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What U4 and others do to advance research and reduce corruption in the justice sector, and the role of justice sector actors in controlling corruption

What U4 and others do to advance research and reduce corruption in the justice sector, and the role of justice sector actors in controlling corruption

U4 applies a two-pronged approach to the justice sector addressing both: justice sector institutions as part of the problem and as part of the solution. In the 2012 study Mapping Evidence Gaps in Anti-corruption U4 found that while anti-corruption measures in the judiciary are reportedly high in impact, the evidence base for this is weak. An important part of our work on the justice sector is therefore to continuously map a broad variety of interventions and evidence of successes and failures. We explore alternative actors and new mechanisms to conventional institutions, such as special anti-corruption agencies and courts. We also offer a facilitated justice sector online course for U4 partner staff.

Our research agenda

In addition to anti-corruption agencies and courts, we appreciate the interdependence of different justice and law enforcement actors. Institutions such as the police, public prosecution and prison services, bar associations, state and civil society legal aid providers, and institutions for informal dispute resolution also play important roles and will be included in future research and activities.

In 2018, we started investigating peer-to-peer learning and support processes in the justice sector and the role that donors can play in facilitating these. Processes can involve different degrees of engagement from specialist conferences, study visits, to twinning projects and the placement of international personnel (i.e. judges), if not special units, in local institutions. We plan to look at the range of tools and their declared purpose, and find out how effective they are. See for example a comparative analysis of peer-based anti-corruption interventions in Guatemala and Kosovo.

The international policy agenda at a glance

Levels of attention to corruption in justice sector policy and practice vary across sub-areas. We observe a trend towards more holistic approaches to justice sector reform that recognise the independence of justice sector institutions, especially in the criminal justice chain. See for example U4 partners’ ongoing projects in Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. But many policy initiatives and a lot of programming still only targets individual institutions.

The policy work addressing corruption is most developed in relation to the judiciary – if other justice sector institutions are used as a yardstick. Although police corruption has probably received even more public attention – for example trough the Global Corruption Barometer by TI – there seem to be fewer explicit anti-corruption approaches for this sub-area in development programming.

In 2001, the Judicial Integrity Group – an association of high-ranking judges from different countries – developed the Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct ‘to provide guidance to judges and to afford the judiciary a framework for regulating judicial conduct.’ The Principles have become a reference point for judicial codes of conduct around the world and fed into article 11 of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) and its Implementation Guide and Evaluative Framework.

In 2015, U4 surveyed the types of support U4 partners offered to courts and anyone working in courts, including clerks). The Mapping of anti-corruption tools in the judicial sector found a variety of anti-corruption tools already included in these agencies’ bilateral judicial reform programmes. The tools are not frequently employed, yet, and they are sometimes implemented under a different label to avoid the sensitive implications of tackling corruption among those charged with upholding the law. Remarkable is the absence of support for the use of many control and oversight tools, budgeting and procurement tools, and some human resource instruments to prevent and detect corruption in the judicial sector. U4’s respondents believed that it is at least partly the lack of internal donor capacity and expertise in adapting existing anti-corruption tools to the judicial sector that underlies the absence of these instruments from bilateral judicial reform programmes.

For other justice sector institutions, a corruption focus in policy and programming is only emerging. Detention and corrections institutions (prisons) are literally locked away from the public eye. This makes external assessments and public oversight more difficult to conduct. There is very little systematic research on corruption in prisons. It may be that a bias against prison inmates as criminals also plays a role in the low level of interest in this issue shown by researchers, donors and the population at large. The 2017 UNDOC handbook on anti-corruption measures in prisons has marked a policy fieldwhich merits more research focus in the future.

    About the author

    Dr. Sofie Arjon Schütte leads U4’s thematic work on the justice sector, including specialised institutions like anti-corruption agencies and courts. Previously, she worked for the Partnership for Governance Reform in Indonesia and the Indonesian Corruption Eradication Commission and has conducted workshops and short-term assignments on corruption in more than 15 countries. She is editor of the series of U4 publications on anti-corruption courts around the world.


    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)