Building anti-corruption into the Millennium Development Goals

Building anti-corruption into the Millennium Development Goals

UPDATE: 31 May 2013
A High Level Panel convened by the United Nations – established to recommend new goals and targets after 2015 when the original Millennium Development Goals are set to expire – on 30 May called for a stand-alone goal to ensure good governance and effective institutions, including a target to reduce bribery and corruption.

Transparency International welcomed the proposal to make transparent and accountable governance a cornerstone in the drive to end world poverty and reduce inequality. Below is a feature on the subject, taking a more in-depth look into the topic.

What would the world be like without poverty? Can it ever be eradicated? Is corruption derailing efforts to stop poverty?

The United Nations and others are tackling these questions now as they debate the world we want to leave to the next generation.

A group of eminent people, picked by the UN for their experience and insight, will meet from 24-27 March to discuss what to do to end poverty and inequality around the globe in the coming decades. Our message is simple: unless you tackle corruption, it will be impossible. Corruption diverts necessary and scarce resources from the people who need them most.

This group’s next meeting in Bali, Indonesia is one of many discussions happening around the world about the critical issues that we need to address if we want each and every one of us to have better lives. It is an agenda for all of us, wherever we live, whatever our field of expertise. It is an agenda aimed at turning issues into commitments that countries pledge to make. It is an agenda that must include corruption and good governance if we want these promises to be met.

The Bali meeting is a convening of 27 experts for the UN High Level Panel on what goals should succeed the current set of Millennium Development Goals. They have been tasked to produce “recommendations on how to build and sustain broad political consensus on an ambitious yet achievable Post-2015 development agenda around the three dimensions of economic growth, social equality and environmental sustainability”.

Goals must include governance

What are Millennium Development Goals?

The eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – which range from halving extreme poverty rates to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education, all by the target date of 2015 – form a blueprint agreed to by all the world’s countries and all the world’s leading development institutions. They have galvanised unprecedented efforts to meet the needs of the world’s poorest.

This is not the first time that such global commitments have been made. We are actually at the end of another set of commitments, called the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The MDGs were agreed in 2000 by over 180 world leaders. They picked eight focus areas to make the world a more equal and better place for everyone by 2015. Eradicating poverty was one goal; improving maternal health was another. Corruption and good governance were not included in this list, one of the reasons why Transparency International believes many of the eight goals will go unmet.

The best way to fight corruption, and to meet the current as well as any new set of development goals, is to ensure transparency, accountability, participation and integrity (see how our chapters are doing that on the ground in their countries). Access to information and citizen engagement are critical aspects to allow ordinary people to monitor what is happening on the ground. Good governance in education, health, water and other sectors must be strengthened to prevent corruption.

An example of this can be seen in Niger, where judicial authorities this February arrested about 20 doctors suspected of embezzling donor funds. The doctors' arrests came after an investigation of some US$1.5 million donated between 2007 and 2010. The donor, an alliance called GAVI, has demanded that the embezzled money be reimbursed. This is bad news for the Nigerien children most in need of health services that may be halted without these monies.

The case of Niger shows that governance and corruption cannot be forgotten as part of fighting poverty – and the global commitments that will be made after 2015.

Video: Corruption and the MDGs

Rueben Lifuka of Transparency International Zambia and Elisabeth Ungar Bleier of Transparencia por Colombia discuss the impact of corruption on their countries' efforts to achieve the MDGs.

Immediate actions for the MDGs and Post-2015 agenda

To make this happen, Transparency International recommends the following areas for immediate action:

India – Corruption in farm loan waivers

In early March a report to India’s Parliament revealed a scam involving loan waivers given under a US$1.8 billion programme to nearly 30 million farmers across the country. According to the programme, banks published lists of farmers eligible for the programme to write off loans they could not afford.

Between April 2011 and March 2012 audits of 90,000 accounts held by farmers found serious irregularities. The guidelines under the scheme were often violated in writing off loans and many ineligible individuals received monies instead of needy farmers. Bank officials involved in the scheme have been accused of siphoning off funds.

Sadly, when created in 2008 the scheme was seen by many as a last-ditch effort to head off an agricultural crisis in India, where some 10,000 farmers a year commit suicide because of their inability to pay back their debts.

The report has not been officially released yet, although its contents have been extensively leaked to Indian media.

Corruption hurts people. Corruption makes people poor. The world will not become a better, fairer, cleaner, healthier or better-educated place until transparency, integrity and accountability become developmental milestones, and not just talking points in the global debates.

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