The United States has made fighting corruption around the globe a high priority. “We have an interest in reducing poverty and sparking economic growth around the world,” said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, “in creating greater security, prosperity, and even peace. And we know that corruption and the lack of transparency eats away like a cancer at the trust people should have in their government. Corruption stifles entrepreneurship and siphons funding away from critical services.”
American businesses are also less likely to invest in countries where corrupt public officials take advantage of their positions for self-enrichment. And when some multinational companies take advantage of this dynamic to obtain business, it tilts the playing field against U.S. companies and others that act according to a high ethical standard.
In an effort to mobilize a global consensus in support of greater transparency, the U.S. and Brazil launched the Open Government Partnership. It is a network of support for government leaders and citizens working to bring more transparency and accountability to governments. In total, 53 countries and dozens of civil society organizations are taking part and will convene next on April 17-18 at the initiative’s first High Level Summit.
International cooperation to combat corruption takes many forms. Our work to promote implementation of the UN Convention against Corruption, the most comprehensive and globally applicable set of international anticorruption commitments, involves over 150 countries and includes sharing good practices and participating in peer reviews. At the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Colombia and Russia are on the path to becoming full parties to the Anti-bribery Convention.
The United States is encouraging China, India, Indonesia, and Saudi Arabia to join the convention as well. Another mechanism for fighting corruption is the Deauville Partnership, which works with Arab states on anticorruption, open government, and asset recovery efforts.
Modern technology has already provided simple and effective means of cutting down on some forms of corruption. In Afghanistan, for examples, members of the national police force are now being paid by mobile phone instead of in cash, which has cut down markedly on opportunities to exact bribes.
Corruption is part of human nature, but we are now in a position to make even greater progress in the fight to stop it. International cooperation, strong partnerships with civil society around the world, and the skillful use of modern technologies can all play key roles in this effort.