#Decryption – Corruption : still a matter of concern today despite being an old practice

“The republic … corruption undoubtedly seems higher there than in monarchies. This is due to the number and diversity of people who are brought to power.” – Anatole France 

As it has been said last week, former Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa has been sentenced with eight years of prison by the Ecuadorian justice for corruption during his presidential term (2007 to 2017). If South Americas’ countries are well known for having a very high level of corruption, they are, unfortunately, not the only countries facing such troubles. Let’s discuss how corruption has spread around the world, and how governments manage to fight against this scourge. 

Experts highlighted a significant correlation between democratic health and corruption. Indeed, the corruption score – going from 0 to 100 (0 for the less corrupted country and 100 for the most corrupted country) – shows that the more a country has democratic skills, the less corrupt it might be. 

For example, Sweden, seen as the most democratic country of the EU, is rated 85/100 and ranked as the 3rd most democratic state in the world; whereas, Hungary – whose regime got tougher throughout the last years under Viktor Orbán’s presidency – obtains a 46/100 score. Nevertheless, in terms of corruption. Bad kids mostly remain Southern countries, mainly African and south east Asian states which respectively record a 32/100 and 35/100 average. However, numerous tools have been developed and put up together – both at national and supranational levels.

Source: Global corruption index of 2018, Transparency International

What exactly is corruption ? 

The CPI (Corruption perceptions index) defines corruption as “the misuse of public power for private benefit”, which means corruption would be running essentially among public affairs, but the truth, is that corruption is mainly an issue when it is held inside public affairs. Lately, an investigation on the 100 days’ program of Felix Tschisekedi – President of Congo – has enlightened a real “Pandora’s box” of corruption in the country. Indeed, banks have been part in corruption affairs, by being involved in embezzlement of public funds, money-laundering, influence peddling etc. However, public affairs are not the only branch which has experienced corruption around the world. For example, in the sport community, corruption can also be used as a tool to gain more influence and power. “When I was at the 2009 Open Australia, I’ve been offered 100 000 dollars in exchange of losing against Arnaud Clément” claims Sergey Stakhovsky during an interview for the Ukrainian TV. 

From the dawn of civilisation to modern days 

In Ancient Cities as well as un Athens or Ancient Rome, during the Middle Ages period, throughout the Renaissance and the Old Regime, corruption has always meddled in the political, economic, and judicial systems. If it has always been part of the intern function of all societies – in any and many forms – the interest for corruption is quite young. The first turning point would be the Watergate scandal which has encouraged researches and enquiries on the subject. One more? The Eastern bloc collapse in the early 90’, which has urged the international community to bring up this worldwide issue. It started with observations and statements, thanks to freshly introduced analysis tools allowing searchers to understand and explain in numerous articles the damaging effects of corruption. Indeed, it has been understood quite quickly that corruption was responsible of many harmful effects, notably on the political level: “Corruption is responsible of many important transformations in the political system” (Porta Delta Domatella). Moreover, corruption does not have a long term positive effect on politicians, especially because it takes a significant part in the increasing lack of confidence citizens have for politicians, governments, and more generally international institutions, and hence, discourage people to take part in politics. 

The impacts of corruption 

On the economic level, corruption remains a burden for the poorest, especially because of the rising gap that separate rich and poor people which is notably a consequence of bribery. Besides, corruption encourages governments or politicians to support multinational corporations against local industries and shops, which tends to impoverish local populations. In other words, corruption remains one of the main factors of the continuous increasing wealth gap between rich and poor people, which is responsible of new conflicts, oppositions, and social inequalities. 

Not only corruption affects the political and economic world, but it also has an impact on the judicial level. Indeed, the ULCC (Unité de Lutte Contre la Corruption) claims that the judicial system’ effectiveness is highly jeopardised by corruption. Transparency International defines corruption in the judicial system as “Acts or omissions which constitute a use of public authority for the private benefit of the judicial officials and which lead to an unfair and incorrect pronouncement of judicial decisions. These acts and omissions include bribery, extortion, intimidation, trading in influence and abuse of court proceedings for the purpose of personal gain.” The global coalition against corruption also alerts on the fact that “Judicial corruption means the voice of the innocent goes unheard, while the guilty act with impunity.” and that “everyone loses when justice is corrupted, in particular the poor, who are forced to pay bribes they cannot afford.” 

Logo of the International anti-corruption day

Fighting corruption 

Therefore, in the late 90’, a worldwide consensus appeared: corruption, must be curbed in a way to be easily eradicated, because of its power of jeopardising government functioning and performance. In 1997, the anti-corruption agreement of the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and development) has been signed and ratified by 40 countries. In 2005, the United Nations have also produced an anti-corruption agreement which has also been ratified by 140 countries. Moreover, in May 1999, the GRECO (The Group of States against Corruption) was created by the European Council in order to help countries to fight against corruption. The organisation gathers 45 European countries and the United States of America. Since its creation, the GRECO made up a few recommendations, especially on ethics code for public officials, and common rules against corruption in political party funding and electoral campaigns. 

“Many countries’ empirical studies have confirmed corruption’s negative impact on economic growth and governance efficiency, but these researches have in any way found the solution to help developing anti-corruption strategies” Rose-Ackerman explains. Therefore, if the observation is consensual, the solutions to fight against corruption remain sparse, and more or less efficient for now. 

In France, the HATVP (Haute Autorité pour la Transparence de la Vie Publique) has been introduced in 2013. Its main assignment remains the control of financial disclosures and declaration of interests of public officials and public leaders. It can also be consulted by the latter in a way for them to ask about professional ethics and conflict of interests. Nevertheless, in January 2020, the GRECO (The Group of States against Corruption) highlighted the lingering of “grey zones” in the corruption struggle, and emphasise on the effort that European countries need to make in the way to fight bribery among the European nations.

The key word: transparency 

“More transparency is required”, especially among the President’s cabinet, the GRECO claims. Indeed, a detection plan against corruption amonthe government has been set up lately in France, but the latter does not include the President. Thus, in the way to prevent any possible conflict of interest, the President’s declaration of assets and interest should be investigated as soon as he entered his function – urge the GRECO. Concerning the Judicial world, Transparency International also recommends more transparency in “judicial and prosecutorial appointments”, which need to be totally independent of the executive and legislative branches. They also militate for an open journalist speech “reporting reliable information on laws”; but above all, they emphasise on the power civil society can have in the field, by “monitoring and commenting on the selection of judges, judicial codes of conduct and the discipline of judges, how courts handle cases and how judges make decisions”. 

Kurt Cobain was maybe right; “The duty of youth is to challenge corruption”. The matter of corruption is a matter all, and the fact that corruption is an old scourge does not mean our generation cannot tackle the issue and bring up more and more solutions to fight against it.


Ambre Mathieu  

Press Team 



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