Regulatory frameworks are legal mechanisms that exist on national and international levels.
They can be mandatory and coercive (national laws and regulations, contractual obligations) or voluntary (integrity pacts, codes of conduct, arms control agreements). Together they form a legal background against which anti-corruption efforts are measured. The existence of these frameworks is a pre-requisite for fighting corruption. However, they do not suffice on their own and must be accompanied by positive incentives and other building integrity measures.

What are Regulatory Frameworks?

Coercive anti-corruption measures are based on law. They are not necessarily specific to the defence sector, since national anti-corruption efforts should strive to be as broad as possible and include all areas of public spending in any case. Voluntary guidelines, however, can be defence-specific since they refer to ethical guidelines and codes of conduct within a particular corporate or military culture.

Why are they important?

Regulatory frameworks are not enough to prevent and fight corruption on their own. However, they are a pre-requisite for any such effort. They must be accompanied by positive incentives, education and guidance. Together, building integrity measures and the corresponding regulatory frameworks constitute a system of checks and balances that can prevent and curb corruption. Corrupt practices must be sanctioned, corruption rewards confiscated, and corrupt behaviour deterred and prevented. This is done with the help of both positive (education, ethical guidelines, codes of conduct, rules and regulations) and negative measures (sanctions).

How do they work?

Coercive measures rely heavily on the definition of corruption adopted by the states. Depending on what is legally considered as corruption offences, different coercive measures will be applied. Sanctions for corruption must be effective, proportionate and dissuasive. They may be monetary and include penalties involving deprivation of liberty of natural persons. Sanctions should be seen as fair and have a preventive effect. It is important that anti-corruption sanctions respect the following guidelines (outlined by Transparency International):

  • Laws against corruption should comply with international human rights standards and afford a fair trial to those accused
  • They should not be unduly repressive
  • Sanctions must follow clear guidelines on sentencing
  • Anti-corruption laws should apply both to public and the private sectors alike
  • There must be regular reviews of the criminal law framework
  • Criminal law should provide for the tracing, seizure, freezing and forfeiture of illicit earnings from corruption. This may require special provisions
  • Corruption offences should include both the payment and the receipt of bribes[1]


Sanctions must deprive the individual from the rewards of the corruption offence taking into account assets that have gone through a money laundering system. This may involve some special prosecution and investigation powers that often demand international cooperation and legislative standardisation (such as a common understanding of what constitutes a corruption offence). Organisations such as Interpol, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, and Council of Europe, can provide valuable support when it comes to legal standards and guidelines against corruption.[2]

In addition to the coercive measures and sanctions, there are voluntary guidelines, codes of conduct, ethical recommendations, education and other informal regulatory frameworks that can create a culture of honour and integrity and greatly contribute to anti-corruption struggle by preventing corrupt behaviour.

In order for this system of rules and regulations to work, there must be a mechanism for flagging corrupt behaviour that guarantees protection to witnesses and whistle-blowers. The UN Convention Against Corruption, in its Article 33, outlines that countries are expected to incorporate into their domestic legal systems appropriate measures to provide protection against any unjustified treatment for any person who reports in good faith and on reasonable grounds to the competent authorities any facts concerning corruption offences.

Who is involved/ to whom do they apply?

Criminal law, as stated in Council of Europe’s Criminal Law Convention on Corruption,[3] prosecutes offenders, regardless of whether they are on the originating or the receiving end of corruption, also if they facilitate corruption or the distribution of its rewards.[4] The Convention outlines that the promising, giving or offering, directly or indirectly, of any undue advantage to anyone who asserts or confirms that he or she is able to exert and improper influence over the decision-making is considered as a corruption offence and should be defined as such by national legislations. This applies to individuals, companies and organisations.



Centre for Integrity in the Defence Sector.  Criteria for Good Governance in the Defence Sector: International Standards and Principles (2015)

Council of Europe, 1999, Criminal Law Convention on Corruption. 

Council of Europe, Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime and on the financing of Terrorism

Council of Europe, Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime

DCAF 2015, International Standards of Financial Oversight in the Security Sector. Toolkit- Legislating for the Security Sector.

NATO-DCAF, (2010). Building Integrity and Reducing Corruption in Defence: A Compendium of Best Practices.

Transparency International (2011). Building Integrity and Countering Corruption In Defence and Security: 20 Practical Reforms

Royal Norwegian Ministry of Defence, 2011, Ethical Guidelines for Contact with Business and Industry in the Defence Sector. 

UN Office on Drugs and Crime, United Nations Convention Against Corruption

New editions of the DCAF SSR Backgrounder Series 


[1] NATO-DCAF, (2010). Building Integrity and Reducing Corruption in Defence: A Compendium of Best Practices. “Regulatory Frameworks” p. 176.

[2] See: United Nations Convention Against Corruption UNODC: ; Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime, Council of Europe: ; Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime and on the financing of Terrorism, Council of Europe:

[3] Criminal Law Convention on Corruption, Council of Europe, 1999. Available at:

[4] NATO-DCAF, (2010). Building Integrity and Reducing Corruption p. 175.


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