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OGP Summit: Fighting corruption and promoting inclusion – this is how

José María Marín

This year’s Open Government Partnership (OGP) Global Summit kicked off in Ottawa, Canada yesterday. The annual event brings together governments, civil society organisations and academia.

The three priorities for this Summit are participation, inclusion and impact. The choice of these priorities is a response to, among other trends, the emerging threats to democracy. Transparency International’s own Corruption Perception’s Index 2018 delved into the relationship between democracy and corruption earlier this year.

The priorities proclaimed by the OGP are also dear to the anti-corruption movement. Let’s take inclusion, for example.

Corruption, by its very definition, manifests itself through exclusion of segments of the population from public services and resources. There is evidence that corruption is associated with economic inequality. It is truly a vicious cycle: corruption leads to an unequal distribution of power in society which translates into an unequal distribution of wealth and opportunity.

The quest for greater inclusion must go hand-in-hand with robust anti-corruption measures. Corruption, if unattended, will undermine efforts to make governments more participatory and inclusive. Here are some ways civil society and government in the OGP can fight corruption and promote inclusion at the same time.

1. Make beneficial ownership information open to all.

Money laundering underpins economic inequality and allows already privileged groups to avoid paying their fair share of taxes or deplete public coffers. The grand corruption scandals of recent years have exposed the crucial role of anonymous shell companies in the laundering of large amounts of money accrued from corruption, tax avoidance and other financial crimes.

In recent years, beneficial ownership transparency — a notion that the identity of individuals who ultimately control or profit from companies should be publicly known — has been gaining ground as a key policy measure in tackling money laundering.

As we have repeatedly argued, company ownership information should be public, provided in an open data format, and free. Anything short of this is making it hard to detect and prevent financial crime and perpetuates economic inequality. Through an open regime of beneficial ownership information, the public can also be part of this effort and contribute to a more equitable and fair financial system.

2. Ensure that politicians work for all and not only for some.

The historically go-to participatory mechanism in democracies have been elections; however, increasingly it is becoming more common to hear about the ways in which the will of the electorate is being undermined by undue influence. Illicit public finance of campaigns, for example, can indebt incoming public officials to the will of a select group of people or corporations, effectively excluding everybody else’s interest.

The public interest should always be the most important criterion when policymakers and politicians make decisions. This means leaving no space for political corruption. Making political party finance transparent and opening lobbying for all to see and participate is key in ensuring that.

3. Strengthen voices of the underrepresented, especially those of women.

Corruption does not affect all equally. Our research shows that corruption disproportionately affects vulnerable populations and hits the poor the hardest, especially women, who represent a higher share of the world’s poor.

The needs of diverse groups in society are likewise diverse, and each group can plan a different role in the fight against corruption considering their varying social, economic and political context. This calls for anti-corruption efforts to be gender-sensitive and carefully consider their potential impacts on all groups of society. For example, closing public women’s shelters due to a high risk of corruption might make sense when the decision-makers’ only goal is to fight corruption but would be unacceptable considering the needs of women in peril.

By applying a gender lens to anti-corruption policies and gathering data on the impacts of corruption disaggregated by gender, age, ability and other relevant demographic and socio-economic factors, anti-corruption efforts can make these policies better and work towards greater inclusion.

Want to hear more? Come to our session on gendered approaches to anti-corruption commitments during the OGP Global Summit in Ottawa or watch live.

If embedded in national anti-corruption policies, these three recommendations can really help the governments double the impact of interventions aimed at promoting participation and inclusion.

To countries co-creating new commitments in this round of action plans, we will be asking to consider these key areas of work for meeting this year’s priorities. We believe it is especially crucial that to any new anti-corruption commitments are considered through a gender lens.

To countries implementing previously undertaken commitments this year, we are calling for ensuring these get fully delivered on time and to the highest level of ambition. They will also need to demonstrate that they are serious about the OGP priorities by embedding inclusive and participatory approaches when designing their anti-corruption policies.

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