The world is about to set global priorities that will chart the course on how all countries work to end poverty by 2030. This is no easy task.
It was tried in 2000 when global leaders made eight development promises to be reached by 2015, known as the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). With a year left, only four of the MDG targets have been achieved.
Good governance and anti-corruption were not included in the first list. They should be now.
Transparency International research in more than 100 countries shows how bribery and poor governance have undermined achieving the current MDGs.
The level of corruption in any given country has a direct and significant correlation with that country’s development. For example, in countries where more than 60 per cent of people report paying a bribe, almost five times more people live on less than US$1 a day than in countries where less than 30 per cent of the population reports paying bribes.
Governments that are more open and accountable to their citizens have better development outcomes across the board, regardless of whether a country is richer or poorer.
The good governance premium
Access to information, strong rule of law and anti-corruption legislation have a positive effect on MDG achievements in maternal health, literacy and clean water.
High levels of corruption, however, correlate with many of the targets being missed. This relationship holds across all the development goals related to poverty and hunger, education, maternal and child health, communicable diseases, water and sanitation.
Bribery has a clear inverse relationship with MDG achievement. In countries where more people paid more bribes to obtain basic services, more women died during childbirth, fewer children lived beyond five years of age, more people went without clean drinking water or toilets, and fewer girls finished secondary school.
Bribery also wipes out the benefits of economic growth. For example, any gains made in improving access to safe drinking water when family incomes rise are offset by the negative effect of bribery.50% of school children do not complete primary school in countries where bribery is common.
Public sector corruption
Many different forms of public sector corruption can hurt development. Primary school completion rates, for example, are affected by teacher absenteeism, the lack of availability of text books due to corruption and the quality of facilities such as classrooms, often left in disrepair because funds for building get diverted due to corruption.
Our analysis of public sector corruption and MDG achievement, using the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index scores and other indices, shows that when such abuses are widespread, they take away almost one-third of the gains that better schooling can produce for reducing poverty. Even in countries with a higher capacity to deliver educational services, public sector corruption adversely affects children’s chances of completing their primary education.
Transparent and accountable governance can help development. In countries where the rule of law is strong, progress has been made towards achieving the MDGs. Indeed, rule of law is just as important as economic growth. The research compared MDG achievements with the aggregated value of scores given to countries in the section of the 2011 Global Integrity Report covering anti-corruption. It also compared MDG achievement with per capita GPD growth. The results showed that good governance is just as important as economic growth in reducing poverty.
When it comes to access and use of information, a more informed public is correlated with reductions in the number of children dying before five and better maternal health.
The next 12 months will be critical for the global fight against poverty and better lives for the vulnerable as the UN decides on the post-2015 agenda. Transparency International believes the UN must:
- Establish a stand-alone governance goal with an anti-corruption focus to achieve open, accountable and participatory governance.
- Ensure more comprehensive, comparable and timely data for all post-2015 indicators, including developing indicators that measure levels of transparency and accountability.
- Develop a monitoring system for post-2015 goals which is based on and promotes transparency, accountability and participation.
For more detail on the methodology and statistical information Transparency International used to show the effect of good governance on achieving the MDGs, please click here.
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