Dear Indo-Pacific heads of states and governments,
We, Transparency International’s national chapters from the Indo-Pacific region, urge you to build on the opportunity of the Summit for Democracy in Korea to identify clear plans to combat corruption in the region. We commend the Republic of Korea for hosting the Summit for Democracy Indo-Pacific Anti-Corruption Meeting, and all participating leaders’ recognition of the importance of addressing corruption and strengthening democratic governance to achieve greater peace and prosperity in the region – but just words and commitments are insufficient; now is the time for action.
We now call upon you to partner with civil society and make greater progress against key corruption problems with which the region continues to grapple.
Indo Pacific governments have made several positive steps in tackling corruption – particularly through passing relevant laws, developing national policies and anti-corruption strategies. But the 2022 Corruption Perceptions Index shows that governments’ efforts in the fight against corruption have stagnated. Findings from public corruption surveys conducted by Transparency International in Asia and the Pacific regions in 2020 and 2021 reveal that people in these regions believe both governments and businesses have serious issues with corruption. Politicians are seen to be the most corrupt, and people experience high levels of corruption when accessing public services, particularly through bribery and sexual extortion, as well as vote buying and voter intimidation.
Corruption also impacts governments’ abilities to achieve their core mandate: protecting the public against major threats.
Climate change persists as the greatest threat to the livelihood, security and wellbeing of people –particularly for those most marginalised in communities – and corruption lies at its heart. Globally, climate resilience is hampered by the impact of corruption as climate finance is diverted. The Indo Pacific region is particularly crucial in this space as it is endowed with rich natural resources, but oversight of extractive industries and carbon emitting industries is weak. More and more governments are run or influenced by a few big interests, and the way public contracts are awarded has challenges and climate programmes are a long way from being inclusive, transparent and accountable to the communities they should serve.
Yet people believe that few face consequences for crimes of corruption. Law enforcement and judiciaries are rarely adequately equipped to sanction high level corruption. Key integrity institutions such as national anti-corruption agencies seldom have the resources to function effectively.
There is hope: citizens in the region believe they can make a difference in the fight against corruption. But too few governments meaningfully engage them. Many in the region face challenges in accessing public information or do not feel they have the freedom to engage without fear of persecution. While numerous Indo Pacific countries have legislation that protects the right to information and whistleblowers, the main challenge is that few have effective enforcement systems or proactive disclosure causes.
Transnational crime also plagues the region. Australia remains an attractive destination for foreign proceeds from across the Indo Pacific, and Transparency International New Zealand recently conducted research revealing that preventative and investigative systems are insufficient and not operating effectively in the Pacific.
As the second Summit for Democracy brings Indo Pacific governments and civil society partners together to review commitments made at the first summit in 2021, we implore governments to partner with civil society and address the follow key priorities.
- Strengthen accountability of political leaders, requiring all high-level officials to publicly disclose their income and assets, tightly monitoring public funds, and empowering the police and courts to properly investigate and punish corruption.
- Increase transparency in the relationship between governments and businesses by monitoring companies’ involvement in electoral campaigns and policymaking, and by ensuring that all public contracts are awarded fairly and competitively.
- Ensure elections are fair and free of vote buying or threats by strengthening independent electoral commissions and anti-corruption agencies.
- Ensure meaningful engagement of citizens, including young people, by providing space, capacity support and civic education.
- Collaborate with the region’s gender equality movement to mainstream gender into anti-corruption initiatives, including taking measures to address sextortion.
- Introduce and enforce the right to information including and whistleblower protection laws.
- Combat money laundering by strengthening cross-border cooperation, the capacity of country Financial Intelligence Units, due diligence by financial institutions and legal frameworks around confiscation of criminal proceeds.
The Transparency International chapters of the Indo-Pacific region