U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre

This Anti-Corruption Helpdesk brief was produced in response to a query from a U4 Partner Agency. The U4 Helpdesk is operated by Transparency International in collaboration with the U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre based at the Chr. Michelsen Institute.


What are the main types, causes, and impacts of corruption in the security and justice sectors, with particular reference to the issues facing poor people? What are the lessons learned from attempts to tackle corruption in the security and justice sectors, particularly in terms of holistic approaches to reform?


To guide further engagement with country offices on how to best incorporate anti-corruption measures in security and justice sector reform programmes.


Corruption in the justice sector
Corruption in the security sector
Lessons learned for reforms
Research gaps


Although there are a number of causes and types of corruption that are specific to the institutions within the justice or security sector, many forms of corruption are common to both, or indeed result from the links between the sectors. Factors common to both include lack of transparency and oversight, insufficient sanctions, and personnel related issues. Causes specific to particular sectors include political inference in legal systems or poor financial management and national security concerns in defence.

Corruption in justice and security institutions has a negative impact on the lives of the poor, both directly and indirectly. Direct impacts include reduced accessibility to services responsible for ensuring their rights and maintaining their safety, and an increased vulnerability to security threats and crime. The poor are also more likely to be subjected to bribery and extortion, as well as threats, intimidation and victimization by security forces (UNODC 2007). Indirect impacts for the poor are mainly economic, resulting from wasted resources and a reduction in foreign investment.

When incorporating anti-corruption measures into reforms, it is essential to address the issues specific to particular institutions, as well as the overlap between the two sectors. Existing approaches often address institutions in isolation, and fail to address governance and oversight of the sectors as a whole. They also tend to focus on higher level reforms, overlooking local knowledge and the use of non-formal mechanisms. A number of examples of effective reform processes exist, which allow a number of key principles to be developed regarding effective reforms. However, as corruption in the justice and security sector is also linked to the specific context in which the institutions are operating, it is important to ensure that each reform process also reflects an understanding of the local environment.


Catherine Mann, Transparency International, [email protected]


Robin Hodess, Ph.D., Transparency International, [email protected]




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