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f_0018899_16160 - Laurence Cockcroft was a founding board...

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The last 15 years have seen a remarkable change in the perception of corruption at both national and international levels, driv- en in large part by civil society organiza- tions and watchdog groups. In the many countries where corruption is endemic, but where public discussion had been most lim- ited, it has become the focal point of in- creasingly open campaigns by civil society and political parties. In the international arena, a series of conventions at both the global and regional levels have influenced corporate codes of conduct and the agendas of development finance agencies. This in- creased awareness has achieved a notable toughening of anti-corruption legislation in many countries and spurred changes in cor- porate behavior. But these achievements re- main quite modest in relation to the overall scale of the problem. There remains woe- fully inadequate recognition of the ways cor- ruption is intertwined with the larger neces- sities of eliminating poverty, halting climate change, and rebuilding failed states. What anti-corruption measures are now in place need to be vastly extended. Corruption manifests itself in many dif- ferent ways—from the looting of major as- sets to small-scale bribery, to political and party finance, to corruption both by and within multinationals, and to the interface with organized crime. The tales of large- scale looting by the elite of many nations are sadly numerous—an accumulation of huge fortunes by a rogues’ gallery of heads of state, including Abacha of Nigeria ($4 billion), Suharto of Indonesia ($15 billion channeled to his family over 30 years) to Mobutu of Zaire ($4 billion, made and probably lost) and Nazarbayev of Kaza- khstan (up to $1 billion pilfered from national oil revenues for special accounts). But at the other end of the spectrum, even minor acts of corruption—like small personal bribes to police or bureaucrats— can eat away at the fabric of society. While the different forms of corruption may converge in a toxic stew at the national level in scores of countries, the goals of each form are distinct—and each needs to be ap- proached with a different set of solutions. Corruption in political finance has only one objective: the retention of power. The arrival of multi-party states in the post–Cold War world has raised acute problems in political funding, since in only very few cases do such parties have extensive membership structures and, in even fewer cases, are these members able to contribute sufficient fund- ing to finance electoral activities. But the cost of getting elected in a multi-party democracy is often quite high. In contempo- Laurence Cockcroft was a founding board member of Transparency International ( TI ), serving for nine years. He was chair- man of the British chapter of TI from 2000–08 and continues as a member of its board of directors. He is the author of Africa’s Way: A Journey from the Past, ( I. B. Tauris, 1990) .
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