Amidst recent visits from foreign ministers of the United States, New Zealand, Australia and now Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Pacific governments must prioritise their own people and focus on critical democratic and anti-corruption measures. Transparency International chapters in the Pacific urge governments to use these opportunities to implement the policies outlined in the 2020 Teieniwa Vision, which highlights the importance of strong leadership and political will to defeat corruption.
Corruption fuels many of the challenges facing the Pacific region – preventing responses to crises like the pandemic and climate change and blocking access to key services that help to lift people out of poverty. Transparency International’s 2021 Pacific Global Corruption Barometer found that a majority of respondents find corruption to be a big problem across business and government.
Nearly a third of interviewees reported paying a bribe for public services – which was the highest rate of any region surveyed by Transparency International. Money laundering also plagues the region, according to a recent report by Transparency International New Zealand. The majority of the countries studied neglect the connection between corruption and money laundering – and lack anti-money laundering measures like beneficial ownership registers, which help stop corruption.
The prominence of global interest in the Pacific region this year makes a lack of transparency around multilateral engagements by the executive governments all the more apparent. Checkbook diplomacy with a focus on short-term gains can exacerbate the issues already facing many countries – from increased national debt to unsustainable military arrangements, and the limiting of civic space through freedoms of expression, press, association and access to information.
Yet Pacific people have hope: over 70 per cent believe that ordinary people can help fight corruption. Current policies, however, block their participation – especially of rural populations, women, young people and marginalised groups. The Pacific region has the lowest level of female representation in politics worldwide.
As they welcome leaders from around the world, Pacific governments have a moral imperative to unite against corruption in order to build a peaceful, harmonious and prosperous Pacific. The Teieniwa Vision, supported by senior leaders from 10 countries, outlined such strategies – by resourcing national and multilateral efforts that emphasise transparency and accountability, the rule of law and good governance.
Transparency International calls on all executive governments of the region to strengthen national governance and regional cooperation to stop kleptocracy, ensure sustainable, responsible business and prevent illicit financial flows. They must be transparent and share information about multilateral engagements with civil society and the media to allow for oversight that will ensure all diplomatic efforts are in service of democracy and the human rights of all Pacific people.
Joseph Veramu, executive director of Integrity Fiji, said:
"Almost all multilateral discussions with developed nations coming to the Pacific have focused on climate change adaptation and mitigation. Unfortunately, the huge climate funds also attract corrupt practices. Governments across the region must be one step ahead, developing proactive anti-corruption strategies and working with civil society to monitor projects so that these efforts support the people across the region.”
Notes to editors
- Statement from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s Pacific visit in February https://www.transparency.org/en/press/pacific-chapters-and-transparency-call-democracy-strengthening-blinken-visit
- Analysis of the Asia Pacific region in the 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index: https://www.transparency.org/en/news/cpi-2021-for-asia-pacific-grand-corruption-holding-back-progress