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Corruption is a global problem that destroys trust, undermines development, erodes confidence in democratic institutions and makes way for trans-national criminal activities.
Corruption exists in the private and public sectors, rich and poor countries alike. Ultimately, the citizens suffer the consequences, including higher prices, fewer resources invested in the public sector, exploitative working conditions, pollution, water and power shortages, unsafe medicines and illegal logging.
For 20 years, only the United States made bribery of foreign public officials a crime. The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 outlawed any attempt to secure business by bribing a foreign official or politician.
The U.S. government encouraged other countries to pass and enforce similar laws. An international treaty prohibiting bribing foreign public officials in international business was negotiated under the auspices of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD, an international organization of 30 countries that accept the principles of representative democracy and free-market economy. Today, the treaty has been adopted by all OECD Member States plus 8 other countries.
The broader United Nations Convention Against Corruption -- which includes provisions on matters including domestic corruption prevention and asset recovery -- entered into force in 2005, and has been ratified by 141 nations. These nations will meet in November to consider adopting a process to review how each country is putting the Convention into practice. If designed well, the process will spur reform and help target training and other capacity building.
The legal framework provided by these Conventions is one of the tools governments can use to discourage corruption, including by holding unscrupulous businesses and crooked politicians accountable. In the past 2 years, billions of dollars in fines have been levied on companies for corrupt practices related to bribing foreign officials. In the case of entering the United States, many corrupt foreign officials, and those who pay them off, have had their visas revoked or denied.
Effectively countering corruption requires the combined efforts of the judicial organs, governments, private sector, media and civil society of nations across the globe. As President Barack Obama said in his speech in Ghana, "No person wants to live in a society where the rule of law gives way to the rule of brutality and bribery. That is not democracy, that is tyranny, and now is the time for it to end."