Corruption and development: What do we know, what works, and why should we care?

Mon 29 June 13.30-17:30, University College London; #corrtalk

An anti-corruption poster from Guadalajara, Mexico (Photo: Kate McCarthy)

Corruption is a problem in development everyone loves to hate. But it’s time for a grown-up conversation about its causes, effects, and efforts to combat it. Corruption is a complex phenomenon that is rooted in a wide variety of economic, political, administrative, social and cultural factors. It needs to be understood as part of broader dynamics, interactions, weaknesses and potential opportunities, rather than as an innate pathology. This is what makes it so entrenched and so difficult to address. How can international development actors address corruption more effectively in the contexts where they work?

Anti-corruption poster (Kate McCarthy, Flickr)

DFID Evidence Paper coverDrawing in particular on a recent DFID Evidence Paper and other emerging research on corruption, this collaborative event addressed the following questions:

  • What do we know about the causes of corruption and its effects on different aspects of development?
  • What do more nuanced approaches to the complex dynamics that sustain corruption contribute to ongoing debates?
  • What works in combatting corruption? What kinds of approaches and interventions have proven more effective than others and why?
  • Who cares? What do public opinion surveys tell us about what people in donor countries feel about corruption and aid and what might this imply for ongoing efforts to combat corruption?

The event brought together a diverse audience of researchers, policymakers, advocacy organisations, media representatives and other stakeholders interested in corruption. It was hosted by UCL's Global Governance Institute.

Reflections on the event

Related work


13:30-13:45 | Welcome and introduction

Dr Tom Pegram, Deputy Director, GGI (University College London) and Dr Heather Marquette, Director, DLP / GSDRC (University of BIrmingham)

13:45-15:00 | What do we know about corruption and what works in tackling it? A look at the evidence

Alina Rocha Menocal, Senior Research Fellow, DLP (University of Birmingham); on secondment from ODI

Nils Taxell, Senior Advisor, U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre

Discussant: Phil Mason, Senior Anti-Corruption Advisor, DFID  

Chair: Marta Foresti, Director of Governance, Security and Livelihoods, ODI

15:15-16:00 | Who cares? What do people in donor countries think about corruption and anti-corruption efforts? And why might this matter? 

Dr David Hudson, Deputy Director of DLP / Senior Lecturer in Political Economy, University College London

Discussant: Alessandra Fontana, Governance Advisor, OECD DAC

Chair: Dr Duncan Green, Senior Strategic Advisor, Oxfam GB

16:00-17:00 | So what? Implications for research and practice

Dr Elizabeth Hart, Independent (former Director of U4 and Senior Anti-Corruption Advisor at USAID)

Dr Finn Heinrich, Research Director, Transparency International

Prof Dominik Zaum, Professor of Governance, Conflict, and Security, University of Reading / Senior Research Fellow in Conflict and Fragility, DFID

Chair: James Deane, Director of Policy and Learning. BBC Media Action

17:00-17:30 | Reflections on the day’s proceedings from a policy perspective 

Dr Heather Marquette, DLP / GSDRC (University of Birmingham)


ANTICORRP              DLP               Global Governance Institute           ODI         U4



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The Developmental Leadership Program (DLP) is an international research initiative that explores how leadership, power and political processes drive or block successful development.

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