This International Anti-Corruption Day is an opportunity for us to recommit to collective action in preventing and addressing corruption, as we reflect on the devastating consequences of COVID-19 on governance institutions, the economy, and society.
The COVID-19 pandemic has reversed decades of progress on development with poverty and inequality rising at a global scale. Half of the world – four billion people – are trying to survive COVID-19 without any social protection, and two out of three COVID-19 deaths are in developing countries. The pandemic is leading to declines in global human development and could push the number of people living in extreme poverty to over one billion by 2030, while corruption is undermining our efforts to respond and recover.
Crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic create enormous opportunities for corruption to thrive, when safeguards are relaxed under emergency protocols, and oversight mechanisms weakened or disrupted as a response to COVID-19. As a result, corruption risks are unprecedented, including price gouging for Personal Protective Equipment and ventilators, falsified medicines that compromise the safety of patients, and undue preferential treatment in the distribution of vaccines and healthcare services. Apart from the impact on health, corruption distorts the allocation of stimulus packages to rebuild economies, and undermines the roll-out of social safety nets for those who are most at risk of being left behind.
Now more than ever, corruption is standing in the way of sustainable development. Every year, businesses and individuals pay an estimated US$1.5 trillion in bribes, while at least US$500 billion is lost to corruption in the health sector annually, more than the total cost of global Universal Health Coverage.
Corruption not only directs valuable resources away from financing development and recovery efforts, it could lead to a downward spiral of eroding public trust and social cohesion, undermining the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Amid the devastating crisis, countries have opportunities to reimagine development pathways and build forward better. This year’s International Anti-Corruption Day theme ‘Recover with Integrity’ emphasises the urgent need for countries to ensure that anti-corruption is an integral part of all sustainable development efforts, to build greener economies, end poverty, invest in women’s empowerment and gender equality, provide Universal Healthcare Coverage, and foster resilient and inclusive institutions and societies.
At UNDP, we are working closely with countries to integrate transparency, accountability and anti-corruption both in the immediate response and in the longer term COVID-19 recovery. This takes shape in different ways in different places, from strengthening the Anti-Corruption, Transparency and Accountability (ACTA) for Health Alliance, to supporting countries in leveraging digital tools to strengthen government functions during the pandemic, including the development of the artificial intelligence-powered chatbot, C Bot, in Georgia.
We are promoting collective action against corruption through multi-stakeholder engagement with governments, businesses and civil society and empowering communities, with a focus on women and youth to strengthen social accountability. For example, in Asia and the Pacific, we are promoting a fair business environment to level the playing field, including guiding young entrepreneurs to enhance business integrity. In Ukraine, UNDP strengthened community engagement and enabled easier access to public services through mobile service centres.
Our integrated approach to anti-corruption is an important part of UNDP’s governance work, promoting peaceful, just and inclusive societies and enhancing rights-based social contracts, in line with the vision of SDG 16.
UNDP is deeply committed to supporting countries in strengthening transparency, accountability and anti-corruption in the time of COVID-19 and beyond. And we are committed to rooting out any fraud and corruption in our own operations. As we look towards 2030, let us be united against corruption to recover with integrity and build a greener, more resilient, more inclusive, and more sustainable world for all.
Happy International Anti-Corruption Day!