It is my honor and great pleasure in sharing knowledge on “Nation Building” through a series of articles with the esteemed readers of the Global New Light of Myanmar in the past few weeks.
Being a Myanmar Foreign Service officer, I had been posted to a number of foreign countries and have had the opportunity to witness the anticorruption drive and the endeavor for the rule of law in their own suitable model and mechanism in all the countries that I had stationed.
Again, it is my delight in sharing knowledge on the general concept of “Anticorruption Drive” and the maneuver of “the Rule of Law” with the esteemed readers.
Corruption is a paradigm of the destructive side of human nature.
Corruption is a form of dishonest or unethical conduct by a person entrusted with a position of authority, often to acquire personal benefit. Corruption may include many activities including bribery and embezzlement, though it may also involve practices that are legal in many countries. Government, or ‘political’, corruption occurs when an office-holder or other governmental employee acts in an official capacity for personal gain.
The word corrupt when used as an adjective literally means “utterly broken”. The word was first used by Aristotle and later by Cicero who added the terms bribe and abandonment of good habits.
Stephen D. Morris, a professor of politics and the author of “Political Corruption in Mexico” writes that political corruption is the illegitimate use of public power to benefit a private interest.
Economist Ian Senior, Consultant of UK, defines corruption as an action to (a) secretly provide (b) a good or a service to a third party (c) so that he or she can influence certain actions which (d) benefit the corrupt, a third party, or both (e) in which the corrupt agent has authority.
Daniel Kaufmann is the president of the Natural Resource Governance Institute, formerly the Revenue Watch Institute – Natural Resource Charter. Previously he was a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. He extends the concept to include “legal corruption” in which power is abused within the confines of the law – – as those with power often have the ability to make laws for their own protection.
How do we define corruption?
Generally speaking it is to be dubbed as “the abuse of entrusted power for private gain”. Corruption can be classified as grand, petty and political, depending on the amounts of money lost and the sector where it occurs.
Grand corruption consists of acts committed at a high level of government that distort, deform and disfigure policies or the central functioning of the state. At such situation, it enables leaders to benefit at the expense of the public budget or tax.
Petty corruption refers to everyday abuse of entrusted power by low-level and mid-level public officials in their interactions with ordinary citizens. In day-to-day activities, people often are trying to access basic goods or simple services in places like hospitals, schools, police departments and other agencies.
Political corruption is the exploitation and manipulation of policies, institutions and rules of procedure in the allocation of resources and financing by political decision makers, who abuse their position to sustain their power, status and wealth.
What is transparency?
Transparency is about shedding light or making public on rules, plans, processes and actions. It is to let the people know why, how, what, and how much. Transparency ensures that public officials, civil servants, managers, board members and business people act visibly and understandably. They are to report on their activities to the relevant authorities. It means that the general public can hold them for accountability and responsibility. It is the surest way of guarding against corruption. It also helps increase trust in the people and institutions on which our futures depend.
What are the costs of corruption?
Corruption brings negative impacts to societies in a multitude of ways. In the worst cases, it costs lives – perhaps in hundreds. Short of this, it costs people their freedom, health or money. The cost of corruption can be divided into four main categories namely (1) political, (2) economic, (3) social, and (4) environment.
On the political front, corruption is a major obstacle to democracy. It is also against the rule of law. In a democratic system, offices and institutions lose their legitimacy when they are misused for private advantage. This is harmful in established democracies, but even more so in newly emerging ones. It is extremely challenging to develop accountability on political leadership in a corrupt climate.
In term of economic, corruption depletes national wealth. Corrupt politicians invest scarce public resources in hidden projects that will line into their pockets rather than benefit communities. It prioritize high-profile projects such as dams, power plants, pipelines and refineries over less spectacular but more urgent infrastructure projects such as schools, hospitals and roads. Corruption also hinders the development of fair market structures and distorts competition. On the other hand, it deters investment.
On the social front, corruption corrodes the civic fabric of society. It undermines people’s trust in the political system, in its institutions and its leadership. A distrustful or apathetic public can then become yet another hurdle to challenging corruption.
In the environmental front, degradation is another consequence of corrupt systems. The lack of relevant laws or non-enforcement of environmental regulations and legislation means that precious natural resources are carelessly exploited, and entire ecological systems are ravaged and destroyed. From mining, to logging, to carbon offsets, greedy companies across the globe continue to pay bribes in return for unrestricted destruction.
What should we do to fight Corruption?
Generally, there are three guiding principles such as (1) build partnerships, (2) move ahead step-by-step and (3) stay non-confrontational. Researchers have learned from experience that corruption can only be kept in check and control if representatives from government, business and civil society work together in unison to develop standards and procedures they all support. People also know that corruption cannot be rooted out in one big sweep. It takes time. With much patience, it needs fighting it through a step-by-step and project-by-project process. The non-confrontational approach is necessary to get all relevant parties around the negotiating table.
What is Bribery?
Bribery is the offering, promising, giving, accepting or soliciting of an advantage as an inducement for an action which is illegal, unethical or a breach of trust. Inducements can take the form of gifts, loans, fees, rewards or other advantages such as taxes, services, donations, and favors etc.
Why it is highly important?
Anticorruption drive goes beyond the domestic jurisdiction of a nation.
Governments need to take effective action in the fight against international bribery both at the national level and through international groups including the G20, European Union, UN and the OECD.
The G20, also known as the Group of 20 is a bloc of developing nations established on 20 August 2003. Distinct and separate from the G-20 major economies, the group emerged at the 5th Ministerial WTO conference, held in Cancún, Mexico, from 10 September to 14 September 2003. The World Trade Organization (WTO) is an intergovernmental organization which regulates international trade. The G-20 accounts for 60% of the world’s population, 70% of its farmers and 26% of world’s agricultural exports.
The European Union (EU) is a politico-economic union of 28 member states that are located primarily in Europe. The EU operates through a system of supranational institutions and intergovernmental negotiated decisions by the member states. Supranational is an international organization, or union, whereby member states transcend national boundaries
or interests to share in the decision-making and vote on issues pertaining to the wider grouping.
The mission of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is to promote policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world.
The OECD provides a forum in which governments can work together to share experiences and seek solutions to common problems. It works with governments to understand what drives economic, social and environmental change. It also measures productivity and global flows of trade and investment. The body analyses and compares data to predict future trends. It set international standards on a wide range of things, from agriculture and tax to the safety of chemicals.
All national legislation should outlaw bribery between firms that deal with the government sector and private sector. Governments should fully implement and enforce laws criminalizing foreign bribery and prohibiting off book accounts – – payment or receipt of money for which no official record is kept – – in accordance with the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention and the UNCAC.
The UNCAC (United Nations Convention against Corruption) is a multilateral convention negotiated by members of the United Nations. It is the first global legally binding international anti-corruption instrument.
It is to report regularly on the enforcement of these laws to the relevant bodies.
What is the Rule of law?
Derived from internationally accepted standards, the World Justice Project’s definition of the rule of law is a system in which the following four universal principles are upheld.
1. The government and its officials and agents as well as individuals and private entities are accountable under the law.
2. The laws are clear, publicized, stable, and just; are applied evenly; and protect fundamental rights, including the security of persons and property.
3. The process by which the laws are enacted, administered, and enforced is accessible, fair, and efficient.
4. Justice is delivered timely by competent, ethical, and independent representatives and neutrals that are of sufficient number, have adequate resources, and reflect the makeup of the communities they serve.
These four universal principles are further developed in the following nine factors of the WJP Rule of Law Index, which measures how the rule of law is experienced by ordinary people in 99 countries around the globe.
Constraints on Government Powers: Factor 1 measures the extent to which those who govern are bound by law. It comprises the means, both constitutional and institutional, by which the powers of the government and its officials.
Absence of Corruption: Factor 2 measures the absence of corruption in a number of government agencies. The factor considers three forms of corruption namely bribery, improper influence by public or private interests.
Open Government: Factor 3 is about government openness. The World Justice Project (WJP) Open Government Index 2015 is the first effort to measure government openness based on the general public’s experiences and perceptions worldwide. The Index presents aggregated scores and rankings as well as individual scores for each of the following dimensions of government openness uh as (a) publicized laws and government data, (b) right to information, (c) civic participation, and (d) complaint mechanisms.
Fundamental Rights: Factor 4 measures the protection of fundamental human rights.
Order and Security: Factor 5 measures how well the society assures the security of persons and property. Security is one of the defining aspects of any rule of law society and a fundamental function of the state.
Regulatory Enforcement: Factor 6 measures the extent to which regulations are fairly and effectively implemented and enforced. Regulations include legal and administrative, its structure and behaviors within and outside.
“Corruption is a form of dishonest or unethical conduct by a person entrusted with a position of authority, often to acquire personal benefit. Corruption may include many activities including bribery and embezzlement, though it may also involve practices that are legal in many countries. Government, or ‘political’, corruption occurs when an office-holder or other governmental employee acts in an official capacity for personal gain.”
Civil Justice: Factor 7 measures whether ordinary people can resolve their grievances peacefully and effectively through the civil justice system. The delivery of effective civil justice requires that the system be (1) accessible and affordable; (2) free of discrimination; (3) free of corruption; (4) without improper influence by public officials; (5) The delivery of effective civil justice also necessitates that court proceedings are conducted in a timely manner and not subject to unreasonable delays; (6) Finally, recognizing the value of Alternative Dispute Resolution mechanisms (ADRs), this factor also measures the accessibility, impartiality; and (7) efficiency of mediation and arbitration systems that enable parties to resolve civil disputes of effective civil justice requires that the system.
Criminal Justice: Factor 8 evaluates the criminal justice system. An effective criminal justice system is a key aspect of the rule of law, as it constitutes the conventional mechanism to redress grievances.
Informal Justice: Finally, Factor 9 concerns the role played in many countries by customary and ‘informal’ systems of justice – including traditional, tribal, and religious courts, and community-based systems – in resolving disputes. These systems often play a large role in cultures in which formal legal institutions fail to provide effective remedies for large segments of the population, or when formal institutions are perceived as remote, corrupt, or ineffective. This factor covers three concepts: (1) whether these dispute resolution systems are timely and effective; (2) whether they are impartial and free of improper influence; and (3) the extent to which these systems respect and protect fundamental rights.
Legal and political systems, structures and practices that condition a government’s actions to protect citizens’ rights and liberties, maintain law and order, and encourage the effective functioning of the country.
Making a disclosure in the public interest by an employee, director or external person, in an attempt to reveal neglect or abuses within the activities of an organisation, government body or company (or one of its business partners) that threaten public interest, its integrity and reputation.
The term in English is largely positive although many languages lack a similar concept with the same connotation.
Why it matters
Companies and organisations should empower whistleblowers who experience or witness bribery and corruption through effective whistleblower policies and procedures.
Roqué Gonzalez* lives in an isolated indigenous community in Argentina without roads, electricity or running water. One of the biggest barriers its people face to overcoming such hardships is identity – they are not recognised as citizens.
Without official documents proving citizenship, indigenous people are unable to vote and are deprived of social benefits and basic services, such as healthcare and education. Cut off by geography, language and illiteracy, the people in Roqué’s community have had scant contact with the authorities and know little about their rights and entitlements.
By raising awareness about why citizenship matters and assisting with the application process, we’re helping them and other indigenous communities in the country to achieve full citizenship and access the government support they’ve long been missing. In the first six months of 2012 alone, more than 100 people were able to obtain identification cards from the Ministry of the Interior.
Gaining citizenship has an immediate impact on a family’s well-being. With the correct documentation, for example, mothers can access the government’s child benefit programme, which helps pay for their children’s schooling and healthcare. We are also calling on the government to officially recognise the community as a whole. Such recognition would see the community qualify for state programmes that support indigenous people, including much-needed investment in infrastructure and public services.
“Being documented means our communities now have access to the same assistance as urban residents,” says Roqué. He is one of a growing number of people who now know that documentation – and more importantly, identity – paves the way for greater accountability and a fairer society.
* Names have been changed
On the evening of 9 June 2010, the people of the Southern Brazilian state Paraná took to the streets. 30,000 residents stood in the cold air that night, in protests that covered 15 cities. Some held signs calling for greater transparency, others waved state flags and chanted to the music of a local band. Some were dressed in costume, others sang the national anthem. With the noise of the protesters behind him, one student demonstrator told a reporter “[This day] will truly be a milestone to start changing the history of Paraná.”
They were demonstrating in response to the Diarios Secretos, or Secret Diaries, a ground-breaking investigative journalism project led by four Brazilian journalists – James Alberti, Katia Brembatti, Karlos Kohlbach and Gabriel Tabatcheik – that led to the biggest-ever scandal at Paraná’s legislative assembly.
(To be continued)