Youth as agents of change in anti-corruption. A cloak for a neo-liberal agenda? Critical discourse analysis of the World Bank and Transparency International’s framing of youth in the anti-corruption discourse

Stinne Hjulmann & Stine Vejborg Andersen

Student thesis: Master thesis


It seems a new focus is developing on youth as an actor in anti-corruption (AC), with youth increasingly being referred to as agents of change. This developing focus on youth in AC represents an interesting issue of growing relevance that is visible in the work of Transparency International (TI) and the World Bank (WB). Both institutions have received criticism for promoting an underlying agenda of neo-liberal reform in their work on AC; hence, we question whether the emphasis of youth as an actor in AC is a continuation of this agenda. We view this as an interesting issue in need of illumination. Consequently, in this thesis we take a critical stance towards why youth are increasingly being emphasised as an actor of change on the AC agenda. We seek to uncover why this focus has occurred and what motivations lie behind incorporating youth in AC. We ask the following research question: Why are youth increasingly emphasised as agents of change in the anti-corruption discourse? From the literature review it appears that this focus on youth in AC is quite novel and is an area that has yet to be researched by academics. No literature exists on this link between AC and youth. Hence, we view this topic as important and relevant, as we examine a topic that is yet unexplored. To guide the research we ask the following subquestions: What is the focus of the AC programmes that target youth? How are youth framed in the AC discourse? How are youth framed in other social processes? We employ the case study as our research method and we take our point of departure in two international organisations, TI and the WB, which both have a focus on youth in relation to their AC programmes. By employing the case study we can contribute to, and expand the knowledge of, the subject of youth in AC, and make theoretical generalizations on why there is an increasing focus on youth in the AC industry. We employ a qualitative research strategy and use qualitative data to understand the research area. To analyse the data, we apply Fairclough’s three-dimensional model for critical discourse analysis to examine the language utilised in documents from TI and the WB. We use interview data to contextualise the text analysis. We conclude that the discourse constructs and frames youth within a neo-liberal view of citizenship and government. Civic education, under the umbrella of AC, educates youth in demanding accountability and transparency of their governments, and the programmes educate youth themselves to resist corruption, and instil in them a certain view of citizenship. We argue that this notion of citizenship lies within the neo-liberal paradigm, which emphasises the ’responsibilization’ of youth - and hence the role of the individual in self-governance. In this light, AC programmes with the component of civic education can essentially be viewed as a means to shape youth and instil in youth particular values that promote democratic, neo-liberal thinking. This appears to be a wider agenda of the WB, and also TI, who both emphasise good governance embedded in neo-liberalism in their discourse. Beyond the generic reasoning for emphasising youth in AC, such as their sheer numbers, their role as the future world leaders, and their idealism, we conclude that the emphasis on youth as agents of change reveals an underlying agenda: the WB and TI essentially use youth to push forward a contested neo-liberal agenda. Hence, this thesis contributes with a deeper understanding of the increasing focus on youth as a new actor in AC.

EducationsMSc in Business, Language and Culture, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2011
Number of pages180