Corruption is a scourge. It destroys trust, undermines development, erodes confidence in democratic institutions, and hinders economic growth. Ultimately, it’s the citizens who suffer the consequences as prices rise, fewer resources are invested in the public sector, and the environment is degraded.
When most people think of corruption, they picture bribery in exchange for favors, or officials with their hands in the treasury till. But “corruption is no longer just about individual autocrats pilfering their nation’s wealth to live large – it is about their building out an entire system of governance – aided by facilitators beyond their borders,” said USAID Administrator Samantha Power.
“It’s about taking advantage of an opaque global financial system to pillage on a grand, international scale with the help of a new industry of these shadowy facilitators,” she said. “And it’s about using corruption to influence the politics – and the policies – of other countries and to reshape global norms and influence multilateral institutions in a manner that is seen to be serving their interests.”
A corrupt politician who was elected with the help of a powerful neighbor will use his position to create a system of entrenched corruption across entire economic sectors. And as payback, he will grant his benefactors enormous advantages, even allowing them a certain amount of control.
“Systemization, facilitation, instrumentalization of corruption to obtain political benefit abroad – these are the qualities, the faces of modern corruption,” said Administrator Power. “The UN estimates that corruption costs the developing world $1.26 trillion each year, which is a staggering nine times the amount of all the official development assistance provided each year – nine times that amount.”
In response, the United States is altering its approach, to meet the modern faces of corruption.
“First, we want to reduce opportunities for corruption in the first place – both domestic and transnational. Second, where corruption does occur, we want to raise its cost to deter it – including by funding global networks of investigative journalists and activists who can help expose complex, multi-country schemes,” she said. “And third, we want to incentivize good behavior and integrity, so that upstanding public servants are rewarded, and private sector leaders are making decisions that improve anti-corruption efforts rather than exacerbating them.”
Corrupt actors continually evolve their tactics and approaches. To keep pace, we are revamping our toolkit to respond to historic windows of opportunity for uprooting kleptocracy. We invite partnership with all those committed to ensuring that public resources deliver for the public good.