Today is International Anti-Corruption Day, the United Nations Campaign against corruption. It’s a topic that I looked at in 2015, so I thought it would be timely revisit after an eventful 2016.
Transforming the World
Since the last International Anti-Corruption Day I have taken a real interest in the impact of corruption on the world around us. A theme of the 2016 campaign is how corruption impedes the Sustainable Development Goals.
The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a UN initiative aiming to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. The SDGs were adopted by world leaders in 2015 and universally apply to all countries.
The Impact of Corruption
These are laudable goals but there is a massive problem: the single greatest obstacle to economic and social development around the world is corruption. To make matters worse, evidence shows that corruption disproportionality affects poor people.
The facts are alarming, here are some of the issues highlighted as part of the 2016 campaign:
- An estimated $2.6 trillion are stolen annually through corruption
- Every year, $1 trillion is paid in bribes.
- 25% of procured medicines are estimated to be lost to fraud, bribery and other corrupt practices
- Fraud and abuse in health care is estimated to cost individual Governments between $12 billion and $23 billion a year.
What can be done?
The UN campaign includes examples of how different sectors of society can make a difference. Of key interest to ICA members is their message for the private sector:
- Take a zero-tolerance attitude towards corruption
- Put in place policies covering gifts, supply chains and whistle-blowers
- Promote fair competition.
But what can we do as individuals?
The UN website for the Sustainable Development Goals I mentioned above is well worth a read. It includes a “Lazy Persons Guide to Saving the World”. Not that the readers are lazy as such – by taking an interest in the subject matter you’ve already proven that. It’s more around differences you can make in your own life, without going as far as campaigning outside an Embassy.
This element of the actions of the individual is perhaps the most important point.
What people do really matters.
As the Anti-Corruption Day document ‘Corruption and Development’ states:
‘Preventing and combating corruption requires a comprehensive approach, but only in a climate of transparency, accountability and participation by all members of society is this possible. Governments, the private sector, the media, civil society organizations and the general public need to work together to curb this crime.’
There seems to be an increasing appetite for transparency and accountability. We have seen incidents like the Panama Papers increase focus on issues such as this, including the accumulation and disparity of wealth.
Let’s round this off by going back to the Report, as the message is a powerful one:
‘We all have a stake in fighting corruption. Corruption undermines Governments’ ability to serve their people by corroding the rule of law, public institutions and trust in leaders. Corruption acts as a brake on development, denying millions of people around the world the prosperity, rights, services and employment which they desperately need – and deserve.’
‘When corruption prevails, democracy, a prerequisite for development, is threatened. Sustainable development is therefore not only an aim in itself, but the most effective antidote to corruption.’
So there is a common purpose, and one which is inherently linked to sustainable development goals.
Even the laziest amongst us must be motivated by that? Let’s hope so.