Anti-corruption in adverse contexts: strategies for improving implementation

Publication type: Working Paper

Country: Other

Author(s): Mushtaq Khan Pallavi Roy Antonio Andreoni

ACE Strategies: Building Coalitions

Keywords: Political settlement


In this updated Working Paper, ACE's research directors lay out the ACE approach to anti-corruption, and include new country-specific examples.

Developing countries are characterised by political settlements where formal rules are generally weakly enforced and widely violated by the powerful. Conventional anti-corruption strategies have typically delivered poor results in these contexts because they focus on improving the enforcement of a rule of law and raising the costs of corruption facing individual public officials. Unfortunately, in contexts where the distribution of organisational power allows a wide range of powerful individuals and organisations to violate rules, a strategy that assumes that we can strengthen the enforcement of rules is likely to result in poor results in the short to medium term.

An alternative approach is to identify sectoral anti-corruption strategies that target specific problems with a high developmental impact and that are also feasible to implement because at least some of the powerful engaged in these activities are likely to support their implementation in their own interest.

Our alternative approach identifies anti-corruption strategies from the bottom up. This involves identifying the characteristics of the corruption that is constraining particular development outcomes. By drawing on theories of rents and rent-seeking and theories of political settlements, we can assess both the developmental impact of specific anticorruption strategies and the feasibility of implementing these strategies.

We argue that feasible anti-corruption strategies in typical developing-country contexts cannot be solely based on the conventional transparency, accountability and enforcement approach. In societies that have widespread rule violations, high-impact anti-corruption is only likely to be feasible if the strategy can motivate at least some powerful organisations to support the enforcement of specific rules.

We identify four broadly defined clusters of strategies for creating effective anti-corruption strategies, which we describe as 1) Aligning incentives, 2) Designing for differences, 3) Building coalitions, and 4) Resolving rights. In each case, the anti-corruption strategy seeks to achieve the feasibility and impact goals in the way described. We argue that these clusters (and others that can emerge through further research) can provide a framework for organising research on the impact and feasibility of anti-corruption activities in priority areas in different countries.

Read the Briefing Paper.