30 October 2018 - Thomas Jefferson, Founding Father and third President of the United States of America, wrote copiously about good governance and what it takes to make society viable at every level. Like many political and sociological thinkers, he considered corruption to be one of the great dangers facing democracy and warned of the abuse of power and its inevitable repercussions: "Our country is now taking a steady course as to show by what road it will pass to destruction, to wit: by consolidation of power first, and then corruption, its necessary consequence."
Even before his time, history had provided innumerable examples of these dangers, and a profusion of texts and treatises dating back to ancient Rome and Athens have been bequeathed to following generations to warn that the plague of corruption can be even more profound than is commonly imagined.
Corruption is not merely the domain of powerful gangs shown in Mafia movies, or of large-scale schemes exposed by mainstream media. Corruption happens at all levels of society, in big and in small affairs, manifesting itself in numerous ways. This includes bribery, embezzlement, extortion, money laundering, as well as conflicts of interest, the trading of influence, the abuse of functions, and the obstruction of justice.
Furthermore, the problem lies not only in the scope of corruption, but in how much is actually being done to contain it; the less people are able or willing to confront these different types of corruption, the more corruption will spread and steadily erode the rule of law, an inescapable predicament equally important in both developed and developing countries.
This is what makes UNODC's work so crucial, not merely as a stalwart organization fighting crimes like corruption on an international level, but - just as importantly - as an educator of future generations to inculcate them with a culture of lawfulness. In particular, the remit of the Education for Justice (E4J) initiative, an integral part of the Global Programme for the Implementation of the Doha Declaration, is to equip children and young adults with the knowledge and the ethics necessary to eventually resist and redress corruption.
Indeed, it is not enough to recognize and avoid corruption; as iconic musician Kurt Cobain famously said, "the duty of youth is to challenge corruption." When public officials, be they doctors, judges or politicians, are trying to enrich themselves at the expense of performing their duties with integrity, society cannot function as it is meant to, and it is up to the people - especially the young - to raise their voices.
https://youtu.be/2NG-w-l4fqI That is why it is so important to increase the level of people's knowledge at every step of the educational ladder, a mission which UNODC takes very seriously. E4J thus offers a multi-dimensional and diverse portfolio of resources to use at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels, to teach youth about the different areas that UNODC works on, namely organized crime, terrorism, cybercrime, firearms trafficking, human trafficking, migrant smuggling, corruption, and, last but not least, integrity and ethics.
The latter, especially, is the foundation upon which all redeeming actions can be based, given that integrity and ethics, or the lack thereof, are strong determinants of the cohesion and the health of a society. Charles de Montesquieu, the French thinker whose seminal work "The Spirit of the Laws" influenced numerous constitutions with basic tenets such as the separation of powers, believed that the corruption of a Government begins with the corruption of principles. The earlier principles, such as integrity and ethics are taught and absorbed, the better for the future of society and state.
UNODC's achievements are significant and ongoing. Amongst noteworthy accomplishments, for instance, is the adoption and entry into force of the UN Convention against Corruption, the only legally binding universal anti-corruption instrument. Stemming from the fundamental recognition that corruption is neither an acceptable cost of doing business, nor a necessary evil, it is empowered by a peer review mechanism to assist its 186 current States Parties to implement it, in both the public and the private sectors.
The Convention, and UNODC's work in general, cover a broad range of corruption crimes and issues in an innovative and forward-looking way; with an increasing amount of bottom-up initiatives to provide technical assistance, it has even created programmes to deal with whistle blower protection, judicial integrity and asset recovery.
A new short film ' The struggle against corruption,' conceived and produced by the Global Programme for the Implementation of the Doha Declaration, gives a digest of this work while looking at manifestations of corruption and their implications throughout history. It gathers the expertise of professionals from the Corruption and Economic Crime Branch of UNODC, and of academics working on the comprehensive and far-reaching E4J initiative, offering fascinating insights on cases of corruption, and on how this epidemic is being fought around the world.
It takes great dedication, knowhow and vision to empower future generations to resist and prevent corruption; UNODC has all three, and much more. For more information, please visit our extensive website: www.unodc.org/dohadeclaration.