Central America and Dominican Republic Forum for Transparency

Central America and Dominican Republic Forum for Transparency

Crime, public funds, social development top agenda

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The Central America and Dominican Republic Forum for Transparency, now in its third edition, brings government, business and civil society together in Honduras this week to coordinate concrete measures to eradicate corruption. In a region facing so many problems facilitated by corruption, the Forum provides a unique opportunity for representatives from all sectors of society to exchange experiences and discuss relevant issues, challenges and opportunities.

In this Spanish-language video, Alejandro Salas, Director of the Americas department at Transparency International, introduces the forum.

In the countries of Central America and the Dominican Republic, corruption continues to affect the daily lives of millions of people in many different ways, from petty bribery, to the loss of trust in public institutions, to fear of violent crime. Corruption is one of the main obstacles on the road to democratisation, respect for human rights, reduction of poverty and inequality levels, and improvement of citizen security. In order to make progress in the region, corruption needs to be tackled by working together in all areas.

Therefore, this year’s Central America and Dominican Republic Forum for Transparency will focus on some of the region’s key challenges and priorities, especially citizen security, the use of public funds, and social development.

Citizen security, organised crime and corruption

Organised crime, which is most visible through the influence of drug trafficking in Central America, affects the daily lives of the people in the region. Seventy-one per cent of Central Americans identify crime as the main threat to their well-being. Central America is also home to the most violent country in the world, Honduras, which has more than 92 violent deaths for every 100,000 residents.

The relationship between organised crime and corruption is simple: criminal networks use corruption to carry out their illegal activities as well as to avoid investigation and prosecution. At the same time, high levels of corruption in the security forces and the police make effective responses to crime practically impossible in some countries. In the Dominican Republic, for example, 70 per cent of people declared that the police were directly related to criminal groups.

This not only leads to the deterioration of citizen security but also to a climate of fear and lack of public confidence in the institutions responsible for ensuring people’s safety and security. It is imperative that concrete solutions to this vital problem are found. This year’s Forum will try to contribute to a way forward in the region by putting cross-cutting approaches to transparency in public security institutions on the table.

Adequate use of public resources

Another key regional challenge the Forum will address is the misuse of public resources. To reduce risks of mismanagement and bad governance of public finance, transparent allocation of public resources is key – which is why it is also a factor for compliance with international conventions against corruption.

If a national or local government does not handle public resources in a transparent manner, it cannot ensure a fair distribution of resources. Citizens need to be able to demand accountability from their elected governments. When this fails, societies are destabilised. Citizens, and especially disadvantaged groups, are then forced to compromise on the quality of their livelihoods and social rights.

To prevent budget mismanagement in Central America and the Dominican Republic, more open governments need to be promoted. Transparency and accountability also have to be strengthened through, for example, citizen participation exercises.

Social development

The Third Forum will also address the issue of how corruption affects social programmes as well as the development levels of populations as a whole. Good governance is key to effective development and corruption hinders progress towards the eradication of poverty, improving levels of welfare and reducing inequality.

When looking at poverty rates in the region, it is immediately evident why it is of vital importance that development efforts are not hampered by corruption. Honduras has the highest poverty rate with 67 per cent of its population living in poverty, compared to an overall poverty rate of 31.4 per cent in Latin America and the Caribbean as a whole.

It is widely recognised that higher levels of education and health care can help get people out of poverty. This is why Latin America has seen a proliferation of government social spending in the past decade which links cash payments to the provision of education and health care. However, these social programmes often lack effective transparency, accountability and participation mechanisms. Combatting corruption is a prerequisite to ensuring a higher degree of development in Central American societies.

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