Photo: UNDP Ukraine

The International Anti-Corruption Day is an opportunity to re-affirm our commitment to fight corruption by celebrating successes and reflecting on the lessons learned.

After years of apathy, cynicism and denial, corruption is no longer a taboo subject. Anti-corruption is now an integral part of global, regional and national development agendas.

From the ‘2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’ to the African Union’s ‘Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation’ to the development visions of many countries, corruption is recognized as a major obstacle and anti-corruption as a key accelerator to sustainable development.

With near-universal ratification of the United Nations Conventions against Corruption (UNCAC) (186 State Parties as of 26 June 2018), there are a growing number of governments adopting tougher laws and strategies, and establishing or strengthening institutions to fight corruption.

Thanks to various transparency movements, such as open data initiatives, access to information laws and others, global advocacy against corruption has significantly increased. We now have more accumulated knowledge on how to measure corruption, assess corruption risks in service delivery sectors such as health and education, and design better monitoring and evaluation frameworks to evaluate what works and what doesn’t.

Corruption remains a major challenge

The International IDEA’s Global State of Democracy 2019 report (PDF) revealed that 43 per cent of countries globally still have high levels of corruption impeding human development. Indeed, global levels of corruption are slightly higher today than they were in 1975. The report also highlighted significant declines, rather than progress, in a majority of SDG 16 indicators.

In many countries, there is still a huge gap between the existing anti-corruption laws, policies and institutions, and their effectiveness. Addressing the issues of money laundering and illicit financial flows, and ensuring transparency in beneficial ownership and ethics and compliance in both public and private sectors, continue to pose demanding challenges.

Our next steps

Learning from our anti-corruption work in the past decade, we, together with our development partners and the anti-corruption development community in general, have identified four key priority areas of interventions for the ‘Next Generation of Anti-Corruption Programming’: Sustainable Development Goal 16 (#SDG16) and anti-corruption; technology and innovation; business integrity; and social accountability.

SDG 16 gives us a tremendous opportunity to integrate anti-corruption policies in the national development agendas. Increased investments on SDG 16 will significantly help strengthen the overall ethics and integrity infrastructure in a country, including credible electoral processes and strong political parties, parliaments, anti-corruption institutions, judiciaries, media and civil society organizations. These investments will help countries move from transparency to accountability - ensuring transparency is not only important, but also that accountability requires making those in power answerable for their actions, sanctioning when necessary and addressing impunity.

Technology and innovation such as big data analytics, artificial intelligence and blockchain technology hold remarkable potential to detect, predict, prevent, and deter corruption. While recognising the corruption risks in the use of new technologies, our aim for the next generation of anti-corruption programming is to harness the benefits of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, built upon the digital revolution.

Business integrity. The Panama and Paradise papers – the work of investigative journalists around the world on illegal and hidden money in offshore jurisdictions – uncovered a complex network of politicians, businesses and other interests. They revealed a close link between corruption, organized crime and money laundering, and the need to ensure transparency in beneficial ownership, national capacity to prevent illicit financial flows, and an effective international mechanism in the return of stolen assets.

We therefore aim to address corruption not only as a crime and an impediment to development, but also as a direct threat to peace and stability. Strengthening business integrity is crucial in fighting corruption, but promoting a fair business environment will require the collaborative efforts of government, businesses, and civil society, as well as an independent media, to address the challenges.

Social accountability. In the long run, social accountability through a proactive and inclusive engagement of all sections of society is key to preventing and combating corruption. Civic engagement is instrumental in institutionalizing integrity, ethics, and moral standards in public and private sectors.

Taken together, these four aspects will help ensure that we increasingly see the results of the progress we have made in the policy space for sustainable impact.

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