Restoring Trust: Confronting Corruption and Championing Integrity

The UN says that corruption is criminal, immoral and the ultimate betrayal of public trust. Credit: UN News/Daniel Dickinson

The 21st IACC -Anti-corruption Conference will take place in Vilnius, Lithuania 18-21 June

By Francine Pickup
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 17 2024 – 58 percent of respondents to a worldwide survey believed 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 across sectors.

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

It gathers diverse participants, ranging from heads of state to civil society representatives, youth activists, business leaders and investigative journalists from across the globe.

The IACC stands as the foremost multi-stakeholder biennial global platform on anti-corruption, attracting approximately 1,500 participants worldwide. Since 2003, UNDP, in partnership with GIZ/BMZ and the U.S. 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 progress, 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 leading to extensive deforestation, critically impact 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 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 global 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. Digitalisation 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 in the discussions. As the global financial framework grapples with the fallout of multiple crises, $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 activities while strengthening UNDP’s status as a trusted partner in delivering development 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 access to 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.

Francine Pickup is Deputy Director, Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, UNDP

IPS UN Bureau


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UN’s Development Goals: Rich Nations Lead While World’s Poor Lag Far Behind

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Jun 17 2024 – When the 193-member UN General Assembly adopted a landmark resolution, back in September 2015, the goals were highly ambitious: to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, eliminate inequalities, protect human rights, promote gender empowerment and ensure economic, social and environmental development—and much more.

The deadline for achieving these targets was set at 2030.

But nine years after the resolution– and six years ahead of 2030– the SDGs are mostly far behind, particularly among the world’s developing nations.

And the targeted goals are like a mirage in a parched desert: the more you get closer, the further it moves away from you.

According to the UN, the implementation of the SDGs has been mostly undermined by the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown, the devastating impact of the ongoing climate crises, rising debt burdens, the growing military conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza and the rash of civil wars in Asia, Africa and the Middle East triggering unprecedented humanitarian crises resulting in a setback to economic progress worldwide.

As a result, there is a demand that the unattainable 2030 deadline should be extended by world political leaders meeting in New York September 22-23 for a much-ballyhooed Summit of the Future.

Meanwhile a new report on SDGs released June 17, is considered especially timely amidst deep climate crises, declining multilateralism, and ahead of the “Summit of the Future,” as it provides a new Index of countries’ support to UN-based multilateralism, identifies priorities to upgrade the United Nations (endorsed by 100+ leading scientists and practitioners worldwide), and illustrates new pathways demonstrating how to achieve sustainable food and land systems by mid-century.

According to the 9th edition of the Sustainable Development Report (SDR) released by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), none of the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are on track to be achieved by 2030, and only an estimated 16% of the SDG targets are progressing.

The report was prepared by the SDSN’s SDG Transformation Center and coordinated by Guillaume Lafortune in cooperation with Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs. Since 2016, the global edition of the SDR has provided the most up-to-date data to track and rank the performance of all UN member states on the SDGs.

Globally, the five SDG targets on which the highest proportion of countries show a reversal of progress since 2015 include: obesity rate (under SDG 2), press freedom (under SDG 16), the red list index (under SDG 15), sustainable nitrogen management (under SDG 2), and – due in a large part to the COVID-19 pandemic and other factors that may vary across countries – life expectancy at birth (under SDG 3).

Goals and targets related to basic access to infrastructure and services, including SDG9 (Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure), show slightly more positive trends, although progress remains too slow and uneven across countries.

Additional key insights include:

    –Barbados ranks the highest in its commitment to UN-based multilateralism on a new Index; the United States ranks last.
    — SDG targets related to food and land systems are particularly off-track. Globally, 600 million people will still suffer from hunger by 2030 while obesity is on the increase.

Danielle Nierenberg, President and Founder, Food Tank, told IPS: “I think this report finds that there is a lack of political will to achieve the SDGs–most nations are not investing enough in food and agriculture or farmers”.

She said policy-makers have their heads in the sand and need to realize the urgency of investing in solutions that help farmers, eaters, and food businesses.

“We need more investment in food system transformation that actually meets the needs of food producers and achieves a planet-friendly diet–food that are nutrient dense, resilient to climate change, delicious, and accessible and affordable,” said Nierenberg.

Frederic Mousseau, Oakland Institute’s Policy Director, told IPS: “This new report is yet another alert that we urgently need to take decisive action on food and agriculture.”

“The world already produces over twice as much food than we need to feed the population. However, over half of the food harvested goes into agrofuels and animal feed, with massive detrimental impacts on the environment, biodiversity, and our health”.

Agrochemical corporations and governments, he said, continue to tell us that “we need to increase food production to feed the world, using more land and fossil-fuel based industrial agriculture.”

“The truth is that we actually need to produce less food. We must drastically curb the amount of commodities used for animal feed and agrofuels and phase out the use of polluting chemicals for agricultural production”, he declared.

According to the SDSN report, the pace of SDG progress varies significantly across country groups. Nordic countries continue to lead on SDG achievement, with BRICS demonstrating strong progress and poor and vulnerable nations lagging far behind.

Similar to past years, European countries – notably Nordic countries – top the 2024 SDG Index. Finland ranks number 1 on the SDG Index, followed by Sweden (#2), and Denmark (#3), plus Germany (#4), and France (#5).

Yet, even these countries face significant challenges in achieving several SDGs.

Average SDG progress in BRICS (Brazil, the Russian Federation, India, China, and South Africa) and BRICS+ (Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates) since 2015 has been faster than the world average.

In addition, East and South Asia has emerged as the region that has made the most SDG progress since 2015. By contrast, the gap between the world average SDG Index and the performance of the poorest and most vulnerable countries, including Small Island Developing States (SIDS), has widened since 2015.

In addition to the SDG Index, this year’s edition includes a new Index of countries’ support for UN-based multilateralism covering all 193 UN Member States and new FABLE pathways demonstrating how to achieve sustainable food and land systems by mid-century.

Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs, President of the SDSN and a lead author of the report, says: “Midway between the founding of the UN in 1945 and the year 2100, we cannot rely on business as usual. The world faces great global challenges, including dire ecological crises, widening inequalities, disruptive and potentially hazardous technologies, and deadly conflicts, we are at a crossroads.”

“Ahead of the UN’s Summit of the Future, the international community must take stock of the vital accomplishments and the limitations of the United Nations system, and work toward upgrading multilateralism for the decades ahead.”

IPS UN Bureau Report


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Land Grabs Squeeze Rural Poor Worldwide

By Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Jun 17 2024 - Since 2008, farmland acquisitions have doubled prices worldwide, squeezing family farmers and other poor rural communities. Such land grabs are worsening inequality, poverty, [...] Read more »