Corruption and poor governance are two of the biggest barriers to ending extreme poverty and stand in the way of progress in the development of all areas mentioned here; preventing funds reaching healthcare and education, limiting individuals abilities to access jobs and social benefits, corroding systems of law and stopping aid working effectively in the poorest parts of the world.
Corruption happens in developed countries as well as the least developed - but corruption in vulnerable communities destroys lives and stops progress.
Corruption erodes the power of ordinary people by diverting resources and decisions away from those who need it, and in many cases, corruption among government officials in developing countries like Nigeria and India can cost the country and the people billions of dollars. For instance in 2004, the World Bank estimated that developing countries in particular lose to up to $100 million every year because of corrupt acts.
Corruption takes many forms. It could be a bribe that must be paid to access basic rights such as food, education, movement or healthcare, it can take the form of discrimination by making certain services only available to a limited group of people, or it could take the form of commercial or political manipulation to benefit a company or individual unfairly. In all and every case, corruption destroys communities, undermines trust in institutions and the law, and strips ordinary people of opportunities they would have had otherwise: jobs, funds, social security, movemment and lawful representation
If governments and companies operated openly, this would allow the people they represent to hold them to account. The money brought in could create jobs, hospitals, schools. We could create a fairer world.
Equatorial Guinea is an example of the problem that exists. It had the 12th highest gross domestic product in the world in 2008, with more than $30,000 per capita.
It also ranked 121st out of 177 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index (a composite of life expectancy, educational attainment and income measurements that attempt to show a more accurate portrayal of someone’s life).
On 25 October, the US Department of Justice filed an asset forfeiture claim against a $30m Malibu house, a $38.5 million Gulfstream jet and other assets owned by Teodorin Obiang, the son of the Equatorial Guinea’s leader, who as a government minister was earning a reported salary of just US$4,000 a month. This sent a clear statement that “the United States will not be a hiding place for the ill-gotten riches of the world’s corrupt leaders”. However, we need to put laws in place to avoid this kind of corruption from occurring in the first place rather than react after the corruption has occurred.
In October 2011, the European Commission made proposals for updating the EU legislation to require greater transparency by oil, gas and mineral companies.
This legislation would be a crucial step forward in fighting corruption, but getting this legislation passed is a tough job. The European Parliament alone consists of 736 MEPs from the 27 member countries. There are lobby groups from the extractive industries pushing hard for the legislation to be watered down.
The returns from the ownership of natural resources in Africa are over $400bn/year, whereas aid to Africa is less than $50bn/year. So this money represents a huge opportunity for ordinary citizens to secure their own future. That opportunity will be missed if they don't have the ability to hold their leaders to account for how that money is spent.