We have a lot more tools today for attacking problems of public corruption than were available two or three decades ago. These include tools for vetting officials, monitoring communications, tracing money, seizing assets, coordinating internationally, punishing corporations, protecting whistleblowers, imposing sanctions, and more, plus investigations, prosecutions, government audits, and commissions of inquiries with their public hearings.

What we lack are not tools, but our determination and skill to use them strategically. This is where harm reduction can help. A harm reduction strategy helps us put our tools to their most effective use. A harm reduction approach can provide a strategic overlay to any of the familiar categories of anti-corruption activities, whether these are divided between enforcement and prevention or among any other categories. Harm reduction can guide the work of investigators and prosecutors, of those training public servants, of those crafting internal controls and other oversight mechanisms, or of those reviewing declarations of interests and assets. Whatever roles we play in response to corruption, harm reduction principles can help us focus on what matters most.

Part of the Chandler Papers. Read more about the Chandler Sessions on Integrity and Corruption.