E4J Anti-Corruption Module 1 acknowledges that corruption defies simple definition due to the importance of contextual factors and notes that the OECD) considers corruption as "the abuse of public or private office for personal gain" and the non-governmental organization (NGO) Transparency International (TI) defines it as "the abuse of entrusted power for private gain".(UNCAC) - does not define corruption as such. It rather defines specific acts of corruption, and urges States parties to criminalize these acts in their jurisdictions. Other international bodies attempt general definitions which provide a good starting point to help students get to grips with the concept. For example, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (
Other perspectives on the definition and impact of corruption are offered which overlap and reinforce the material on integrity and ethics. These include, approaching it as a defect of moral character, or lack of civic virtue, and examining its political, cultural and economic effects.
The following activity illustrates how you could explore the issue of defining and identifying corruption with your students.
Activity 1.4 Exploring definitions of corruption
This activity is summarised from E4J Anti-Corruption Modue 1.
Ask your students to work individually, or in small groups of 3-5, and take 10 minutes to write down on a piece of blank paper a general definition of corruption - a single definition that conveys the entire concept.
Once those five minutes are up, either ask students to read and explain the definitions they noted, or to shuffle the anonymous pieces of paper and hand them out to the class at random, asking each class member to read and argue the pros and cons of the definition they received. You can push back against and gently critique each definition, exposing its limitations and assumptions.