TNRC Blog Corruption in the Environment: New Perspectives

Image representing TNRC's four focus areas: wildlife, fisheries, forests, and finance

Targeting Natural Resource Corruption

Harnessing knowledge, generating evidence, and supporting innovative policy and practice for more effective anti-corruption programming

Corruption in the Environment: New Perspectives

This panel brought together anti-corruption experts and conservation practitioners to discuss new research on the dynamics of corruption in natural resource management and to share perspectives on the challenges of integrating effective responses to corruption into the stewardship of our remaining natural resources. The event, held on 25 March 2021, was part of the Knowledge Partner Sessions of the virtual 2021 OECD Global Anti-Corruption & Integrity Forum.

Panelists included Saul Mullard, Senior Adviser, U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre at the Chr. Michelsen Institute (U4-CMI); Nanie Ratsifandrihamanana, Country Director, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Madagascar; Camila Gianella, Researcher, CMI; Kurt Holle, Country Representative, WWF Peru; Richard Nash, Technical Lead, Governance Practice, WWF International; Aled Williams, Senior Adviser, U4-CMI; with moderation by Elizabeth Hart, Chief of Party, Targeting Natural Resource Corruption, WWF.

Key Takeaways

  • Corruption is exacerbating socio-economic pressures to exploit natural resources. But programming that explicitly targets the drivers and facilitators of corruption that undermine desired conservation outcomes, is currently limited.
  • Collaboration across the conservation and anti-corruption communities is mobilizing new energy and constituencies to the anti-corruption effort through operationally-relevant research and knowledge sharing.
  • Evidence shows that community-based approaches are most likely to succeed when contextual factors are taken into consideration and programs are designed, rolled out and evaluated using a participatory approach. In contexts prone to institutional capture and corruption at the top, multi-scalar approaches are needed to address corruption at different levels.
  • The interests of a variety of power-holders can prevent even the strongest conservation programs and legal frameworks from delivering desired outcomes. A corruption lens highlights informality and the way that this informality alters formal rules of the game.
  • As further evidence becomes available, we'll learn more about the impact of stronger analysis and politically-informed project design on conservation outcomes. Commitment to transparent monitoring and reporting on project results will help.

Covid-19 is the result of zoonotic transmission, an ongoing threat as habitats are increasingly destroyed or encroached upon. The current pandemic compounds the urgency for managing natural resources wisely as the globe builds back, already a critical issue in light of global climate change. Corruption undermines every aspect of wise management, and an expanded and informed constituency is needed to address corruption’s impact on the environment. Among other topics, emerging research from the Targeting Natural Resource Corruption (TNRC) project is examining the impact of high-value resources and political interest on community-based natural resource management in Madagascar; the effect of informal networks and norms on environmental management regimes in Peru; and challenges and opportunities in building common ground across conservation and anti-corruption.

While many development practitioners have long recognized the centrality of politics in the design of their interventions, stronger integration of political ecology understanding can help to improve the outcomes of conservation interventions. Learning that is emerging from TNRC research reinforces the importance of robust context analysis that takes both formal and informal power dynamics into account, and consideration of the internal and external dynamics driving resource use, at the project design phase. It also reinforces the need to consider multi-scalar approaches and new alliances that are necessary to achieve desired conservation and anti-corruption results. These may involve integrated or parallel initiatives to empower civic participation to demand good governance and accountability from public institutions and diversifying economic opportunities so that livelihoods are not dependent on the illegal exploitation of wildlife, forest, and marine resources. The recording above captures these and more take-aways from this dialogue. Further recommended reading is below.

Further Reading

A Political Ecology Lens for Addressing Corruption in Conservation and Natural Resource Management

Enrolling the Local: Community-Based Anti-Corruption Efforts and Institutional

Five ways of thinking about how to address corruption in conservation and natural resource management

Journey to Self-Reliance 2020: Starting a Conversation about Data, Corruption, and Environmental Policy

Reducing corruption’s impact on natural resources – How does a gender lens help?

© Daniel Martínez / WWF-Peru

Image attribution: © / Jen Guyton / WWF; © Brian J. Skerry / National Geographic Stock / WWF; © Georgina Goodwin / Shoot The Earth / WWF-UK; © Hkun Lat / WWF-Aus