How is corruption tied to the protection of human rights?
It is widely recognised that there is a clear link between corruption and the enjoyment of human rights and that corruption is one of the biggest impediments for the realization of human rights in many countries.
Just to give a few examples, corruption interferes with political processes, delivery of public services, such as education and access to adequate health care as well as having a negative impact on justice delivery. It is also a highly discriminatory practice where for example poor people and persons in vulnerable positions are often excluded from services they should otherwise have access to.
How big of a problem is corruption globally?
Corruption is a world-wide phenomenon that exists in both the private and public sector, in large scale and in small scale and comes in many different forms.
The first form that comes to mind is bribery.
Some years ago the World Bank estimated the annual figure for bribery in the world to be 1,000,000,000,000. (one trillion USD).
You will find corruption everywhere, but it thrives in societies where there are weak or non-existent checks and balances, poor transparency regarding executive decisions, restricted access to information, weak systems of oversight and enforcements, a controlled media and where the tolerance for corrupt activities is high.
In such societies corruption and a poor human rights record often contribute to mutually reinforce each other, thus creating a viscous circle that is difficult to break. Fighting corruption in such societies can be life threatening and there are ample examples of anti-corruption campaigners and human rights defenders who have paid with their life or have been forced into exile for revealing corrupt practices among public officials.
How can you fight corruption?
Fighting corruption is a difficult and a long-term process, and it requires an integrated and holistic approach. It is for example about developing transparent societies with freedom of information and expression, promoting meaningful public participation in political processes, building justice systems and institutions that are fair, effective and accountable, protecting whistleblowers and educating and creating public awareness about corruption as something that is not tolerated. The UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) provides a good tool for addressing corruption as States Parties are obliged to undertake several anti-corruption measures affecting for example their legal framework and institutional set-up, with a view to promote the prevention, detection and criminal justice responses to corruption.