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Battling Kleptocracy

One of the greatest threats to a country's successful development is corruption by senior government officials, or kleptocracy. This insidious practice impedes efforts to promote democracy, end poverty, and combat international crime and terrorism. "Kleptocracy," said President George W. Bush, "undermines faith in government institutions and steals prosperity from the people."

In order to fight high-level corruption by public officials, the U.S. has launched an initiative to internationalize efforts against kleptocracy. This year, the Group of Eight partners pledged to work together to fight high-level corruption. The strategy will bring together major financial centers around the world to deny a safe haven to the proceeds of corruption and return the illicitly acquired assets. Using existing international agreements and frameworks, including the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, corrupt officials will be denied entry to the U.S. and its partner countries.

This is not a simple problem to solve. The culture of kleptocracy is deeply imbedded in many countries. Transparency International, a non-governmental organization, ranks countries according to their degree of government corruption. Not surprisingly, the least democratic countries in the world suffer the most from serious corruption. To cite two examples, Turkmenistan and Burma rank near the bottom of the list.

The bottom line is that in countries where the government is not accountable to the people, corruption tends to flourish. The U.S. objective is to reduce high-level corruption and deny officials the means to hide their ill-gotten gains. The U.S. will work with its partners to deny safe haven to kleptocrats, those who bribe them, and their ill-gotten proceeds. "Together," said President Bush, "we can confront kleptocracy and help create the conditions necessary for people everywhere to enjoy the full benefits of honest, just and accountable government."

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.