Unpacking the key anti-corruption ingredients for constitutions

Unpacking the key anti-corruption ingredients for constitutions

Ahead of the presidential elections, Transparency International Ukraine and five other organisations are calling for changes to the country’s constitution for greater accountability, transparency and access to information, including the creation of an anti-corruption commission. Civil society in Ukraine is addressing an issue that many agree on: The constitutional design of a country can make or break its fight against corruption.

Ukraine is but one of several countries where citizens are calling for anti-corruption amendments to their constitutions. Experts estimate that around five countries get new constitutions each year and another 30 make revisions to old ones.

How exactly can a constitution impact corruption?

A well-designed constitution can set up solid governance structures that promote the rule of law, protect fundamental rights and guarantee the separation of powers between the executive, judicial, and legislative branches of government. This includes respecting the right to information, creating an independent judiciary and designing mechanisms to hold the different state branches to account. In this context, corruption can be effectively prevented and addressed through existing governance mechanisms.

Determining a best practice for constitutions is not an easy task. Constitutions are highly context-specific and it is difficult to transfer constitutional experiences from country to country.

Some of the most common practices include: (all listed constitutions can be accessed here):

Civil society can play a crucial role in helping strengthen the government’s fight against corruption.

In Tunisia, for example, over 300 civil society organisations provided input to the consultation with the National Constituent Assembly. Transparency International’s Tunisian partner I Watch also provided citizens with a way to interact with the new constitution by setting up a website that enabled citizens to vote and give their opinions on each article

Transparency International works in many countries to both enshrine and improve the fight against corruption in a country’s constitution. For example, both Transparency International Croatia and Transparency International Mexico contributed to making access to information a constitutional right in 2010 and 2013 respectively.

Transparency International Nepal submitted a series of anti-corruption recommendations to the country’s parliament in 2011. These included mandatory codes of conduct and asset declaration for public officials, ensuring merit-based appointment of Supreme Court judges, and requiring audits of political parties.

Creating a solid constitution is an important step in the fight against corruption. But governments must ensure that what is promised and committed to on paper becomes reality.

For more on anti-corruption clauses in constitutions, see the overview compiled by the Anti-Corruption Helpdesk.

For any press enquiries please contact press@transparency.org

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