News 15th Dec 2020

From promise to practice to impact

Roberta Falvo

Project Officer

Roberta is the Project Officer of the ‘Promise to Practice’ project, which tracks and advocates for the completion of anti-corruption commitments that various governments made at the 2016 London Anti-Corruption Summit. She is responsible for keeping the global pledge tracker up-to-date, which allows her to collaborate with TI Chapters all over the world. Roberta is originally from the South of Italy, where she first developed an understanding of corruption and its complexity.

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In times of crisis, monitoring helps keep the focus on implementation and enforcement of anti-corruption commitments

 

As the new US administration plans a Summit for Democracy next year, the London Anti-Corruption Summit in 2016 offers an example of what can be achieved when a large number of countries convene to discuss what they can do nationally and internationally to fight corruption. For some of the countries that attended, a forum to publicly affirm their anti-corruption commitments has introduced some much needed transparency and accountability. Not only are the London Summit’s commitments as relevant as ever, but they also present an opportunity for many governments to build fruitful interactions with citizens and civil societies groups. 

With 43 countries represented, 11 Heads of Government in attendance, over 600 country commitments made, the Summit put anti-corruption at the heart of a global agenda. And that’s how the Global Anti-Corruption Pledge Tracker was born, a collaboration with TI chapters and partners all around the world, based on monitoring publicly available evidence of progress, in an effort to encourage each government department to proactively account for their anti-corruption efforts. 

The continued relevance of these pledges is evident from the overall trend over the past two years, which highlights a gradual progress towards greater implementation. There has been an increase of 18% of commitments in play[1], from 60% in October 2018 to 77% in October 2020. 

 

 

Commitments in a time of crisis – procurement in the time of COVID 

Over the past four years, the world has been shaken by several economic, social and climate crises, and most recently the global health crisis arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. All have showed us the importance of, and the urgent need for, transparent and accountable systems in building a fair and equitable world, free from corruption.  

The response to COVID-19 has in many cases slowed down progress on the Summit commitments, the pandemic has however also highlighted the importance of implementing pledges that would help track red flags of corruption risks and protect whistleblowers who speak up. Tools like our Anti-Corruption Pledge Tracker support governments and civil society in remembering what the anti-corruption mission in their countries looked like before the pandemic, and how it evolved over the past year. For example, what did the public procurement system look like before the introduction of emergency procurement procedures?  

 

Legislative change versus implementation – the case of Asset Recovery  

The first step to creating accountable and transparent systems capable of uncovering and minimising corruption is often laying an effective legislative framework. An example of this was the pledge made by many governments on asset recovery. At the time of the Summit, many countries lacked important laws and definitions that would allow them to recover stolen assets to return to countries and victims of corruption. After four years, we see that 100% of commitments on strengthening asset recovery legislations are in play – that is they are either complete or have seen progress over the past six months. Yet, legislative reform is often recognised as only a short-term outcome, and it does not automatically translate into implementation and enforcement. Some countries have gone on to create asset recovery agencies, such as in Afghanistan and Nigeria, while others are further strengthening the use of Non-Conviction Based Confiscation powers, like the United Kingdom. Meanwhile, countries like South Korea are trying to refocus asset recovery on victims’ compensation. The coming years will be key to understanding if legislative change has brought improvements in the rates of asset recovery regime nationally and internationally - medium and long-term outcomes - this was only the start! 

 

Interoperability – Beneficial Ownership Transparency vs. Property and public contracting  

Finally, on interoperability, i.e. when applying beneficial ownership transparency regimes to monitor property ownership or purchases and transparent public procurement, progress has stalled. Specifically, in our October 2020 update, 67% of commitments on ensuring transparency of ownership in property purchase and 75% of commitments on ensuring transparency of ownership in public procurement are out of play[2]Is simply having a law on beneficial ownership and a central register enough to uncover illicit finance, conflicts of interest and misuse of public resources? The purpose of a central, public register where the information is up-to-date and verified is that it can then be used when matching this data with e-procurement systems and property registers. Pledges relating to beneficial ownership transparency and transparent public procurement should therefore progress simultaneously to ensure a robust anti-corruption system - and this is what our pledge tracker shows needs to be the focus of future governments’ efforts.   

 

What’s next?  

The London Summit was a milestone to build awareness of anti-corruption globally. Monitoring its progress was an opportunity for governments and civil societies to collaborate and create the effective legislative frameworks. Now, governments, multilaterals, civil societies and citizens should all focus on what should be done to make these systems and collaboration work. From the G7 and G20 to climate and democracy, global alliances and summitry may be back in vogue in 2021, they too will want to show progress arising from all the grand statements - tools like our pledge tracker offer some helpful insights to guide this journey.   

 

[1] In Play – refers to ‘active’ commitments: those marked as Complete, Ongoing or Underway, which means they have seen progress over the past six months. 

[2] Out of Play – refers to ‘inactive’ commitments: those marked as No Data, Inactive, Overdue or Dropped, which means they have not seen any progress over the past six months or more.