International Anti-Corruption Day
Today the world celebrates the International Anti-Corruption Day. This has become a tradition since 2003, when 129 countries signed the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) in Merida, Mexico, after working several years towards the creation of an international legal document against corruption. Even though an anti-corruption spirit must be embraced at all places and times, today is a good moment to raise awareness about some of the vast and remaining challenges of corruption not only developing countries, but also in the most developed world.
At the Bank, the International Anti-Corruption Day has been a day of mixed feelings for many of us who are part of the governance and anti-corruption community. A great leader such as Dani Kaufmann gave a farewell lecture. Yes, he is moving on soon to the Brookings Institution, but before that, he shared with us his always clear and accurate perspective on the main governance and corruption challenges that the world is facing.
He will blog soon on his post-lecture impressions, and will also address all of the questions that he received via email during the event, so I will just briefly emphasize one of his reflections that matches perfectly today’s celebration. This is the idea of a “twin crisis”, composed by the already wide-known and debated financial crisis and the “silent crisis” within the governance and anti-corruption movement, who in his own words was caught asleep at the wheel during the current global turmoil.
Thus, this is a great day to remember that a lot has been done in the fight against corruption, which would be self-evident if we look in retrospective and compare how things were two or three decades ago. However, the current crisis is also a wake up call to review what fundamental and critical issues have been left aside in the international anti-corruption agenda.
For sure, corruption problems are complex and difficult to address in short periods of time. However, when commitment, consistence, capacity and constancy are put together, it is possible to make a difference. For instance, over the last decade some countries have shown statistically significant progress in the World Wide Governance Indicators (see graph below). Beyond this evidence, there are many other countries that are on their way. They, and others left behind, might benefit from international assistance, but they also need the awareness and participation from their own citizens and leaders, to affront corruption as a development priority.