AS we in the Integrity Initiative Inc. (III) have focused on fighting corruption for 18 years now (we started the Integrity Initiative as a cooperation between the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines and the Makati Business Club in 2010), it makes sense to look at the results of the 18th International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) in Copenhagen in October this year.
The IACC, organized by Transparency International, brought together more than 1,800 delegates from civil society, governments, multilateral agencies and the private sector from 144 countries. As an anti-corruption movement, the participants left this conference stronger, more determined and more motivated to take action. The participants see themselves as a global force that will not be silenced.
For three days, ideas and experiences were exchanged. Although there has been progress around the world, participants were deeply concerned that the foundations of democracy and the rule of law are under threat in many countries. Today, the world is witnessing the erosion of good governance and sharp increases in human-rights violations and violence. The role of civil society is also being impeded by repressive governments.
The rise of authoritarianism, in the guise of populist regimes, threatens all those who defend social justice regardless of the country, region or continent. Across the globe, hundreds of activists, investigative journalists and whistleblowers are intimidated, attacked and killed every year simply for doing their jobs: exposing corruption, opposing authoritarianism and speaking truth to power. Recent assassinations of those working to expose corruption and organized crime reminded participants how dangerous investigating corrupt deals has become.
The participants came up with the following declaration:
• This conference has heard many voices from around the world, and we are unanimous in our commitment to collaborate, build coalitions and unite so we can act together to end impunity for the corrupt.
• We recognize that the policies, the laws and conventions to stop corruption exist. Countries and the business community must effectively implement their existing anti-corruption obligations, and must provide the resources needed to enforce anti-corruption laws and allow institutions to operate independently. Now is the time to act.
• Citizens must be empowered to play a significant role in exposing and combating corruption when they encounter it. We must collectively engage and empower communities to deter corruption and hold those in power to account. In order for the fight against corruption to be sustainable, young people must be engaged and empowered.
• As a movement we must protect the space for civil society, protect civil liberties and defend human rights, all under increased attack globally. We call on governments to protect civil society and its role in exposing and confronting corruption and engaging citizens.
• We acknowledge the critical role that activists, investigative journalists and whistle-blowers play in uncovering corruption. Governments and society must protect activists and investigative journalists from intimidation and violence, simply for doing their job of exposing corruption.
• We recognize that gendered corruption, including sextortion, is an aggravated type of corruption that deepens gender inequality, hinders the empowerment of women and constitutes a clear violation of human rights. New and disaggregated data on the impact of corruption on women is urgently needed. Gender perspectives should be mainstreamed in anti-corruption public policy design, implementation and monitoring.
• Money laundering and illicit financial flows fuel environmental crimes, trafficking in drugs, arms and people. We recommend additional measures be taken to prevent the laundering of the proceeds of corruption and stem illicit financial flows, including cross-border collaboration. We have to ensure corrupt individuals cannot hide behind anonymous companies to stash their ill-gotten funds abroad.
• The private sector is an increasingly important and active part in the fight against corruption. While some companies have improved corporate governance and compliance, we urge all companies to take a zero-tolerance policy toward bribery and corruption. The private sector must operate in a more transparent and accountable manner, including publishing the identity of the real beneficial owners of their companies and subsidiaries.
• The Sustainable Development Goals articulate the aspirations of billions of citizens around the planet. Development is inextricably linked to peace. While all 17 Goals are vital, Goal 16, which promotes peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all, and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels, particularly independent judiciary and courts, is a prerequisite for achieving all the other goals.
• Tax evasion robs the treasuries of national governments, undermines sustainable development, penalizes the law abiding and disadvantages the poor. We support the implementation of commitments to prevent tax evasion.
• We recognize the growing erosion of trust in institutions, and the growing cynicism and disillusionment in democratic processes. We shall work harder to ensure that political financing is more accountable, and restore trust in good governance by ending impunity for illicit money in politics. The holding of public office is not a right, it is a privilege. Those that hold public office must hold themselves to a higher standard of conduct, and should be obliged to disclose their financial dealings.”
The government and the people of South Korea will welcome the global anti-corruption movement and will host the 19th IACC in 2020.