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Corruption Undermines Progress

Corruption is universal and pervasive, but it disproportionately impacts the poor, the disadvantaged and women.

Corruption hinders economic growth and distorts competition.

Corruption is the misuse of power and position, often for personal profit. Corruption hinders economic growth and distorts competition. It also adds an extra cost to doing business: according to the World Bank, the annual worldwide $1 trillion estimate of bribery does not include the full extent of corruption from the embezzlement or misuse of public funds. Corruption is universal and pervasive, but it disproportionately impacts the poor, the disadvantaged and women.

This is especially true in the developing world, where money intended to help the neediest never reaches them because of corruption in the system. Corruption blocks their access to education, health care and markets, and access to financial services.

That is why, since 2003, 158 governments have signed the United Nations Convention against Corruption, thus “making commitments to prevent corruption, criminalize corrupt acts, and help recover stolen assets,” said Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in a speech commemorating Anti-corruption Day on December 9.

2011 has been a banner year for the global fight against corruption. In March 2011, President Obama launched the Domestic Finance for Development (DF4D) initiative in El Salvador. The initiative will help developing countries improve tax administration and promote budgetary transparency and anticorruption. The idea is to attract private investment, create jobs, and reduce poverty, and also reduce developing countries’ dependency on foreign assistance.

In May, the 50th Ministerial of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, or O-E-C-D, focused on ways “to use the O-E-C-D Anti-Bribery Convention to reduce corruption—fostering global economic growth while ensuring a level playing field for businesses that play by the rules.

“In September, President Obama and partner nations from around the globe launched the Open Government Partnership, a program that supports national efforts to promote transparency, fight corruption, and empower citizens.”

“From a fruit vendor in Tunisia who inspired a popular uprising, to the daily work of activists from Latin America to Asia, people around the world are showing that they will not accept the corruption that prevents too many from living with dignity and having opportunities to realize their potential,” said Secretary Clinton.

“The events of this past year have reminded us of the difference that ordinary citizens can make. We must continue to draw from their inspiration and stand up for the rights of those who don’t have the opportunity to realize her or his potential. We must strengthen our own commitment as we fight corruption around the world.”