Moving from transparency to accountability in the fight against corruption | Patrick Keuleers

13 Dec 2013

design student drawing Graphic design students from Sudan participate in a drawing contest for anti-corruption day. (Photo: Syed Haider/UNDP Sudan)

Corruption is a major bottleneck to sustainable development: it prevents public and private investment from going where it is most needed, drives up costs, and distorts resource allocations and priorities.

This realization was at the heart of the commemorations for International Anti-Corruption Day on December 9th, and at the 5th Conference of the State Parties to the United Nations Convention against Corruption which I attended in Panama City recently.

Anti-corruption has been one of the fastest growing and most successful areas of work under our democratic governance portfolio. The World Bank estimates that corruption can cost a country up to 17 percent of its GDP. Imagine the impact on achieving the Millennium Development Goals by the 2015 deadlines if only 10 percent of that money could be channeled back into development.

Through the MYWorld Global Survey, more than 1.5 million people have identified “honest and responsive governments” among the top priorities for the ‘World They Want’. A degree of consensus is now emerging around the importance of integrity, transparency and accountability in governance as key factors to reduce poverty, inequalities and exclusions.

Addressing integrity in the public sector is an important component of that strategy. The public service is expected to play a role model for the society it serves, and it needs to reflect and promote international norms and principles both in its functioning and its composition.   

But preventing and combating corruption should engage everyone to have sustainable impact. For this reason, work on corruption prevention also needs to include advocacy and outreach to parliamentarians, political parties, human rights institutions, civil society organizations, the private sector, other UN agencies, and, last but not least, the judicial sector.   

Globally, significant progress has been made in boosting transparency as a means to prevent corruption worldwide. The major challenge now is to move from transparency to accountability. Transparency and access to information are not an end in themselves, but a means for more effective accountability. That is the challenge that lies ahead of us in the years to come.      

Democratic governance, as a remedy for exclusion and discrimination and a means to prevent corruption and other forms of abuse of power, should be at the heart of the post-2015 development discourse. It is a core condition of wellbeing, and not an optional extra.

Talk to us: How can we move from transparency to accountability?

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