How to control corruption? The European experience


In recent years, the European Union has made an unprecedented effort to transform its periphery by exporting values such as rule of law, democracy and good governance.

What should donors contemplating good-governance interventions to combat corruption do? Alina Mungiu-Pippidi asks, drawing on her book,

Our suggestion is to “look before you leap” by following a few logical steps that might be summed up as

“What, who, when?” she writes in the latest issue of the Journal of Democracy:

  • The first step is to figure out what you are dealing with. Is it traditional patrimonialism, neopatrimonialism, or competitive particularism? Each one requires a different strategy. It is not enough to rely on World Bank or Transparency International scores. Instead, both the resources for and constraints on particularism need to be documented in order to assess not only the state of corruption control in a given society, but also why it has not advanced further. …
  • The second step is to ask who is against (and who is for) the particularist status quo in order to determine if any good-governance coalition will be able to find the leadership it needs. Who are the plausible agents of change and how long would they remain so if they were to gain power?….
  • The third step, assuming that suitable principals can be recruited, is to ask when the intervention should be done. History indicates the important role of certain contexts in promoting good governance. Opportunities may arise from any sort of crisis, not only a revolution but also an election (when actors must vie to prove their integrity) or even just the chance to join some status club like an international organization or a free-trade agreement. ….
  • A fourth step demands that donors look at themselves and examine their own impact. The United Federation of Planets Prime Directive from Star Trek: The Next Generation (“never intervene in the lives of other civilizations”) is wisdom confined to fiction only: International donors today regularly intervene in the governance of other countries. …RTWT

Mungiu-Pippidi, who works as a governance expert for the European Union institutions has been an active promoter of civil society work in her native Romania, the Balkans and Ukraine. In a forthcoming talk at the Wilson Center, she will review the few successes around the world and will compare them with the EU attempt to change old members, new members and neighborhood countries.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016
10:00 – 11:00am

6th Floor Boardroom


Wilson Center
Ronald Reagan Building and
International Trade Center
One Woodrow Wilson Plaza
1300 Pennsylvania, Ave., NW
Washington, D.C. 20004

Alina Mungiu-Pippidi holds the Democracy Chair at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin. She is the leader of ANTICORRP , the largest social-science research framework project thus far funded by the European Union.


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