Nearly two-thirds of countries face a high to critical risk of corruption in their defense and security sectors, according to the 2020 Government Defence Integrity Index (GDI) by the Transparency International Defence & Security Programme based within Transparency International U.K.

Countries that score poorly in the GDI have weak or non-existent safeguards against defense sector corruption and are more likely to experience conflict, instability and human rights abuses as a result. The GDI ranked countries with a letter grade system from A (very low risk of corruption) to F (critical corruption risk). The results come as global military spending has increased to around $2 trillion annually, fueling the scale and opportunity for corruption.

The GDI assesses and scores 86 countries across five risk areas — financial, operational, personnel, political and procurement — before assigning an overall score.

Global highlights

  • Sixty-two percent of countries receive an overall score of 49/100 or lower, indicating a high to critical risk of defense sector corruption across all world regions.
  • New Zealand tops the GDI with a score of 85/100.
  • Sudan, which recently saw the military seize power in a violent coup, performs the worst, with an overall score of just 5/100.
  • The average score for G20 countries is 49/100.
  • The average score in the military operations field is 16/100 because most countries lack anti-corruption as a core pillar of their mission planning.
  • Among those that scored particularly poorly in this area are key countries contributing to or leading major international interventions such as the United States (operations score of 18/100) and Bangladesh (0/100).

Implications for military operations

Almost every country performs badly in the military operations risk area. The GDI assesses the strength of anti-corruption safeguards in military deployments, whether that be deploying troops for internal security purposes or sending them on a peacekeeping mission overseas.

Eighty-one countries face a high to critical risk in their military operations. This poses serious questions for countries facing internal threats, where a lack of anti-corruption safeguards in operations could mean that troops are more likely to contribute to conflict than quell it.

The lack of corruption safeguards in military operations should also be alarming to governments involved in international interventions through regional and international organizations:

  • Bangladesh (operations score of 0/100) is the top contributor of uniformed troops to UN peacekeeping missions.
  • The U.S. military (18/100) has been active in at least 85 countries over the last three years, engaging in combat in eight countries.

Find more GDI results here.