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A to-do list for divided times

The week in corruption, 19 February 2021

Photo by mccv on Shutterstock

Transparency Int'l

Today, U.S. President Joe Biden is taking centre stage during two major global events – the G7 gathering and the Munich Security Conference. Biden is known for a strong foreign policy portfolio and, in his new role, is expected to signal renewed U.S. commitment to addressing global problems in close partnership with other nations.

From the still-raging COVID-19 pandemic to the climate emergency and rising authoritarianism, the problems we collectively face are far from trivial. The global crisis of corruption, however, not only ranks at the same level – it’s at the root of all the rest.

As U.S. policymakers redouble their efforts to restore democracy at home, they can also help make the world a better place by committing to strong action against global corruption.

Tackling international corruption featured high among Biden’s pre-election promises, and the need for him to deliver could not be more urgent. And now, we know where he can start.

This week, Transparency International’s office in the U.S. released a 21-point action plan that the Biden Administration and new Congress can use to fight global corruption.

The U.S. office of Transparency International, with input from a broad, diverse and bipartisan range of stakeholders and partners, proposes in this report a concrete and integrated set of actions that the new Congress and new Administration can take.

A Bipartisan Plan to Combat Global Corruption

The plan lists issues that need to – and can – be tackled this year, from fixing major loopholes in the U.S. financial system to going after corrupt foreign officials and kleptocrats abroad.

Twenty-one recommendations may seem like an ambitious proposal, especially at a time of profound political division and polarisation in the U.S. What makes this plan feasible, however, is the bipartisan support behind its proposals.

At the beginning of this year, we celebrated when the U.S. Congress passed the Corporate Transparency Act, which essentially abolishes anonymous shell companies in the country. Progress on this measure was possible because anti-corruption advocates successfully reached across the aisle and rallied bipartisan support behind it.

As the new Congress and new Administration assume office, the U.S. has a real opportunity to build a fresh, holistic approach to combating corruption.

These proposals have been discussed and debated. They are largely consensus ideas. They are practical, impactful and have bipartisan support. In short, they have a real shot at getting done. Collectively, these measures would change the calculus for corrupt actors in the U.S. and around the world.
Gary Kalman Director of Transparency International’s U.S. Office

Doing so has the potential to bridge divisions in the U.S. by tackling what is a common denominator for a range of diverse problems. The proposed 21 solutions advance the interests of all, from conservative politicians worried about threats to U.S. national security, to progressive activists fighting homelessness and the skyrocketing cost of housing fuelled in part by dirty money in U.S. real estate.

The impact of these urgent reforms would be even greater beyond U.S. borders. Entire communities in all corners of the world live in poverty and under leaders who abuse their positions.

New accountability requirements for those who serve as gatekeepers to the U.S. financial system and new tools that can strike at the root causes of corruption, among other reforms, will help disrupt the overconcentration of power and wealth in the hands of the corrupt in many countries.

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