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Transparency International's 30th anniversary: A milestone in the global fight against corruption

Transparency International is celebrating 30 years of strengthening democracy, rights and equality by tackling corruption.

Image: Transparency International

What began with a group of individuals trying to break the taboo around corruption and show that it can be stopped is now a global movement with chapters and partners in over 100 countries, challenging wrongdoing to hold power to account for the common good.

Over the past three decades, Transparency International has played a pivotal role in placing corruption at the top of the global agenda and spearheading action on all levels to tackle this pervasive issue. What now appears as common knowledge was driven by Transparency International’s work – that social justice, democracy and the protection of fundamental rights go hand in hand with the fight against corruption.

Driving global change

Over the years, Transparency International has achieved remarkable breakthroughs towards building a world free of corruption and bringing meaningful progress to change people’s lives.

Our research and advocacy efforts have shaped key international standards, including the 2003 United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) and the 2019 European Union directive on whistleblower protection, which is a landmark international law for defending people who expose wrongdoing. Our campaigning has also led to revising global standards on corporate transparency – now, over 200 jurisdictions must track the real owners of companies, making it increasingly difficult for corrupt people to hide their ill-gotten gains.

By driving the adoption of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention in 1999 and pushing states to enforce it since then, we have played a decisive role in efforts to stop companies from bribing foreign public officials when conducting business abroad. This has led to hundreds of individuals and companies being criminally sanctioned for foreign bribery and billions being paid in penalties.

Every year, our Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) draws widespread attention to governments’ weak spots – and outright failings – in tackling public sector corruption. And the Global Corruption Barometer (GCB) – the only worldwide public opinion survey on corruption – is equally hard to ignore. Having surveyed over 850,000 people in more than 150 countries, the GCB has revealed widespread distrust in institutions, and has gone even further to expose how officials demand sex from people trying to access basic services like health care or land registration. This is known as sextortion and it is one of several forms of discriminatory corruption that Transparency International not only researches, but supports survivors of and advocates against.

We know that corruption must be challenged at all levels.

So our chapters work tirelessly in national and regional contexts to change people’s lives, including through our public project monitoring tool – the integrity pact. This tool has protected over a billion dollars’ worth of taxpayers’ money in more than 30 countries through binding agreements with and close monitoring of authorities and bidders for public contracts.

And through our Advocacy and Legal Advice Centres (ALACs) – established in 2003 – we have given advice and support to 320,000 survivors and witnesses of corruption in more than 60 countries, enabling them to assert their rights, seek redress and contribute to case-based advocacy.

A movement of empowered individuals

The strength of the Transparency International movement lies in the dedication and expertise of our diverse members and partners – we understand that change for the good of everyone only happens when people with different identities, backgrounds and skills work together.

That is why our movement, with chapters in every continent, supports emerging anti-corruption leaders and empowers communities that are often ignored in decision-making processes. It is also why we bring different professionals together for innovative and collective ways of fighting wrongdoing – only through collective action will we be able to overcome the environmental crisis, bring integrity to politics, stop flows of dirty money and, of course, protect public resources.

This ranges from establishing the Global Anti-Corruption Consortium – which combines hard-hitting investigative journalism with skilful civil society advocacy – to founding international networks like the UNCAC Coalition and the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, which mobilise experts and decision-makers to drive change on a global scale.

Furthermore, Transparency International has been the Secretariat for the International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) since 1997, providing a platform for global leaders, activists, young people and many others to discuss solutions and shape the anti-corruption agenda collectively.

Embracing the future

As we reflect on our achievements and look towards the future, Transparency International’s purpose is more relevant and urgent than ever.

Winning the fight against corruption means empowering people and advancing their rights, strengthening democratic values in the face of rising authoritarianism, protecting the vast investments aimed at tackling climate change, and using public resources to benefit everyone. Progress against corruption ultimately helps cement global efforts towards a fair and sustainable future.

The world needs a global movement that holds powerful people to account for the common good while convening and strengthening the wider anti-corruption community. Transparency International is just that.

We will continue to pursue our vision of a world in which government, politics, business, civil society and people’s daily lives are free of corruption. This means we will stay neck and neck with any form of corruption that emerges or becomes more complex, keep harnessing the power of individuals across all sectors of society, and continue advocating and campaigning for change at every level.

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