The 9th of December the UN celebrates the anti-corruption day. It is clear that this is a global issue and a cross-cutting one. It concerns virtually all countries, even if in different degrees, and it can be found in all sectors of the development arena; e.g. health, rural development, agriculture, sanitation and many more. Corruption is not an issue that concerns only the rich; on the contrary, the poor are those who suffer the most from corrupt practices, in a number of ways. First of all, corruption subtracts money from the tax revenues which are the main source of social programmes and services. Secondly, the money the rich pay to corrupt officials are usually passed back as increased costs to consumers, and the poorest ones are the ones that will pay the higher price. Finally, corruption affects not only multimillion deals but spread throughout the social realm like a cancer and I know of bribes asked (and paid) to obtain jobs with a salary of forty dollars a month.
The energy that members of the International Corruption Hunters Alliance (ICHA) brought to their first meeting is beyond words. “Stealing is bad enough, ripping off the poor is disgusting.” With those words, the World Bank President kicked off a 2-day momentum for the Corruption Hunters to “draw strength, learn from one another and create their global alliance.” And rightly so, they did. A “marketplace” showcasing select country experiences offered some space for some delegates to speak firsthand of their challenges and lessons of success and failure.
Joining Forces Towards Development Effectiveness Through a Global Alliance to Combat Corruption
The World Bank has established regional networks of anticorruption enforcement personnel. The network has been given a name suggesting vigor and ruthlessness: International Corruption Hunters Alliance. On December 6 - 8 in Washington, the members of the alliance will gather to reflect on their work. Joining them will be authorities from member countries that have prosecuted bribe payers, as well as representatives from the private sector, civil society and international organizations. It is hoped that by the end of the meeting a truly global enforcement alliance will have been born.
To prepare for the meeting, a series of virtual conversations has been launched. The series addresses four key themes. We invite you to join the conversation via the links below. More updates will follow.
My last blog post addressed progress made in the extractive industries, in terms of fighting corruption, and in particular the new U.S. law (the Dodd-Frank Act) that will impact some of the largest gas, oil and mining companies in the world when it goes into effect in 2011. I also mentioned a few initiatives that have played an important role in advocating for this law and for a global norm on transparency. Another important player in this field is the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), as rightly pointed out by a reader and colleague. Launched in 2002, EITI advocates for transparency in the extractive industries through the publishing of financial information and promoting a culture of transparency that involves dialogue, empowering civil society, and building trust among stakeholders. A fundamental principle of the EITI is the development of multi-stakeholder initiatives to oversee the implementation and monitoring process, which is supported through a multi-donor trust fund, managed by the World Bank.
Transparency International’s (TI) 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index provides a rather bleak picture of the current state of corruption around the world. With more than half of the 178 indexed countries scoring below five on a 10 point scale (with 10 being “very clean”), corruption remains a major impediment to development. Thus, TI is now advocating for stricter implementation and monitoring of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), a global legal framework that came into force in 2005 to help curb corruption. The Convention’s 140 signatories’ will be under review for the next three years for their efforts in fighting corruption. TI further recommends that focus should be given to areas such as, “strengthening institutions; strengthening the rule of law; making decision-making transparent; educating youths and setting up better whistle-blower protection schemes.” As a matter of fact, anti-corruption measures will be discussed at the G-20 summit taking place in Seoul next week. However, Christiaan Poortman, TI’s Director of Global Programmes, is skeptical as to whether it will produce any major changes at the governance level.
The second day of the workshop on 'Implementing Effective Country Level Governance Programs', Cape Town, South Africa was marked by a sectoral turn. The substantive reflections and lesson-sharing of the day focused on the implementation of governance and anti-corruption programs at country level in sectors like health, education, transport, energy, and extractive industries. Now, these sectors are very different, but what is fascinating is that with regard to good governance the issues and challenges are amazingly similar. Let me explain.
There is growing Bank – CSO policy dialogue occurring via blogs which is generating unexpected thoughtful and frank exchange of views. The most recent case was a few weeks back when Justin Lin, the World Bank’s Chief Economist, was invited to be a guest blogger on the “From Poverty to Power” blog page maintained by Oxfam/GB’s Head of Research, Duncan Green. The exchange was on Justin’s recent paper "Growth Identification and Facilitation" on the role governments play in promoting economic growth. Many CSOs, such as Oxfam, feel that the Bank is undergoing a paradigm shift by now providing developing countries with more ‘policy space’ to design their own economic plans, including industrial policies to support nascent industries.
Their voice comes in minor or major key – as rap, folk or pop. Boy, they do have a voice, and they are raising it, as a citizen voice and as a singing voice. On voices-against-corruption.org music bands from around the world are making the pitch, in different languages and different sounds: Congolese and Philippine pop singers, Macedonian and Senegalese rappers, and beautiful Zimbabwean choruses are amongst the many bands that come together to support a global youth anti-corruption network and to help break the silence that still surrounds this pressing challenge in many of their home countries.
Greeks and Greek-Americans in the U.S. Diaspora, like myself, have been watching the strikes, demonstrations and tragic deaths that have brought our country to a standstill with mixed emotions. The images of Athens burning, tear gas rising and riot police clashing with citizens sharply contrast with images of white sandy beaches, beautiful islands, historic landmarks and mouthwatering cuisine that usually come to mind. Despite feelings of shock, sadness and even anger, to those who know Greek public political culture in its entirety, it is not surprising to most that this day would eventually come. Greek citizens, immigrants and those with strong ties to the country, admit the role that societal norms, mainly tax evasion, nepotism, clientelism and bribery (all very persistent in Greek public political culture) are in part responsible for bringing the country to the brink of collapse. For the past decade, Greek citizens did not heed warning their culture of corruption and the shadow economy could not sustain the system.
I was passing through Accra recently and while walking through the lobby of the hotel was stopped by a poster for a regional conference on Freedom of Information and at the same time ran into several colleagues and old friends. It was an interesting exercise to be very aware of an issue and personalities but be on the outside looking. The conference was well attended, drawn by the start power of former US president Jimmy Carter, his center and high level activist and political figures from Africa. The Carter Center which has been at the forefront of this work is able to draw attention to and raise the profile of the issue in West Africa.
But what did it all mean to local people? When I asked Ghanaians working or staying at the hotel about the conference, there was very high recognition but mostly it was linked to former President Carter. But the issue drew little recognition or excitement. Ghana did announce that after years of languishing on the books an FOI bill would be introduced into Parliament. But to the people outside of the conference this would have little impact on their daily lives. Their worries were much more about food, shelter, safety, schooling and the actions of the government in power on their lives.