Cultural Awareness in Implementing Integrity Building Programmes

[Author of box 24.1 is Todor Tagarev. Velizar Shalamanov, Bulgaria is the author of box 24.2]

The design and implementation of effective integrity building strategies and programmes depends on the ability to capture the specific influence of given organisational cultures and, in return, to strengthen those features of the organisational culture that contribute to individual and organisational integrity and deter corrupt behaviour.

Why Culture Matters?

In many post-communist, transition and developing states, corruption has reached such a scale and caused such damage to politics, the economy, society and ordinary citizens that it may be defined as a securitised problem. Successive governments have been incapable of finding the right solution to the securitized problem of corruption and often come to power promising to “break the back” of corruption. Yet at the end of their term, both objective criteria and perceptions indicate that not only has corruption not been reduced but its tentacles have spread more widely and deeply in society. This erodes people’s faith in democracy, weakens the social fabric, deepens social stratification and provides additional channels for direct and hidden influence of oligarchic and criminal structures on the country’s governance. Therefore, curbing corruption becomes a top priority of national security policy.

This applies to a great extent and with increasing urgency to the defence sector. On one hand, the military is one of the top three least corrupt sectors in all recent TI perception studies, which in itself generates legitimacy and popular support for defence organisations. On the other hand, defence traditionally has been an area closed to public and even parliamentarian scrutiny. Thus, unless there are proper mechanisms for democratic control in place or a culture of zero tolerance to corruption, defence easily turns into a quagmire of foul interests and an experimental field where new corruption scams are invented and “validated.”

Previous chapters in this compendium provide examples of good practice in enhancing the integrity of defence organisations, processes and individuals and reducing corruption risks in the defence sector. However, attempts to apply such good practices in other countries frequently do not have the same effect and, no matter how good the intentions, are seen as imitations of initiatives that are just not suitable for the local setting.

Fundamental cultural differences are among the reasons for failure in attempts to transfer good practice. In many instances, the application of a model that is successfully imitated at the start terminates with a fiasco or brings unsatisfactory outcomes. This is due to a neglect of local specificities, traditions, experience, organization and human culture.

In other words, culture matters. In implementing external models and practices there should be translation and interpretation, enabling the taking into account of local particularities, dispositions and stereotypes. It should be ensured as well that models and practices, recommended from outside, have been correctly understood and are not distorted by local attitudes and perceptions.

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