Transparency International, the global coalition against corruption
José Ugaz was elected chair of Transparency International, a global coalition against corruption with more than 100 chapters around the world whose mission is promoting transparency, accountability and integrity at all levels and across all sectors of society.
Every year the world is estimated to lose as much as US$1 trillion to corruption, equivalent to the GDP of Mexico. But corruption is not just a matter of economics. It is a moral issue. Corruption kills. It affects people’s health, denies them access to water and education, and undermines good governance and democracy.
Today, at least, corruption is no longer a word whispered behind closed doors, the way it was 23 years ago when Transparency International was established. Today it is almost impossible to open a newspaper without reading about a grand corruption scandal, be it on oil giant Petrobras in the Panama Papers, Brazil, President of Equatorial Guinea Teodoro Obiang or the former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. This may sound depressing, but the fact that corruption is so omnipresent in the news is also a sign of progress. It shows that brave investigative journalists and anti-corruption activists around the world are uncovering corrupt networks. It also shows that people have had enough.
With strong political will and some courageous prosecutors, we are also seeing some headway in prosecuting the corrupt. People previously considered untouchable by law enforcement agencies are now in jail, facing the consequences of their crimes, such as former Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina and the Brazilian businessman Marcelo Odebrecht. But there is still too much impunity for corruption out there.
Grand corruption is usually a transnational crime. The corrupt can move stolen public funds often with a single keystroke to countries where they open secret companies or buy expensive properties and luxury goods. At Transparency International, we always say that no one person is powerful enough to fight corruption alone; you need people across the public, private and civil society sectors working together. In this ever-more connected world, the same holds true for countries: no one country can do it alone. We need international cooperation to fight corruption. Leaders need to work together to achieve change.
This is the true for investigations and prosecutions but also in the area of legislation. To prevent the grand corrupt from being able to hide their money in secrecy jurisdictions we urgently need all countries to require much higher levels of transparency around so we know who owns and controls companies registered in their territories. And we need to sanction the professionals in the middle – the lawyers, the estate agents, the bankers and the accountants – who do what it takes allow this to happen. We want to see behavioural and systemic change in the next ten years, and we want victims of corruption to be recognised, justice served and the corrupt held to account. It is time the corrupt faced the consequences for their crimes.
Together we can make that happen.