Notes from conversation with tribal elders from Shah Wali Kot District, Kandahar, Afghanistan, 24 May 2009; names withheld for security reasons.
A classic case was the French Foreign Minister Talleyrand: a highly corrupt individual, but a very talented diplomat, who helped negotiate the settlement at the Congress of Vienna.
The G20 has taken up this cause at a high level. It remains for the countries themselves to introduce the legislation and enforce it. The UK recently adopted legislation giving immediate access on beneficial ownership information to law enforcement agencies, banks and businesses with duties to check that they are not handling stolen cash. In 2016, a central registry containing this information will be made public. It is time for more countries to follow suit and for citizens to campaign to ensure that they do.
Money laundering is not just a term used to describe Mafia-style organised crimes. It might be the way your neighbour bought their flat via a secret offshore company, or the cash payments used to purchase a luxury watch. Citizens living in countries on the receiving end of corrupt money need to be part of the fight against grand corruption too. And this is where awareness raising is still in its infancy. We as civil society are calling on governments to put mechanisms in place that prevent dirty cash from entering their countries. But because this type of corruption is not obvious to citizens of dirty money destinations – in fact it can actually add to economic growth – there is still limited will from citizens to pressure their leaders or take action themselves.
To change this, we need help from citizens. They have to use all the tools for fighting corruption outlined above– technology, community actions and mass movements - to demand justice and unmask the corrupt both in the countries where the corrupt money is generated and, just as importantly, in the countries where it ends up.
The problem of corruption around the world is well known. Dictators, arms smugglers and warlords rely on corruption to fund violence against their own populations. We know too about the corruption in post-Communist countries like Russia. It’s not just the corruption in the economy; it’s the corruption of the legal and political systems that sustains it, which is so damaging in so many countries.
US Department of State. 28 July 2015. US NCP Final Statement CED/RELUFA on the Specific Instance between the Center for Environment and Development (CED) with Network to Fight against Hunger (RELUFA) and Herakles Farms’ affiliate SG Sustainable Oils Cameroon (SGSOC) in Cameroon. Available .
OECD. 14 October 2010b. Recommendation of the Council to Facilitate Co-operation between Tax and Other Law Enforcement Authorities to Combat Serious Crimes. Available .
OECD. 1997. Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions. Paris: OECD Publishing. Available .
We need to establish a common vision and a global agenda. The OECD stands ready to play its part and work hard to win the battle against the dark side of our economies by designing, promoting and implementing better anti- corruption policies for better lives.
Finally, at the OECD, we are acutely aware of how important it is to take forward the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda (UN 2015). Addressing corruption is vital in order to successfully achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). While corruption is explicitly mentioned only in Goal 16, it is clear that it cuts across all of the SDGs and will be a major hurdle to achieving them. Corruption has a significant impact on poverty, inequality, hunger, education, the availability of clean water and sanitation, economic growth, industry innovation and infrastructure. It thwarts resource mobilisation and allocation and diverts resources away from sustainable development and from efforts to eradicate poverty. International organisations, including the OECD, must work together to ensure the fight against corruption is made a priority in order to achieve the SDGs. The G20 could take a leading role in this respect.
Corruption is a cancer. At first, it can look small and harmless. Before you know it, it has taken over your entire body. Likewise, the losses from corruption can start small, but in the end the damage is enormous.
In 2015, we saw the emergence of major bribery scandals in sports. Apart from its economic importance, sport plays a major role in holding societies together and we cannot tolerate the ethical breaches that undermine its legitimacy. These scandals illustrate the limits of self-regulation. Global leadership is required in this area. The OECD’s knowledge and experience in lobbying, good public governance, public procurement and fighting corruption mean that the organisation is ready to play a key role on this topic.
We also know that corruption undermines the fight against climate change. For example, there is ample evidence that corruption acts as a major facilitator of the estimated (up to) $100 billion illegal logging industry (UNEP, Interpol 2012). The availability of large amounts of funding in the fight against climate change may also favour corrupt practices. But overall, this is an area that remains relatively unexplored. The OECD is well placed to undertake work in this area in the light of its expertise in environmental issues, trade (including analysis of illicit trade) and fighting corruption.