This paper looks into the main debates in International Relations on norm compliance. It looks at the three causal factors that help us explain the origins of norms in relation to anti-corruption introduced by McCoy and Heckel (2001): (1) post-Cold War era; (2) social process, i.e. interaction among actors and diffusion of information; and (3) internal process where ‘cognitive and motivational processes of individuals’ may contribute to the generation of norms. Using the model developed by Finnemore and Sikkink (1998) on the life cycle of a norm, it shows how international anti-corruption norms took root by tracing the development of various regional and international legal instruments. Finally, the UNCAC is analysed in more detail, as it has been recognised as a reference framework for the fight against corruption, due to which many countries formally adopted ethical universalism as a norm. The paper argues that international actors must put in place such a monitoring mechanism; otherwise implementation of UNCAC could become an end in itself. However, it is not possible to have significant progress without domestic demand for new rules of the game and public participation in a sustainable mechanism which would prevent the eternal reproduction of privilege.