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TI Chairman Eigen calls for international civil society leadership to fight corruption

Eigen declares that TI’s top priority is strengthening and building national TI chapters and working to establish strong international civil society coalitions

The Central Roles of Civil Society in Combating Corruption in the Era of Globalisation - Peter Eigen Address to The Carter Center "Transparency for Growth" Conference

In his speech, Peter Eigen underscores a point that is so often missed in the debate on corruption: he stresses how essential it is in global efforts for human rights, against poverty, for economic development and indeed for civilisation to reach its potential, that effective campaigns be unleashed everywhere to curb corruption. He stresses that the task of securing democracy and decent opportunities for all peoples demands waging the fight against corruption. But, he states, it is far from clear who should take leadership in this endeavour in the globalised era that has dawned.

Peter Eigen, who founded Transparency International just 6 years ago (today it has accredited national chapters and chapters in formation in 70 countries) told an audience of international leaders at the Carter Center in Atlanta, USA, which included many leaders from Latin America, that in the "magic circle" of globalisation there are three key players: governments, business and civil society organisations. He said that democratically elected governments may have the mandate to lead in the arena of raising the human condition, but they lack the global reach; business may increasingly have the global reach, but it lacks the mandate. Moreover, he noted both business and government are often the perpetrators of corruption, not just the victims and thus they lack the public credibility for effective leadership in the governance arena.

This leaves civil society organisations, whose power, said the speaker, is often underestimated by government, business and civil society organisations themselves. In the age of the Internet civil society organisations can grow both nationally and internationally at the same time and most rapidly, with mounting influence, as Transparency International has done. To be most effective, said Dr. Eigen, civil society organisations must understand the need to act and think globally, to move at times from their single-issue focus to broaden their agendas and to join with others in securing coalitions for the common cause. He called for a "coalition culture" in the global movements of civil society organisations. At times, he asserted, it is important for civil society organisations to forsake confrontation and seek co-operation instead with government and with business.

Finally, Dr. Eigen provided some key examples on the international anti-corruption agenda where the culture of coalition can be most effective and where, if civil society organisations come together for a common objective, they could have great impact. He illustrated this by stressing the areas of:

  • freedom of information and press freedom, where the ability to investigate corruption is essential in the fight against bribery and where many journalists have been murdered and intimidated in the last year in, for example, Latin America; as they have sought to pursue investigations;
  • the environment, where bribery of officials so often undermines effective enforcement of good laws and regulations, and where in Latin America, for example, the rate of deforestation today is greater than on any other continent;
  • judicial reform, where the political ties of judges and their lack of independence from the politicians who appointed them, so often means that politicians have no fear of ever being prosecuted under national anti-bribery laws;
  • auditing and accountability of government finances, where whistle-blowers lack the protections necessary to encourage them, and where lack of independent auditing enables government departments to pursue corrupt practices; and,
  • public procurement, where corruption is so often so evident and where the need for bringing transparency to the process is urgent. Dr. Eigen described TI's "Integrity Pact" which is an approach to secure non-bribery pledges from all participants in major public sector contracting.

Peter Eigen highlighted the potential of civil society organisations in this important speech and stressed that the top priority for Transparency International is to build and strengthen national chapters and to work with other civil society organisations to realise the potential that civil society organisations have for curbing corruption and so enhancing the human condition.

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