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The fight against corruption matters to the world more than ever

Written by Daniel Bruce on Tuesday, 17 December 2019

If it’s easy, it’s not worth doing, to borrow from the words of former US President Teddy Roosevelt. Nothing could be more true of the global fight against corruption. Its impact both globally and in the UK is so pernicious that at Transparency International UK we believe it is unconscionable to accept it or simply choose to look the other way.

Time and time again, vast sums of money are revealed to have been stolen from some of the world’s poorest countries – from Moldova to South Sudan – depriving citizens of vital services including healthcare and education. In addition, we know that abuse of power through corruption leads to loss of trust in governments. That leads to instability, itself linked to the kind of conflict we currently see around the world.

Corruption becomes deeply embedded, spreading far and wide which means there are no quick wins. It takes time, relentless effort and incremental change to challenge it effectively. That is why we work closely with governments, business and civil society around the world to ensure we approach the problem from every angle.

In the UK, this way of working has led to significant breakthroughs in the fight to stop dirty money. It has included the passing into law and effective use of Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWOs) that have already resulted in assets worth millions of pounds bought with suspicious wealth from Azerbaijan being frozen.

Our advocacy has also played a huge role in the Cayman Islands’ recent decision to commit to revealing the owners of companies registered there. This would end the corporate secrecy, often exploited in Britain’s overseas territories by criminals and the corrupt to hide their illicit wealth in the UK.

The stakes are incredibly high when it comes to tackling corruption globally: 140,000 children a year die as a result of corruption in health care . Yet, for too long it has been the elephant in the room in the health care sector. Transparency International’s Health Initiative is the only organisation which focuses exclusively on corruption in the sector whether it be opaque clinical trials, drug price fixing or bribery.

To ensure our efforts make a real difference, Transparency International works through more than one hundred national chapters that understand the way each country operates and can therefore call for meaningful and effective change. Recently CISLAC, the Nigerian Chapter of Transparency International along with our UK-based Defence and Security Programme highlighted concerns over the spending of government money. As a result, the Nigerian courts have given the greenlight for the President and other senior officials to be sued for failing to disclose how the money was actually spent. It is a first step but a significant one and a sign that change is possible.

With a new government here in the UK, we at Transparency International are looking for an early demonstration that the fight against corruption remains a priority. They could start with the Queen’s Speech this week by including the draft legislation the Government published last year which would reveal the real owners of the overseas companies that hold property in the UK.

There is no question that eliminating corruption is and will continue to be an uphill battle. But to accept the status quo because it is too difficult to do otherwise is a missed opportunity. The solutions are complex, vary significantly from one context to another and take time.

If we simply give up, corruption’s toll on the lives of millions of people around the world will be at stake.

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Read 216 times Last modified on Tuesday, 17 December 2019 09:05
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Daniel Bruce

Daniel joined Transparency International UK as Chief Executive in October 2019. He is an experienced senior leader in international charities, previously serving as Chief Executive of the press freedom and media development organisation Internews.

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