Reforms through civil society and media in Defence

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Military and defence officials are rarely experts in anti-corruption. Entering this topic feels unfamiliar and risky. It can help a lot to invite an expert group in who can facilitate such discussions. These might be specialist defence corruption NGOs, like Transparency International Defence, or experts in corruption more generally like Global Witness or Global Integrity. Think-tanks can similarly be used, like the Centre for the Democratic Control of the Armed Forces (DCAF), the Centre for Integrity in the Defence Sector (CIDS) or the Carnegie Institute.


It is still the case in many countries that civil society avoids the MOD and the military, and that the feeling is reciprocated. Defence ministries have been called by one aid agency ‘the impenetrable’, because of the difficulty that outsiders have of engaging with them.

This started to change appreciably from 2006, when NATO entered into a joint collaboration with Transparency International Defence to build knowledge and competence about building integrity and tackling corruption within the NATO and national defence organisations.

If you are an MOD or military, engaging with civil society brings many advantages. First and foremost is that it brings an external perspective onto defence sector operations. In addition, civil society organisations are one way of engaging with local populations and contractors around bases, and they can inform about known corruption avenues relating to the base activities. In countries coming out of conflict and insurgency, engaging civil society is a significant way of rebuilding trust in the military.

Examples include the reform of the South African military after apartheid (see here), others (here, here and here)


It’s a sad reality that more corruption scandals are uncovered by external investigations – notably by the media – than by official scrutiny entities like internal audit or control institutions. Engaging positively with investigative journalists goes against the instincts of most bureaucratic organisations, but if you are serious about tackling corruption then this is one of the most efficient mechanisms there is.








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