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Rethinking Anti-Corruption Efforts in International Development

Kuipers, Stijn (2021): Rethinking Anti-Corruption Efforts in International Development. Published in: Journal of Financial Crime No. EarlyCite

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Abstract

Purpose – Corruption is commonly seen as a primary impediment to economic development, and its eradication has therefore featured high on development agendas. Most anti-corruption efforts in international development however fail. This paper reviews recent attempts to unpack the ‘black box’ of corruption to better understand its functioning in developing countries and find ways to combat corruption effectively.

Design/methodology/approach – The study has been undertaken through a comparative literature and case analysis of some of the primary findings within the field of anti-corruption in international development of the last decade.

Findings – The research finds that the black-and-white conceptualisation of corruption as an impediment to economic development, which is dominant in development circles, commonly fails to understand corruption as an alternative form of problem-solving in specific institutional settings. This has both hindered anti-corruption efforts and given unwarranted primacy to anti-corruption efforts in international development, to the loss of other priorities.

Originality – The paper strengthens recent calls for a more contextualized approach to combat corruption, which have been given insufficient attention in policy design and most of the literature on corruption, providing a novel starting point for ‘functional’, politically aware anti-corruption and development efforts.

Practical Implications – Policy makers need to accept that there are no ‘magic bullets’ against corruption and work in a much more contextual manner, while accepting the fact that corruption might not be the primary impediment to economic growth in their country

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