Corruption is criminal, immoral, and the ultimate betrayal of public trust

Anti-corruption conference gathers global leaders in Vilnius

June 18, 2024
Hand holding $100 bills

Efforts to combat corruption and restore trust in governance must translate the core tenets of good governance into tangible action.

Photo: Shutterstock

Fifty eight percent of respondents to a worldwide survey believe that their political system has been captured by an elite that is corrupt, obsolete, and unreformable. Corruption thrives in environments characterized by weak governance, where transparency, accountability, and public decision-making are compromised by conflicts of interest and political interference.

Efforts to combat corruption and restore trust in governance must translate the core tenets of good governance—information dissemination, transparency, integrity, accountability, and participation—into tangible action.

The 21st International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) takes place in Vilnius, Lithuania, under the theme “Confronting Global Threats: Standing up for Integrity” from 18 to 21 June. 

Its participants range from heads of state to civil society representatives, youth activists, business leaders and investigative journalists.

The IACC is the foremost biennial global platform on anti-corruption, attracting approximately 1,500 participants worldwide. Since 2003, UNDP, in partnership with the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ) and the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the US State Department, has played a pivotal role in shaping the discourse and global anti-corruption agenda through the IACC series.

The conversations we will have in Vilnius in the coming days are critical for four reasons.

First, the meeting convenes amidst a backdrop of complex and multifaceted crises; climate change, conflict, geopolitical tensions, polarization, democratic erosion, economic volatility and unregulated frontier technologies—each posing a threat to hard-earned developmental gains. 

The latest Human Development Report 2023-2024 underscores a widening gap in human development, fraught with the peril of irreversible setbacks. Corruption remains a significant impediment to equitable development, exacerbating existing inequalities and further reducing people’s trust in governance.

In this tumultuous era, the 21st IACC must galvanize sustained collective actions, partnerships and actionable strategies to combat corruption. Its outcomes should feed into the 2024 United Nations Summit of the Future and the 2025 Fourth International Conference on Financing for Development because these platforms present vital opportunities to rejuvenate multilateralism and foster a spirit of international cooperation and partnerships to tackle our shared challenges. 

The IACC can also accelerate momentum for collective action and foster effective partnerships by addressing the focus of the three Rio Conventions—Biodiversity, Climate Change, and Desertification—all converging this year. 

Forestry crimes, including unregulated charcoal burning and large-scale corporate malpractice in timber, paper, and pulp sectors are leading to extensive deforestation, critically impacting global greenhouse gas emissions, water reserves, desertification, and rainfall patterns. 

At the same time, many nations also urgently require climate finance in order to invest in climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Effective climate action relies on robust institutions, necessitating a coordinated approach to combat corruption and to safeguard environmental initiatives from compromise. 

Second, the IACC’s theme, “Confronting Global Threats: Standing Up for Integrity,” broadens the scope of the governance and anti-corruption agenda to address a range of issues including conflict resolution, climate action, global security, and human security, ensuring also integrity in development financing and the roll-out of frontier technologies. 

The outcome of the IACC will be instrumental in continuing efforts to bring governance and anti-corruption to the centre of the global development agenda, drawing on experiences such as the Data in Climate Resilient Agriculture (DiCRA) initiative in India. Digitalization and open data can challenge corruption by reducing discretion, increasing transparency, and enabling accountability by limiting human interactions. 

This multi-stakeholder collaboration for data sharing, involving governments, research organizations, citizens and data scientists across the world, promotes open innovation and transparency to strengthen climate resilience in agriculture. 

Third, the interlinkages between sustainable development financing and the strength of governance systems, both at the national and global levels, will be front and centre. As the global financial framework grapples with the fallout of multiple crises, US$4 trillion is needed to address the financing deficit to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

The quality of governance in any nation shapes the effectiveness of its financing mechanisms and policies, while the availability of robust financing also influences the stability and quality of governance systems. 

A breakdown in either of these jeopardizes the social contract, exacerbating crises, with international bodies and governments overly focused on short term and reactionary responses. Urgent reforms are needed in national and global governance systems to prevent corruption and illicit financial flows to accelerate progress towards the SDGs

Fourth, in these challenging times, countries need to be able to evaluate the impact of their anti-corruption initiatives and reforms and, most importantly, learn from what works, and what doesn’t. 

The conference offers a platform to introduce innovative approaches to measuring corruption, drawing on UNDP’s work with partners in this area. Robust measurement methodologies are fundamental, since without standardized tools and methodologies, collecting data and evidence to inform policy decisions on anti-corruption reforms is difficult.

In UNDP, we strive to ensure that every dollar spent goes to development while strengthening UNDP’s status as a trusted partner in delivering results. The UNDP Transparency Portal is UNDP’s commitment to ensuring transparency, accountability, and continuous self-reflection and learning with the support of independent assessments, audits, and oversight mechanisms. The site provides the public with data on over 10,000 UNDP projects.

Addressing corruption demands effective and innovative partnerships, increased resource allocation, and sustained commitment to anti-corruption endeavours, including in complex political environments where UNDP works, such as in Ukraine

Only then can countries effectively tackle the interconnected challenges they face and restore trust in governance. The discussions at the 21st IACC will play a pivotal role in shaping the global anti-corruption agenda for the next biennium.

This blog was originally published here