By Ulla Tørnæs, Minister for Development Cooperation, Denmark
Sanjay Pradhan Chief Executive Officer, Open Government Partnership
Mari Kiviniemi, Deputy Secretary-General, OECD & Delia Ferreira, Chair of Transparency International
Over the last year, political rights and civil liberties around the world have experienced a general deterioration. The rise of populism, misinformation, attacks on civil society, and illicit money in politics have fueled this decline to a point that they now threaten the very foundations of democracy in countries around the world. A common thread running through these trends are new and old forms of corruption, which enable the misallocation of public funds and concentration of power to repress the voices of many for the benefit of the few. As a result, we are seeing increased insecurity, threats to social and economic development, and deepening inequalities among citizens around the world – with the most vulnerable being the most affected -.
By-and-large, the normative global policy elements to fight corruption are already in place; as are a number of conventions and platforms that condemn corrupt practices and identify ways to prevent, identify and sanction acts of corruption, including the UN Convention against Corruption and the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention. These commitments have direct links to global efforts to ensure sustainable and inclusive development, which is impossible without coherent and collective action to fight against corruption. That is why the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Goal 16 include an explicit recognition of the need to combat corruption in order to “promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels”. The SDGs have set out the milestones to reach, now it is time for governments, civil society, business and international institutions to work towards achieving them.
Despite advances at the international level, progress to fight corruption has been too slow. According to Transparency International’s (TI) 2017 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), many countries have made little to no progress in ending corruption. Further, foreign bribery rages unchecked in over half of global trade, according to TI’s September 2018 report, Exporting Corruption. The CPI also finds a link between increasing corruption and deteriorating civic space, noting that countries with “the least protection for press and non-governmental organisations also tend to have the worst rates of corruption.” Civil society and citizens play a key role in monitoring and supporting the implementation of anti-corruption reforms. While political leadership is a necessary condition for advancing the anti-corruption agenda, safeguarding the space for civil society and media to operate is equally essential.
Against this backdrop the Government of Denmark and Transparency International (TI) are hosting the International Anti-Corruption Conference – one of the key global forums focused on anti-corruption. This year, the IACC highlights the fact that promoting peace and security requires collective action and cooperation between governments to tackle corruption. As recent corruption scandals and data leaks have shown, corruption flows are not confined to national boundaries. The efforts by the Government of Denmark to build a coalition of governments, civil society, international organisations, and international institutions committed to advancing the anti-corruption reform agenda, comes at an important time. The IACC will be an opportunity to both take stock of what has been committed to this year, and what to take forward with the goal of going beyond promises to real action.
This is where partners like the Open Government Partnership (OGP), TI, and the OECD have an important role to play. OGP countries work with civil society to make concrete commitments to increase transparency, participation and accountability to promote fair, efficient and corruption free government. For example, 18 percent of OGP countries currently have commitments on ending anonymous ownership. Experience from those countries implementing commitments, particularly the United Kingdom and Slovakia, have shown that public registers, in open data formats, allow for greater interoperability and use by investigative agencies, journalists, and the private sector. Notable as well is the Danish public register of beneficial ownership for its comprehensiveness.
After the London Anti-Corruption Summit in 2016, several OGP members worked with civil society in their respective countries and made concrete policy commitments based on their Summit pronouncements. These are tracked by OGP’s Independent Reporting Mechanism, providing further accountability for implementation and involves civil society.
TI along with its more than 100 chapters around the world continues to lead advocacy efforts to, expose the corrupt, hold governments to account, and foster anti-corruption reforms.
TI chapters the world over are supporting the implementation of ambitious anti-corruption commitments by working with OGP governments to ensure commitments are translated into action. TI is also tracking progress in several countries, including through “pledge trackers.” TI chapters in Afghanistan, Kenya, and the United Kingdom developed platforms to take stock of progress made by their government in implementing concrete reforms in the follow up to the London Anti-Corruption Summit.
The OECD, through its global standards on anti-corruption and integrity, guides its members and partner countries to taking a whole-of-society approach to combating corruption and promoting integrity and to implement integrity strategies that strengthen their laws, institutions and policies so that they are more open, fair, inclusive and transparent. Relevant standards include the Recommendations on Public Integrity, Public Procurement, Governance of Infrastructure and on Open Government, the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention and the Global Forum on Transparency and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes. Going forward, the OECD will continue to work with member and partner countries and with relevant stakeholders across the world to support systemic integrity and open government reforms.
We must continue to promote collective action, enlisting governments, civil society, international organizations, the private sector and citizens to turn promises into action. This year the IACC will host a high-level segment of countries and international organisations including the OECD. This will focus on setting ambitious objectives to tackle corruption together, including promoting beneficial ownership transparency, including the possibility of establishing public registries; and making sure that published contracting data and documents meet global best practices.
It is only through a concerted collaborative effort that reaches across countries, sectors, and actors, that we can hope to achieve Goal 16 and promote inclusive, fair and peaceful societies across the world. It is only through a world free of corruption that we can strive for peace and security for all. The 2018 IACC in Copenhagen is where the global governance and anti-corruption community will discuss the way forward, and how we collectively turn promises into action.