Corruption: The Most Perpetrated –and Least Prosecuted– Crime – Part I

Multinational companies bribing their way into foreign markets go largely unpunished, and victims’ compensation is rare, according to new report. Credit: Ashwath Hedge/Wikimedia Commons

Multinational companies bribing their way into foreign markets go largely unpunished, and victims’ compensation is rare, according to new report. Credit: Ashwath Hedge/Wikimedia Commons

By Baher Kamal
MADRID, Dec 6 2022 – In these times when all sorts of human rights violations have been ‘normalised,’ a crime which continues to be perpetrated everywhere but punished nowhere: corruption is also seen as a business as usual. A business, by the way, that relies on the wide complicity of official authorities.

“Corruption attacks the foundation of democratic institutions by distorting electoral processes, perverting the rule of law and creating bureaucratic quagmires whose only reason for existing is the solicitation of bribes.”

“Much of the world’s costliest forms of corruption could not happen without institutions in wealthy nations: the private sector firms that give large bribes, the financial institutions that accept corrupt proceeds, and the lawyers, bankers, and accountants who facilitate corrupt transactions,” warns the World Bank

Such a widespread ‘plague’ continues to be more and more exported by the business of the top trading countries as reported by the UN on the occasion of the 2022 International Anti-Corruption Day on 9 December.

Corruption weakens and shrinks democracy, a phenomenon that is now more and more extended (See IPS Thalif Deen’s: The Decline and Fall of Democracy Worldwide).

Such a shockingly perpetrated practice –which is rightly defined as a “crime”, — not only follows conflict but is also frequently one of its root causes.

“It fuels conflict and inhibits peace processes by undermining the rule of law, worsening poverty, facilitating the illicit use of resources, and providing financing for armed conflict,” as highlighted on the occasion of this year’s World Day.


Corruption fuels wars

Corruption has negative impacts on every aspect of society and is profoundly intertwined with conflict and instability jeopardising social and economic development and undermining democratic institutions and the rule of law, the UN warns.

Indeed, “economic development is stunted because foreign direct investment is discouraged and small businesses within the country often find it impossible to overcome the “start-up costs” required because of corruption.”


Imposed by private business

It is perhaps useless to say that corruption is a practice widely committed by all sectors of private businesses.

In fact, in several industrialised countries, every now and then, some news shows the facades of zero-equipped hospitals and schools being inaugurated by politicians ahead of their electoral campaigns.

Shockingly, too many involved politicians get proportionally punished, if anytime, after extremely lengthy and mostly unfruitful legal processing.


Disproportionate impact

For its part, the World Bank considers corruption a major challenge to the twin goals of ending extreme poverty by 2030 and boosting shared prosperity for the poorest 40 percent of people in developing countries.

“Corruption has a disproportionate impact on the poor and most vulnerable, increasing costs and reducing access to services, including health, education and justice.”

The World Bank explains that corruption in the procurement of drugs and medical equipment drives up costs and can lead to sub-standard or harmful products.

“The human costs of counterfeit drugs and vaccinations on health outcomes and the life-long impacts on children far exceed the financial costs. Unofficial payments for services can have a particularly pernicious effect on poor people.”


Bribery exported

A global movement working in over 100 countries to end the injustice of corruption: Transparency International, which focuses on issues with the greatest impact on people’s lives and holds the powerful to account for the common good, reveals additional findings.

Its report: Exporting Corruption 2022: Top Trading Countries Doing Even Less than Before to Stop Foreign Bribery, warns that despite a few breakthroughs, “multinational companies bribing their way into foreign markets go largely unpunished, and victims’ compensation is rare.”
“Our globalised world means companies can do business across borders – often to societies’ benefit. But what if the expensive new bridge in your city has been built by an unqualified foreign company that cuts corners?

“Or if your electricity bill is criminally inflated thanks to a backroom business deal? The chances of this are higher if you live in a country with high levels of government corruption.”

Public officials who demand or accept bribes from foreign companies are not the only culprits of the corruption equation. Multinational companies – often headquartered in countries with low levels of public sector corruption – are equally responsible.”

Twenty-five years ago, the international community agreed that trading countries have an obligation to punish companies that bribe foreign public officials to win government contracts, mining licences and other deals – in other words, engage in foreign bribery. Yet few countries have kept up with their commitments, it adds.


Everybody is complicit

“Much of the world’s costliest forms of corruption could not happen without institutions in wealthy nations: the private sector firms that give large bribes, the financial institutions that accept corrupt proceeds, and the lawyers, bankers, and accountants who facilitate corrupt transactions,” warns the World Bank.

Data on international financial flows shows that money is moving from poor to wealthy countries in ways that fundamentally undermine development, the world’s financial institution reports.


Worse than ever before…

Transparency International’s report, Exporting Corruption 2022, rates the performance of 47 leading global exporters, including 43 countries that are signatories to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Anti-Bribery Convention, in cracking down on foreign bribery by companies from their countries.

“The results are worse than ever before.”

Volunteerism: Path to Achieve UN’s Agenda 2030

Speaking on International Volunteer Day, UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner said over one billion volunteers work in service of their communities every day. It is one of the clearest expressions of solidarity: a recognition that our global community must work together to tackle our common challenges as outlined in the Global Goals: everything from driving down poverty to confronting climate change.

So far in the year 2022, he said, over 11,000 UN Volunteers have served with over 56 UN entities as part of the UN Volunteers programme, which we are proudly hosting in the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Ranging from 18 to 81 years of age, this is the largest number of UN Volunteers ever.

By Simone Galimberti
KATHMANDU, Nepal, Dec 6 2022 – The International Volunteer Day, a worldwide event commemorated every year on the 5th of December, comes at the end of a long line of special commemorations, each of them relevant and paramount to achieve the UN’s Agenda 2030.

The commemorations included the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 25, World AIDS Day on December 1, the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery on December 2 and the International Day of Persons with Disabilities December 3.

After many years of work in the volunteering sector, I feel it is high time for some sort of evaluation of where we are in terms of promoting and fostering what I call the BIG V, a terminology that I feel better express the potential and dynamism of volunteerism.

Focusing on the potential of the BIG V is probably the best place to start such review.

On the one hand, all the achievements carried out by the country in the last two decades could not have been possible without the thousands and thousands of citizens involved and engaged, with passion, drive and zero economic interests, in trying to make the country better and more inclusive.

Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator

Who am I talking about? Who are these persons? Think of those who selflessly and silently and far from social media do something for the place where you live.

These are the persons who are always at hand and ready to help when there is an urgent need within the community. These are the persons who take the lead in liaising with local authorities and try to find small but essential solutions in our daily lives.

I am not fantasizing them, these are real persons though perhaps their number is shrinking especially in the urban areas. I am also talking about activism, a form of volunteerism, where simple citizens and members of tiny NGOs are pushing for a just and noble cause, be it a better public health, a stronger education system, the preservation of the soil or the defense of the rights of those who are the most vulnerable.

So, considering this vast multitude of engaged and active citizens, we would not be surprised if a country like Nepal has a huge potential in terms of leveraging its social capital, the element that provides the foundations above which civic engagement, of which volunteerism is one of the greatest expressions, thrives on.

From this perspective, there is no doubt that whole country should really be proud of their volunteers, even if many of such unsung heroes, do not even bother to define themselves in a such way because what they know is that actions, at the end, are the ones that count.

On the other hand, if there are plenty of volunteers everywhere, we also need to pay attention at the dynamics unfolding within the society especially the ones affecting youths. One hour on social media is one hour taken away from studies, sports but also it is an hour stolen away from a possible volunteering action.

This is a problem because we must be clear that volunteerism is not just good for the society but it’s also good for ourselves. The reason is simple: volunteerism helps becoming better persons, more emphatic and altruistic, qualities that are now proven to be also indispensable for a successful career.

In a way volunteerism is path to personal leadership and mastery because we can learn so much from it. It is a school of humbleness that teaches to value the small things that we often take too much for granted and also helps us appreciate the work of others, especially those who are not in close to us, those are different from us.

In short volunteerism can really bring us together and enhance national cohesion and cohesiveness. That’s why it is so important that the Nepal puts a whole of nation effort to really elevate volunteerism and perhaps we should start with rebranding it, making it easier to talk about it and easier for the youths to connect with.

That’s why the term BIG V could be a better way to spread the message and convince more people to get involved. It is also essential that we work at system level and the new Federal Government should at the earliest discuss and review the draft national volunteering policy that is taking dust since more than two years.

On this regard, it is extremely encouraging that some of the Provincial Governments like Gandaki have already a volunteering policy in place.

Yet approving a document is going to be meaningless if there is no political will to act upon it. The point is that the BIG V should really become a priority, that essential factor that can support and help locally elected officials to perform their duties.

Think about it: federalism is built on the premise that citizens will be more active and engaged and volunteering, in all its diverse ways and forms, can be the indispensable ingredient to help achieve a better form of governing, one centered on the citizenry.

Around the world, mayors have been leveraging the power of volunteerism, harnessing the commitments of their citizens to supplement and strengthen the implementation of local publicly funded interventions.

We need a strong coordination system to promote and implement volunteering efforts, an issue that the draft national policy already partially covers. On this point, it is essential to ensure the creation of adequate “’volunteering supporting structures” at federal, provincial and local levels, that can really help mainstream volunteerism across all the areas of national governance.

It might be a coincidence that this special commemoration falls after so many other equally important special “days” but perhaps it was all intentional because volunteerism is the platform and the means through which the humanity can solve some of its most obstinate and hard challenges, including climate change.

The latter is an issue that, without the activism of millions of youths across the world, would not have come to commend the public and the leaders’ attention.

In short volunteerism is a force of good and Nepal needs it. But we can’t keep take it for granted. We need to highlight it, we need to truly make an effort to make it easier for persons of all ages and groups, to give their time and skills and help the society become a better, more inclusive and sustainable place to live.

The Author is the co-founder of ENGAGE and of the ‘Good Leadership, Good for You & Good for the Society.’

IPS UN Bureau


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