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States have an obligation to provide basic services such as water, health and education. People entrusted with power to govern who abuse their position for private gain obstruct fulfilment of this obligation. Women, children, people with disabilities, the elderly and other minorities suffer most. See what development agencies can do to mitigate the harmful impact of corruption on the delivery of basic services.

Mainstreaming anti-corruption in sectors

Since the late 1990s, anti-corruption approaches have focused on overall country governance systems. These include:

  • National integrity systems
  • National anti-corruption institutions
  • Reforms in the civil service
  • Public financial management
  • Procurement
  • Improving access to information
  • Strengthening supreme audit institutions.

These national approaches are important, but many actors realise that anti-corruption interventions have so far achieved little. Many have therefore called for concrete, sector-specific solutions to corruption. This is because corruption vulnerabilities vary between sectors. For example, risks in the procurement of medicines or water pumps may differ from risks in the management of education institutions. We need to distinguish between the different ways people are corrupt in each sector if we want to find lasting solutions.

Anti-corruption and gender mainstreaming hand in hand

To mainstream means to bring into the main. Therefore, to mainstream anti-corruption efforts in a sector means to make corruption risk assessment and mitigation an integral part of the overall sector strategic policies and plans. It is not sufficient to relegate it to an add-on or ad-hoc measure.

Gender mainstreaming has been practiced for some time, and the two ‘streams’ of gender and corruption should indeed go hand in hand. This can help achieve equitable development. A U4 helpdesk answer on Gender, corruption, and health illustrates the importance of paying attention to both streams and a 2018 U4 Brief reveals how female representatives on elected local governments can lead to reduced corruption in the health and education sectors.

Resources on experiences from mainstreaming – health and water

A U4 Issue on Addressing corruption in the health sector: Securing equitable access to health care for everyone suggests how to mainstream anti-corruption efforts in health. Read about the Moroccan government’s experience from developing a health-sector anti-corruption strategy.

Several governments have integrated anti-corruption in their water sector plans and policies, see for example Development of a water sector anti-corruption strategy in Mozambique.

Sustainable development sector goals

It is important to mainstream anti-corruption because corruption threatens sector goals expressed in the Sustainable Development Goals. It negatively affects health and education outcomes – eg by reducing access to safe and clean water. Countering corruption can improve service delivery and help achieve development goals.


    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)