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.


Are there any countries that have demonstrated significant reductions in corruption over time? If so, what factors have been important to allow this to happen? Are there examples of countries that have managed to reduce corruption without obvious political leadership, using a bottom-up, society-driven approach?


To think about how to drive reform in countries where leadership is absent.


  1. Examples of countries that have reduced corruption
  2. Lessons learned: Common factors
  3. Conclusion
  4. References


Modern examples of countries that have succeeded in reducing corruption are few and disputed. Botswana, Estonia and South Korea are often mentioned as good performers, especially in their regional context.

In Botswana, the political leadership’s sustained commitment to fight corruption played a major role, as well as the country’s anti-corruption agency. Other factors include autonomous, merit-based and relatively efficient judiciary and public services, as well as transparency and participation in policy formulation and public spending.

Estonia’s good anti-corruption performance is largely attributed to its political leadership in a post-Soviet era context. They undertook a radical reform of the judiciary and public administration, managed a relatively clean and rapid privatisation process and created transparency through e-government and access to information law.

In South Korea, civil service reform and the introduction of e-government and access to information proved very successful.

Korean civil society played a major role in the country’s anti-corruption progress by exerting pressure on the government. It initiated many transparency and anti-corruption legislations and programmes and acted as a watch-dog.

Those examples confirm that political leadership and a commitment to fight corruption at the highest levels appear to be a pre-requisite to achieve reducing corruption. But pressure from civil society and citizens on political leaders can be a major driver to generate political will to address corruption, as was demonstrated in South Korea.


Marie Terracol, Transparency International, [email protected]


Finn Heinrich, Ph.D., Transparency International, [email protected]




Close search

Responsive versions of the site in progress.