By Kaelyn Vitale
According to Transparency International’s 2019 Latin America Barometer, 77% of survey respondents in Latin America and the Caribbean are ready and willing to tackle corruption. In Panama, Guyana, Brazil, Costa Rica, and the Bahamas, over 80% believed that ordinary citizens can make a difference in fighting corruption. They are right.
Fighting corruption fairly and systematically can be tricky in places where the rules are not set to benefit many groups of people and where those in power can be corrupt. While governments should be the primary actors in fighting corruption, individuals have a significant role to play to encourage governments down that path.
Individual choices can help move a community away from or toward corrupt behaviors. Choosing to educate yourself about corruption, deciding to commit to transparency in your own life, and making a commitment to fight against corruption every day of the year can help push out corruption.
Choose to learn about corruption
Corruption has political, economic, social and environmental impacts. Corruption poses a significant obstacle to the rule of law and can damage people’s faith in democratic systems. Corruption threatens the economy by discouraging investment and trade. It hinders the development of a fair market, distorts competition, deters investment and increases the cost of doing business. It also disproportionately affects disadvantaged groups by preventing social inclusion, promoting inequality and inhibiting prosperity. Lastly, corruption can lead to environmental degradation, as corrupt individuals can carelessly ignore regulations and exploit natural resources.
Types of corruption can include the misuse of public funds, buying votes or getting unfair access. It is crucial to understand the different kinds of corruption so you can recognize it when it occurs and say no to it. Corruption often hides behind innuendo. “Grease payments,” “consulting fees,” “tokens of appreciation,” “advisory service fees,” “facilitation payments,” “tips” and “gifts” are all phrases that work to legitimize the practice of corruption.
Choose to say no to corruption in your life
Saying no to corruption requires patience. Do not attempt to skip lines by paying a small fee. Do not solicit others to perform illegal work or look the other way when it is being done. This might make certain actions more trying in the short-term, but a change in the long-term requires patience.
If you own or operate an organization, there are many ways you can showcase zero-tolerance toward corrupt behavior. First, create and enforce your business’s Code of Conduct that adheres to rules of fair competition. Make sure your employees are educated about your company’s policy toward bribes, whistleblowing, and other related issues. Introduce different “anti-corruption” strategies into the work culture by illustrating ethical leadership and fostering a can-do mindset among your employees to practice integrity. Lastly, make the YLAI Responsible Business Promise and commit to standing against corruption in your country.
Choose to fight corruption every day of the year
Inform yourself about what your government has pledged to do to fight corruption and what formal and informal processes are in place for monitoring and reporting corruption. Learn about anti-corruption efforts in your country here.
When you notice corrupt practices, disclose it to the necessary institutions. If the institutions are not in a position to act, bring the issue directly to the public. Social media can allow people from all over to come together and fight against corruption.
Whether you are in the public or private sectors, are a member of a trade union or the media, you have a unique role to play every day. Learn about the different ways you can fight corruption every day from the United Nations’ Call to Action Matrix (Espanol, French).
You can help build the foundations of accountability and transparency in your own country by fighting against corruption whenever and wherever it arises. Your actions and commitment to anti-corruption can cascade as others around you are inspired to take up the fight.
On December 9, we’re asking our Network members to stand with us as we honor International Anti-Corruption Day, a day dedicated to upholding ethics and transparency. Responsibility and integrity start with us!
Kaelyn Vitale is a YLAI Network Intern for Fall 2019. She is a master’s candidate at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, where she majors in Security and Intelligence Studies. Her graduate capstone project focuses on good governance and anti-corruption legislation in Central America.