On 30 November, at the 4th High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, a historic moment was seen as government ministers agreed that they would make their aid transparent by 2015.
The run up to the meeting was marked by a number of donors publishing data to the registry of the Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), In addition to this, the US (the worlds biggest donor), Canada, the Inter-American Development Bank and the International Fund for Agriculture and Development signed up to IATI, taking the total number of signatories to 26 or, in monetary terms, over three quarters of international aid flows.
This huge progress could not have happened without the dedication and support of nearly 64,000 people from 218 countries, many of whom are Global Poverty Project supporters who have been campaigning hard on this issue all year.
Before the meeting at which the petition was handed over, jigsaw pieces made from a board identical to that used for the handover were placed around the plenary room, leaving hundreds of country delegates confused and intrigued.
The ‘completed’ jigsaw was then handed over to the Swedish Minister for Development Cooperation at the front of the conference hall.
The pieces were shared out to demonstrate the fact that a small piece of the puzzle (or one bit of aid information) is of little use on its own – it’s only when you have all those pieces together (or all donors’ aid information in one place) that the component parts make sense, gain value, and ultimately become useful.
As aid spending becomes more transparent, we can make sure aid money has the best possible impact, and gets to those who need it most. Aid donors will be able to coordinate with each other, reducing waste and overlap; developing country governments will be able to plan better and citizens will be able to hold their governments to account. More transparency will help reduce corruption too.
Thank you to all our supporters and those across the world who signed the petition and called on governments to make their aid transparent, there has been huge progress made because as Amy Barry, Campaigns Director at Publish What You Fund said: “[The petition] demonstrates the widespread and irrefutable demand from citizens from all over the world for more transparent aid.”
Corruption. It is a one of the biggest barriers to ending extreme poverty and prevents genuine sustainable development. Although it is a worldwide phenomenon, it has a particularly devastating impact on those that are most vulnerable.
In order to access basic services such as security, health, and education, many communities in the developing countries need to rely on the government and public services. Corruption in these public institutions worsens the already heavy economic burden of people with low levels of income and living in extreme poverty. Corruption hinders the ability of the impoverished population to break out of the poverty cycle, and diverts critical resources away from development projects.
Out of all the institutions that were indicated to have been involved in corruption, either through implicit or explicit demands, the law enforcement sector emerged as the most bribery prone sector across Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi and Uganda. As the report concludes, the police and the revenue authorities across the region have dominated the top positions.
It is shocking to think that an institution that is supposed to tackle crime and injustice commits these acts itself. Who then can the people turn to when they encounter unreasonable demands in exchange for public services that they are entitled to?
A more shocking result from the report is the number of cases of corruption that are actually reported. In Tanzania, only 6.9% of the respondents who experienced a bribery demand have reported the cases, and this figure drops to a mere 3.2% in Burundi. It is not surprising given the level of corruption within the law enforcement sector.
Some of the most commonly cited reasons for not reporting cases of corruption are lack of faith in the government to actually react to these reports, lack of knowledge and information as to where and how to report these cases, and fear of intimidation. In such a climate of insecurity and fear, corruption is thus allowed to flourish and continuously erode the potential of both the government and its citizens. The lack of faith in the government is an important social consequence that can severely hinder progress and sustainable development. In addition, donor countries will be more doubtful towards funding development projects in countries with a high prevalence of corruption.
To combat corruption in the public sector, it is critical to ensure the people see reporting corruption as worthwhile. The first step in encouraging people to report cases of corruption is to strengthen the credibility of public institutions. Given the prevalence of corruption in the law enforcement sector, this is an immensely difficult task, but by no means impossible.
Transparency International has published a Working Paper on Making Government Anti-Corruption Hotlines Effective and proposes several strategies for combating corruption. Other than recommending functional and organizational changes, the paper emphasizes on the importance of being able to report cases anonymously and having explicit government support for tackling corruption in the country.
Referring back to the East African Bribery Index, in Uganda 61.1% of people felt that the government is not committed to the fight against corruption. Restoring people’s faith in the government and public institutions is critical.
Corruption can mean the difference between life and death. In a society where services such as security, health care, and education can only be bought with money, corruption has penetrated into every aspect of people’s lives. But by empowering people to stand up against corruption, this is a war we can win.
You can join us and our movement for justice by adding your details to the form below, and we will contact you with actions you can take.
Let me tell you a story about poverty and prosperity.
It begins with a natural resource. A massive opportunity buried, beneath the ground, with the ability to bring huge wealth into a country and allow citizens to secure their own future and fight poverty.
However, too often the wealth generated by the natural resources doesn’t go towards improving the lives of the citizens. Instead meetings take place behind closed doors, and decisions are made out of sight meaning the money goes to only a few, leaving many worse off than before.
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.
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.
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 forwards 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.
And then there's us.
We, the people they represent, need to use our voices in support of the legislation and to let the MEPs know that we support greater transparency in natural resource industries.
Join us in our campaign for justice by writing to your MEP to find out their position on the proposed legislation and help citizens of these countries to secure their own future.
With the bribery act now enshrined in British law, we have "sent a strong message that the UK government does not condone bribery and corruption". However, this message is being undermined by a department within our own government.
Previously, we wrote about the UK government’s Export Credits Guarantee Department, a government department that uses taxpayer money to back exports to the developing world by British companies. When things go wrong, the amount that needs to be paid back becomes debt owed by the developing country to the UK.
To date, this department has generated over 95% of developing country debt to the UK and yet refuses to disclose any details on the source of those debts. To further compound this injustice, the department lacks any effective checks and balances to guarantee their deals are corruption-free, nor do they have a policy of debarring companies found guilty of corrupt activities.
In short – there’s no way for us to know that the ECDG aren’t complicit in fuelling human rights abuses, environmental destruction and exacerbating poverty.
As you can see from the video below, produced by our partners at the Jubilee Debt Campaign, for the launch of their new Clean Up Britain’s Exports website, the ECDG has been popularly renamed as the Department for Dodgy Deals for good reason:
We cannot allow this state of affairs to continue unchecked. No one should have to pay a debt when the lender refuses to explain its origin, for projects that entrench poverty or for crimes against them. Debts such as those for the supply of aircraft and tanks to the oppressive Suharto regime or the construction of a hydroelectric dam built on a known earthquake fault, in a region that often suffers drought are unjust. They must be cancelled and restrictions put in place to avoid such debt being created in the future.
That’s why we’re supporting the campaign being run by the Jubilee Debt Campaign calling for a full, public audit of the debts owed to the ECDG.
Yesterday saw the return of Indian anti-corruption champion Anna Hazare to his home village in Ralegan following his second hunger strike in under a year. Hazare has been hugely successful, forcing both houses of the Indian parliament to promise big changes in India’s fast growing anti-corruption movement.
Four months ago we wrote about Anna Hazare’s demand that the Indian Government pass the Jan Lokpal Bill (People's Ombudsman Bill). The Bill is designed to tackle the rampant corruption in India, which is costing the country billions of dollars and threatening to derail growth by introducing an independent ombudsman with the power to investigate and prosecute all politicians and bureaucrats without requiring government permission.
Following his 98-hour hunger strike in June, the government agreed to the formation of a joint committee to draft the Bill... and now Anna is calling for the bill to be revised after amendments that noticeably excludes the Prime Minister and senior judiciary from its scope.
After months of debate and discussion, the government tabled a bill at the start of this month that only incorporates 34 of the 40 principles set out by Hazare and other activists. Sparking widespread condemnation from millions of activists and supporters, Hazare branding it a “cruel joke” and promised to go on hunger strike again until stronger legislation was introduced.
Within a day of the government’s endorsement of the bill, more than 10,000 people had sent faxes directly to the government demanding a stronger bill through campaigning organisation Avaaz.
On Tuesday, 16 August, Hazare and his team were arrested three hours before he was due to begin the new campaign. Despite being released from judicial detention after 24 hours, they refused to sign the bail bond, which placed strict conditions on Hazare’s ability to proceed with the fast, resulting in their detention at Tihar Jail. After nationwide protests erupted, Hazare was released on Friday 19 August with a police promise that he may fast for 15 days, ending today. Two days ago Anna broke his fast at 12 days after after MPs expressed support for proposed changes to anti-corruption legislation. He was admitted to hospital to rest a recover, and yesterday arrived home on a tour of his home and neighbouring villages amid lively celebrations.
Thousands of supporters joined Hazare in Delhi and across India and many more are showing their support across Mumbai and other cities.
There has, however, been some criticism by influential people of the Jan Lokpal Bill as being the best method to tackle the corruption in India. In an article for The Hindu, Arundhati Roy branded it as draconian, pointing out that, in order to tackle the corruption of one bureaucracy (the State), the Bill proposes to introduce a second massive bureaucracy, centralising the powers of investigation, surveillance and prosecution in the hands of a few chosen people.
This criticism aside, Hazare and his team (or Team Anna as they've become known) have managed to launch a movement across an entire country demanding their government stamp out corruption. We find it inspiring to have seen this movement gather pace at such an incredible speed, and, whilst sending a clear and firm message to their government that the public will not tolerate corruption in the government any longer, remain completely peaceful, and it is this support that has forced the government to concede not to Anna’s demands but those of their people as a whole.
At the Global Poverty Project, we know that corruption is one of the major barriers to seeing an end to poverty, and where it happens it's the poorest people who pay the ultimate price, often with their lives. If we are to see an end to extreme poverty within a lifetime, we must see an end to corruption, and we must see more movements such as this, led by the people themselves demanding their rights.