert Sopakuwa