It is difficult to overstate the profoundly negative impact that corruption has on society. The abuse of entrusted power for private gain does violence to our values, our prosperity, and even our security. Today is International Anti-Corruption Day, an excellent opportunity to remind ourselves of the scourge of corruption, the need for public sector transparency, the benefits of inclusive approach, and the dangers of impunity. It is a good time to reflect on how corruption inhibits development and what all societies can do to fight it successfully.
Corruption inflicts substantial costs. It constrains economic growth, weakens security, and saps confidence in rule of law. It diverts limited resources away from vital public investments in infrastructure, health, and education, and it deprives individuals of the opportunity to provide a better life for themselves and their families. Corruption discourages investment and destroys public trust, all of which are essential for any nation’s development. Since the establishment of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption in 2003, Honduras, the United States, and 166 other countries have ratified the Convention and committed to its precepts, which serve as the world’s broadest framework for tackling corruption.
One of the best antidotes against corruption is transparency. An assortment of international initiatives is in place to support nations in promoting public sector transparency. In fact, Honduras, along with dozens of other countries, has committed to several of them, including the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, the Construction Sector Transparency Initiative, and the Open Government Partnership. One commitment that is unique is Honduras’ unprecedented agreement with Transparency International signed earlier this year.
Around the world, the success of anti-corruption and transparency efforts depends on the participation of all segments of society. Ensuring that citizens everywhere, as individuals, as journalists, and as representatives of civil society, are able to expose corruption and participate in holding their governments accountable is crucial. President Obama has said that the fight against corruption “is one of the great struggles of our time.” In this particular struggle, everyone must participate.
While transparency is a necessary condition for discouraging corruption, is it not sufficient. It is vital that authorities confront the impunity enjoyed by high-ranking public officials involved in corruption. Too often corrupt officials around the world go unpunished despite the damage their crimes inflict on their fellow citizens. The lack of justice is an injustice to everyone.
The world has come a long way from the days when the payment of bribes was tax-deductible and corruption was excused as an acceptable cultural practice.