Corruption: The Ongoing Humanitarian Disaster

2 03 2010

I wanted to post this article again (first posted on 23rd september 2008). It exmpains why Artists Against Corruption will focus on exposing corruption, because of the direct link between corruption and poverty, expecially in developing nations.

Transparency International launched the 2008 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) which measures the perceived levels of corruption in 180 countries drawing on different expert and business surveys.

The Fatal Link between Corruption and Poverty

The Major findings of the 2008 report are “Persistently high corruption in low-income countries amounts to an “ongoing humanitarian disaster”, but at the same time, “Against a backdrop of continued corporate scandal, wealthy countries backsliding too.”

The report highlights the fatal link between poverty, failed institutions and corruption. “In the poorest countries, corruption levels can mean the difference between life and death, when money for hospitals or clean water is in play,” said Huguette Labelle, Chair of Transparency International. “The continuing high levels of corruption and poverty plaguing many of the world’s societies amount to an ongoing humanitarian disaster and cannot be tolerated. But even in more privileged countries, with enforcement disturbingly uneven, a tougher approach to tackling corruption is needed.”

Highs & Lows

Countries are scored on a scale from zero (highly corrupt) to ten (highly clean). The 2008 finds the cleanest countries are Denmark, New Zealand and Sweden, all sharing a score of 9.3. The most corrupt are; Somalia at 1.0, Iraq & Myanmar 1.3 and Haiti at 1.4.

Changes

2008 sores, compared to 2007 scores, showed significant declines for Bulgaria, Burundi, Maldives, Norway and the United Kingdom. On the other hand, Albania, Cyprus, Georgia, Mauritius, Nigeria, Oman, Qatar, South Korea, Tonga and Turkey all showed significant improvements.

Wealthy Country Corruption v Poor Country Corruption

Whether in high or low-income countries, the challenge of reigning in corruption requires functioning societal and governmental institutions. Poorer countries are often plagued by corrupt judiciaries and ineffective parliamentary oversight. Wealthy countries, on the other hand, show evidence of insufficient regulation of the private sector, in terms of addressing overseas bribery by their countries, and weak oversight of financial institutions and transactions.

“Stemming corruption requires strong oversight through parliaments, law enforcement, independent media and a vibrant civil society,” said Labelle. “When these institutions are weak, corruption spirals out of control with horrendous consequences for ordinary people, and for justice and equality in societies more broadly.”

Weakening the Fight Against Poverty

In low-income countries, rampant corruption jeopardises the global fight against poverty, threatening to derail the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). According to TI’s 2008 Global Corruption Report, unchecked levels of corruption would add US $50 billion (€35 billion) – or nearly half of annual global aid outlays – to the cost of achieving the MDG on water and sanitation.

Not only does this call for a redoubling of efforts in low-income countries, where the welfare of significant portions of the population hangs in the balance, it also calls for a more focussed and coordinated approach by the global donor community to ensure development assistance is designed to strengthen institutions of governance and oversight in recipient countries, and that aid flows themselves are fortified against abuse.

This is the message that TI will be sending to the member states of the UN General Assembly as they prepare to take stock on progress in reaching the MDGs on 25 September, and ahead of the UN conference on Financing for Development, in Doha, Qatar, where commitments on funding aid will be taken.

Double Standards

The weakening performance of some wealthy exporting countries, with notable European decliners in the 2008 CPI, casts a further critical light on government commitment to reign in the questionable methods of their companies in acquiring and managing overseas business, in addition to domestic concerns about issues such as the role of money in politics. The continuing emergence of foreign bribery scandals indicates a broader failure by the world’s wealthiest countries to live up to the promise of mutual accountability in the fight against corruption.

“This sort of double standard is unacceptable and disregards international legal standards,” said Labelle. “Beyond its corrosive effects on the rule of law and public confidence, this lack of resolution undermines the credibility of the wealthiest nations in calling for greater action to fight corruption by low-income countries.” The OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, which criminalises overseas bribery by OECD-based companies, has been in effect since 1999, but application remains uneven.

Regulation, though, is just half the battle. Real change can only come from an internalised commitment by businesses of all sizes, and in developing as well as developed countries, to real improvement in anti-corruption practices.

Full Story

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