Skip main navigation

Key learning points from week 1

This week we have explored different forms and approaches to anticorruption and introduced the PCI approach.
Cogs featuring the words rules, regulations, laws and policies
© SOAS University of London

In this first week of the course we have:

  • Explored different forms of corruption and the impacts they have on society.
  • Learned about the importance of considering the feasibility and developmental impact of anti-corruption efforts.
  • Explored the assumptions and problems with the Principal-Agent model when applied in the anti-corruption field – particularly in countries where there is not a rule of law.
  • Learned about corruption equilibria and social norms approaches to analysing and explaining corruption and their respective challenges for developing policy responses.
  • Learned about how the power, capabilities and interests of actors in society explain how and when rules are enforced and why they are not, and what we can do about it.

Key learning points:

  1. Evidence of violations is likely to trigger action for accountability only if there are actors with the power, capabilities and interests to make sure this happens. Anti-corruption is costly and takes on powerful interests. To make anti-corruption ‘real’ we have to look for opportunities where actors have, or are likely to have, the power, capabilities and interests to act against particular types of corruption. Anti-corruption can be effective if it supports and strengthens these activities, as well as supporting transparency and accountability. We call this the power–capabilities–interests (or PCI) approach to anti-corruption.
  2. Transparency and accountability approaches to anti-corruption can be effective in countries where there is a rule of law (or close to) – because a large number of organisations already exist across these societies with the power, capabilities and interests to ensure that rules are enforced. Here, when transparency improvements reveal violations, interested actors are likely to take action to ensure that violators are punished, and accountability processes are therefore likely to work. Unfortunately, a rule of law is rare. Anti-corruption has to be designed to be effective in the general case where there is, at best, a rule by law; rules are enforced in some areas, but violations and informality persist in many others.
  3. In the general case, where the existing configuration of power and capabilities does not support a rule of law, anti-corruption that immediately targets all types of corruption is likely to yield limited or even negative results. Failures in many areas can undermine the effort as a whole. Instead, anti-corruption should focus on areas where it is feasible and can have impact. Feasibility means having a strategy that is implementable, and this is only likely in these contexts if we can identify actors connected to that activity who can and will ensure that it is implemented. Impact means that reducing that corruption is not just useful for the actors involved but has wider social benefits. Successful anti-corruption of this type can create the conditions for anti-corruption in other areas.

Comment and discussion Please use the comments below to share your reflections on what you have learned this week.

  • What has surprised you? What has challenged or resonated with the way you think about corruption and anti-corruption? Why?
© SOAS University of London
This article is from the free online

Making Anti-Corruption Effective

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now