On International Anti-Corruption Day, UNODC highlights damage to development and the environment

9 December 2012 - Corruption is the single greatest obstacle to economic and social development around the world. Today, on International Anti-Corruption Day, the United Nations is driving home the message that corruption perpetuates poverty and keeps millions of people around the world from fulfilling their potential.  The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and UNODC are therefore jointly leading an international campaign called ACT against Corruption to mobilize global support against this pervasive crime.  

Corruption undermines human rights and good governance, stifles economic growth and distorts markets. Every year $1 trillion are paid in bribes while an estimated $2.6 trillion are stolen through corruption - a sum equivalent to more than 5 per cent of the global GDP.  In developing countries, according to UNDP, funds lost to corruption are estimated at 10 times the amount of official development assistance.

"The cost of corruption is measured not just in the billions of dollars of squandered or stolen Government resources, but most poignantly in the absence of the hospitals, schools, clean water, roads and bridges that might have been built with that money and would have certainly changed the fortunes of families and communities," said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the Day.   

In his own statement, UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov, said: "UNODC's response to corruption was founded on the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC)."UNCAC is a blueprint, as well as our hope for a future without corruption."  With 164 States parties, the Convention is close to universal adherence by Member States.

When backhanders determine who is awarded contracts, especially for highly lucrative, large-scale infrastructure projects, the result can be half-built or sub-standard - even dangerous- construction. Roads, bridges, tunnels, perhaps entire communities, are at risk.

Corruption hinders the establishment of small and medium enterprises, which can generate wealth for countries. As business trust is eroded, profits suffer, prices increase and the quality of services falls.  Acting as a hidden "tax", corruption deters investors, which leads to job losses and ultimately keeps a country locked in poverty.  

"The worst consequences of corruption are borne by poor and vulnerable groups. As the poor are more reliant on public services, they are disproportionately harmed by what may be, in financial terms, small-time corruption. Research suggests that poor women are often the worst affected by corruption," said Helen Clark, Administrator of UNDP.

As national health budgets being depleted, Government capacity to provide essential medicines is reduced. At the same time, the risk of fraudulent and substandard medicines on the market increases, causing patients needless suffering, even death.

The world is facing daunting environmental challenges, many exacerbated by corruption. The illegal dumping of hazardous waste into rivers and the illegal trade in animal and plant life is facilitated by bribery. Many protected species are disappearing rapidly, as traffickers often rely on fraudulent paperwork to move parts from endangered species and illegal timber across borders.

Finally, weak governance resulting from corruption can, in turn, fuel organized crime, such as human trafficking, arms and migrant smuggling.

The ACT against Corruption campaign is a global call to action. Find out how to stand up to corruption, mobilize support and get involved through social media. "Taking back what was lost to corrupt practices is everyone's responsibility - governments and civil society organizations, the private sector and the media, the general public, and youth who will play a pivotal role in seeing this agenda through so that their future is built on solid and honest foundations" said Ms. Clark.

Related links:

ACT against Corruption

UNDP transparency and accountability portal http://open.undp.org/