Corruption Is the Cancer
EU USA Ukraine Russia
BSSB.BE huffingtonpost.co.uk 09.06.2015
In the last fortnight we have seen the stark truth about Fifa. The body governing the game that means so much to so many around the world has faced appalling allegations that suggest it is absolutely riddled with corruption. Blatter’s resignation this week is the first step on a long road to reform and we will do everything we can, together with our international partners, to help identify and prosecute anyone guilty of wrongdoing and to clean up the game we love.
But at the heart of Fifa is a lesson about tackling corruption that goes far deeper. Corruption at Fifa was not a surprise. For years it lined the pockets of those on the inside and was met with little more than a reluctant sigh. The world shied away from taking on the problem, until some brave British journalists and American lawyers showed that things really could change.
The same is true of corruption the world over. Just as with Fifa, we know the problem is there, but there is something of an international taboo over pointing the finger and stirring up concerns. At international Summits, leaders meet to talk about aid, to discuss how to grow our economies and how to keep our people safe. But we just don’t talk enough about corruption. This has got to change.
Corruption is the cancer at the heart of so many of the problems we face around the world today. The migrants drowning in the Mediterranean are fleeing from corrupt African states. Our efforts to address global poverty are too often undermined by corrupt governments preventing people getting the revenues and benefits of growth that are rightfully theirs. Corruption undermines the wider global economy too. The World Economic Forum estimates that corruption adds 10% to business costs globally, while the World Bank believes some $1trillion is paid in bribes every year. Cutting corruption by just 10% could benefit the global economy by $380billion every year – substantially more than was estimated for the Doha Trade Round. While corruption costs the EU economy alone €120billion every year.
Corruption doesn’t just threaten our prosperity, it also undermines our security. Whether it is the abduction of schoolgirls in Nigeria or the recruitment of fighters to the Taliban and Islamic State, time and again ordinary people are drawn to extremist groups partly as a reaction to the oppression and corruption of their own governments.
World leaders simply cannot dodge this issue any longer. We have to show some of the same courage that exposed Fifa and break the taboo on talking about corruption. I will start tomorrow at the G7 in Germany and I will put corruption at the heart of my agenda at the United Nations in September and the G20 in Turkey, culminating with a major anti-corruption Summit in London next year.
Of course there will be some who will be sceptical and say it is all too difficult. But I believe we should draw confidence from what we have already achieved. When we began the Open Government Partnership, many doubted that it would amount to much. But today 65 countries have made over 2,000 specific commitments on openness and transparency – from pioneering citizens’ budgets in Liberia to letting the public audit major government projects in the Philippines.
When I put tax, trade and transparency on the G8 agenda for Lough Erne two years ago some said we would never get agreement on a global standard for the automatic exchange of information over who pays taxes where. But today over 90 countries have agreed to share their tax information automatically by the end of 2018, meaning more people will pay the tax that is due.
While there is further to go, Britain has also taken important steps in practising what we preach. Last December we published our first comprehensive national Anti-Corruption Plan, which Eric Pickles will help take forwards as my anti-corruption champion. We are establishing a dedicated team of National Crime Agency investigators to pursue overseas corruption and we are strengthening our ability to prosecute professional advisers who facilitate corruption. We were recently judged by the OECD to be one of only four countries globally which actively pursues bribery of foreign public officials. We continue to lead the world on open data and transparency and next year we will be the first major country to establish a public central registry of who really owns companies. This is a ground-breaking step in countering money laundering and corruption – and I will continue to press our overseas territories and crown dependencies to follow our lead.
So now is the time to build on these foundations. Just as we take the bold step to put fighting corruption at the heart of our international dialogue, so we also need to put fighting corruption at the heart of our international institutions. We need to find ways of giving more support and encouragement to those in business, civil society and the media who are working to fight corruption – including by expanding the use of open data globally, something that could also play a crucial role in cleaning up football. We need to do more to make the global business environment more hostile to corruption and to support the investigators and prosecutors who can help bring the perpetrators to justice.
We also need to secure a fundamental change in the way we tackle global poverty. As co-chair of the UN High Level Panel I fought hard to put good governance at the heart of the replacement for the Millennium Development Goals. It took months of negotiation, but there is now a clear international consensus for an explicit target on reducing corruption and bribery. If we can galvanise the world to meet it, we really could achieve our ambition of eliminating extreme poverty by 2030.
The world of football is beginning a long road to rid itself of corruption and it will take time, courage and determination to see through the reforms that Fifa needs. I believe world leaders must show the same courage and determination to begin a long battle against the corruption that threatens our security and prosperity across the world. That will be my mission tomorrow at the G7 and in the months and years ahead.
David Cameron is the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom