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CPI 2023: Highlights and insights

180 countries. 180 scores. How does your country measure up on the 2023 Corruption Perceptions Index?

Illustration showing the corruption of the justice system with a woman putting money in a judge's pocket.

Illustration: Till Lukat © Transparency International

Justice and the effective rule of law are essential for preventing and stopping corruption at both the national and international levels. Both are cornerstones of democracy and embody notions of fairness and accountability. Impunity for corruption – where people who abuse their power do not face consequences for the harm they cause – is the essence of injustice and failure of the rule of law.

There has been a global decline in justice and the rule of law since 2016. The rise of authoritarianism in some countries contributes to this trend, and even in democratic contexts, the mechanisms that keep governments in check have weakened. Governments across the political spectrum have undermined justice systems, restricted civic freedoms and relied on non-democratic strategies to address recent challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic.

Against this backdrop, this year’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) shows that only 28 of the 180 countries measured by this index have improved their corruption levels over the last twelve years, and 34 countries have significantly worsened. Despite progress made across the planet in criminalising corruption and establishing specialised institutions to address it, corruption levels remain stagnant globally.

How do countries measure up on corruption in the public sector?

Corruption Perceptions Index 2023

The CPI ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public-sector corruption according to experts and businesspeople. It relies on 13 independent data sources and uses a scale of zero to 100, where zero is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean.

Most countries are largely failing to stop corruption – over 80 per cent of the world’s population lives in countries with CPI scores below the global average of 43. In addition, the top 25 countries in the index make up just over 10 per cent of all people. Corruption therefore remains a challenge that directly or indirectly harms most people.

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Countries with strong rule of law and well-functioning democratic institutions often sit at the top of the index. Democratic countries tend to greatly outperform authoritarian regimes when controlling corruption – full democracies have a CPI average of 73, flawed democracies have one of 48 and non-democratic regimes just 32.

The CPI uses a scale of 0 to 100

50/100 2/3 of countries score below 50
43/100 The global average score

Top and bottom performers

For the sixth year in a row, Denmark heads the ranking, with a score of 90. Finland and New Zealand follow closely with scores of 87 and 85, respectively. Norway (84), Singapore (83), Sweden (82), Switzerland (82), the Netherlands (79), Germany (78) and Luxembourg (78) complete the top 10 this year.

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Meanwhile, countries experiencing conflict or with highly restricted freedoms and weak democratic institutions tend to score worst. This year, Somalia (11), Venezuela (13), Syria (13) and South Sudan (13) are at the bottom of the index. Yemen (16), Nicaragua (17), North Korea (17), Haiti (17), Equatorial Guinea (17), Turkmenistan (18) and Libya (18) are the next lowest performers.


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Among the 34 countries that have significantly declined since 2012 are several high-ranking democracies, like Sweden (82) and the United Kingdom (71), as well as authoritarian states, such as Myanmar (20) and Venezuela (13). The 28 countries that improved vary considerably in their democracy, income and previous corruption levels, and include the Seychelles (71), Guyana (40) and Ukraine (36).


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Corruption and impunity

The limited progress against corruption across the globe is hardly surprising considering the chronic weaknesses of justice systems meant to detect, investigate, prosecute and adjudicate corruption cases. Ongoing under-resourcing of the judiciary, police and other justice institutions, combined with insufficient levels of independence from other branches of government mean that corruption often goes unpunished. In turn, extensive impunity incentivises further wrongdoing at all levels. This ranges from bribery to embezzlement to the organised, complex schemes of grand corruption, which is the abuse of high-level power that causes serious and widespread suffering in societies.

Grand corruption perpetrators too often benefit from impunity, due to domestic justice systems being “unable or unwilling” to pursue them, whether because of capture, interference or lack of powers, resources and capacity. Those abusing power escape accountability and the widespread harm to victims goes unremedied.

Corruption will continue to thrive until justice systems can punish wrongdoing and keep governments in check. When justice is bought or politically interfered with, it is the people that suffer. Leaders should fully invest in and guarantee the independence of institutions that uphold the law and tackle corruption. It is time to end impunity for corruption.
François Valérian Chair, Transparency International

The fight for justice and the fight against corruption go hand in hand: where the justice system is unable to uphold the rule of law, corruption thrives. At the same time, where corruption is the norm, access to justice is often hindered for the most vulnerable, and justice institutions may be captured by political, economic or special interest groups. In the most extreme cases, patronage and clientelist networks can also use their influence to create impunity for themselves by manipulating legal processes, pushing for selective enforcement and even altering laws to their advantage.


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Countries with higher levels of corruption are less likely to sanction public officials for failing to adhere to existing rules and fulfil their responsibilities. The low likelihood of sanctions can also serve as an incentive to engage in corruption. (Source: Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index and World Justice Project Rule of Law Index.)

North Macedonia

In September 2023, North Macedonia’s (42) parliament significantly undermined its judiciary. In a non-transparent and fast-tracked procedure, MPs amended the criminal code to reduce prison sentences and shorten the statute of limitations for the abuse of official positions. This will cause roughly 200 suspected corruption cases to be dismissed, many of which involve former high-level officials.


Venezuela (13) is an example of grand corruption, where billions of dollars of public money have been systematically embezzled, benefiting a few powerful individuals and exacerbating poverty and inequality. The grand corruption schemes go hand with high-level officials’ capturing legislative, regulatory, and justice systems to build power and evade punishment.


The previous Polish (54) government, led by the Law and Order party, disempowered the judiciary and eroded the rule of law. Reducing checks on the government’s power, their reforms allowed them to appoint court officials, as well as investigate and punish judges. The EU imposing fines and restricting access to funds made them reverse some of their actions, such as cancelling the mechanism for disciplining judges.

Corruption, inequality and discrimination

Corruption contributes to the erosion of justice by restricting access and threatening the basic principle of equality before the law. When corruption takes hold of the justice system, the powerful and wealthy can escape prosecution and conviction.

At the same time, large segments of society may be excluded from accessing justice or face additional costs to do so. Research shows that the effects of corruption on access to justice are not felt equally across societies. It is often poor and marginalised groups that suffer most from corruption when seeking justice. Vulnerable people also find themselves at a disadvantage when bribes or political connections sway legal outcomes.


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Under most corrupt justice systems, the powerful and wealthy can escape prosecution and conviction, while large segments of society are excluded from their rightful access to fair and effective judicial services. (Source: Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index and World Justice Project Rule of Law Index.)

Recent studies also show that there is a mutually reinforcing relationship between corruption and social injustice. Corruption often results in discrimination, as favours or privileges the government grants to specific groups, individuals or companies tend to result in the deprivation of others with similar merit.

Existing patterns of discrimination can increase some people’s exposure to corruption and the harm they suffer as a result. Gender inequality and power imbalances, for example, make women and girls more vulnerable to certain types of corruption, such as sextortion – the abuse of power for sexual benefits. Marginalised groups are more likely to be preyed on by corrupt actors and find that the authorities are neither protecting them nor punishing the perpetrators.


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Where corruption is high, equal treatment before the law is not guaranteed and there is more space to discriminate against specific groups. (Source: Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index and World Justice Project Rule of Law Index.)

Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (20) faces serious challenges in advancing equal access to justice. In many instances, little progress is made with investigating, prosecuting and convicting the powerful and wealthy, while already marginalised groups of Congolese people are excluded from their rightful access to fair and effective judicial services.


Cambodia (22) has one of the worst scores in the world for both public sector corruption – at its grand and petty scales – and for equal treatment and absence of discrimination. Marginalised groups are more likely to be neglected or mistreated when interacting with public officials, trying to access public services or seeking justice.

Corruption worsens social injustice and disproportionately affects the most vulnerable. In many countries, obstacles to justice for victims of corruption persist. It is time to break the barriers and ensure people can access justice effectively. Everyone deserves fair and inclusive legal systems where victims’ voices are heard at every stage. Anything else is an affront to justice.
Daniel Eriksson CEO, Transparency International

How to create a more just world

Our research and work with partners in over 100 countries suggests that governments seeking to tackle corruption, promote justice and strengthen the rule of law should:

  • Strengthen the independence of the justice system. Shielding the justice system from interference is paramount for its functioning. Promote merit-based rather than political appointments and ensure that the system has qualified personnel and is properly resourced.
  • Make justice more transparent. Transparency can help shed light on the functioning of the justice system and make it more accountable. Ensure that relevant data on judgments, out-of-court settlements and enforcement as well as legal procedure and administrative rules are openly available and can be scrutinised by members of the public. This could help discourage corruption and ensure that laws against corruption are properly applied and administered.
  • Introduce integrity and monitoring mechanisms. Ensure that the special protections required by members of the justice system to perform their functions are not abused. Abuse may be prevented through dedicated whistleblowing and reporting channels, as well as requirements for judges, prosecutors and other relevant actors to disclose their assets and interests, and ensure that salaries are commensurate to their work.
  • Promote cooperation within the justice system. Justice systems are complex, but ensuring that their different components can effectively collaborate is essential. Defining clear and complementary responsibilities is critical to achieve this objective. Given the widespread use of informal justice systems in some regions, reflecting on potential synergies between formal and informal systems could also prove beneficial.
  • Improve access to justice. Protecting people’s right to access justice is a first step against impunity and corruption. Strategies to pursue this goal include simplifying complex procedures, making legal procedures accessible to all, widening the definition of victims of corruption to include non-state victims and granting qualified civil society organisations (CSOs) the right to initiate and bring forward cases of corruption – whether criminal, civil or administrative – and represent the interests of victims of corruption.
  • Expand avenues for accountability in grand corruption cases. Where grand corruption schemes are carried out in countries with justice systems that are “unwilling or unable” to enforce against the offenders, justice institutions in foreign jurisdictions with stronger rule of law can play a crucial role in countering impunity by handling the grand corruption proceedings. This calls for those foreign countries to have in place key procedural measures, such as extensive jurisdiction, minimal immunities for foreign state officials, standing for qualified public interest CSOs to pursue those cases and represent victims, and a broad definition of justiciable harm that encompasses widespread harm to a large number of victims.


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