Millennium Development Goals are unreachable without commitment to fighting corruption

Corruption a key obstacle to development, undermining material well-being and social justice

Issued by Transparency International Secretariat



There will be no fair world, no abolition of extreme poverty, as long as the calculus of corruption undermines education, health, trade and the environment. Dramatic reduction of corruption levels is the responsibility of poor and wealthy nations alike.

“Corruption is a massive drag on efforts to reach the Millennium Development Goals. It means wasted money, time and, ultimately, lives,” said Transparency International Chief Executive David Nussbaum. “Governments, especially those of the G8, need to move beyond paying lip service to the principles of accountability and transparency if they are determined to improve the lives of millions who live in poverty and instability.”

Research has demonstrated unquestionably that corruption exacerbates and promotes a raft of development problems. Among them:

Entrenched poverty and hunger (MDG 1)

Corruption hampers economic growth, keeps countries from capitalising on internal resources and reduces aid effectiveness, contributing significantly to hunger and malnutrition. Petty bribery hits the poor hardest, ensuring that they stay poor.

Example: The total volume of bribes paid annually has been estimated by the World Bank Institute at US$ 1 trillion, nearly twice the gross domestic product for Africa, put at less than US$ 600 billion for 1999 by the African Development Bank.

Children deprived of primary education (MDG 2 & 3)

Misallocation of resources due to corruption means schools are never built, or that education systems remain drastically under capacity. Further, corrupt education officials at all levels have often been found to abuse their position as gate-keepers, making good education dependent on capacity to pay bribes.

Example: According to CIET International, 86% of parents polled in Nicaragua reported paying mandatory “contributions” to teachers. Of the mere 47% of girls who managed to get into primary school in a Pakistani province, nearly all reported unofficial demands for money.

Fatalities from treatable illness, child mortality, death in childbirth (MDG 4, 5 & 6)

Misallocation means hospitals are poorly staffed and resourced. Corruption facilitates circulation of fake – potentially lethal – drugs. Bribes are often a prerequisite for access to health care, including maternal health.

Example: In Bangalore the average patient in a maternity ward pays approximately US $22 in bribes to receive adequate medical care. In Nigeria there have been countless cases of deaths due to counterfeit medications that moved unhindered from production plants, across national borders and into unsuspecting markets.

Unsustainable development (MDG 7)

Corrupt public officials mean that environmental regulations remain unenforceable, resulting in lost livelihood, illness and social displacement for millions.

Example: Illegal logging facilitated by bribery is deforesting Asia’s Pacific Rim. With all its attendant environmental, social and health-related consequences this is a serious threat to local populations.

Impeded economic growth (MDG 1 & 8)

Corruption means greater business risks. It distorts markets and discourages foreign direct investment. It stifles cross-border trade.

Example: In Africa, rampant border and duty corruption deprives countries of the benefits of regional trade as a launch pad to the global market.

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TI is the leading global non-governmental organization devoted to the fight against corruption.


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