A critical step to strengthening democracy in Ukraine and elsewhere is to root out corruption. “Malign actors, like Russia and China, are allying with powerful oligarchs to fight reformists, to twist the law, to rot democracies from within,” warned USAID Administrator Samantha Power in a recent speech to the Democracy in Action: Zero Corruption Conference.
The incredible gains that have been made over the past several years in Ukraine are under threat. Valuable public investments, as well as deeper integration into European markets and systems are being undermined.
President Biden recently issued a presidential memorandum identifying corruption as a core national security priority. The memorandum recognizes that corruption cripples societies, steals from the pockets of taxpaying citizens, breaks down public trust in governing institutions, and undercuts the world's decades-long investments to improve lives.
“That's why anti-corruption is the core goal of USAID's work in Ukraine,” said Administrator Power. Current programs work to digitize public services, foster institutional reform, put government resources in the hands of local officials who will have the best sense of how to administer them equitably or support civil society and media reformers—organizations like the Anti-Corruption Action Center.
Going forward, USAID will stand up an anti-corruption task force to elevate, strengthen, and integrate anti-corruption work throughout the whole agency, drawing on the knowledge of top internal and external experts to counter corruption in Ukraine and beyond.
The Anti-Corruption Task Force will review current USAID programs to identify how foreign assistance can best be put to use to limit and prevent graft. The task force will also lead integration of anti-corruption approaches across USAID’s sectoral programming and establish a rapid response mechanism in order to quickly seize on crucial windows of opportunity for democratic and anti-corruption reform.
President Biden's new budget commits $50 million for this new rapid response effort. The United States looks forward to expanding on these commitments and encouraging other nations to make their own at an upcoming Summit for Democracy chaired by President Biden, which will seek commitments that advance democracy, fight corruption, and protect human rights.
“I want everyone in this forum to know,” said Administrator Power, “the United States stands with you as you bravely work to build a more honest, just, and democratic world. “