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2011: The Year of Demanding Open, Noncorrupt Government

01 December 2011

As calls for good governance and transparency grow louder, governments and nongovernmental groups around the world take steps against corruption and transnational organized crime.

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ALT= Aerial view of demonstration in Cairo’s Tahrir Square (AP Images)

At left is a January 30, 2011, pro-democracy demonstration in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Calls for good governance, a transparent public sector and business integrity were heard in 2011 from the Arab world to Russia to India. These calls energized international organizations and nongovernmental groups and prompted both concrete measures and pledges of more action toward open government and against corruption, from developing and developed nations alike. Following is a review of major good-governance and anti-corruption events of 2011.

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ALT= Demonstrators raising arms in protest (AP Images)

The rapid transformation of the Middle East, known as the “Arab Spring,” was sparked by protests against bribery, nepotism and kleptocracy, which have characterized many autocratic regimes in the North Africa and Middle East regions. The reform movements stemming from the protests, such as those shown in this photo of protesters in Tunis, have placed good governance and the fight against corruption at the center of their agendas.

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ALT= People in flooded streets of Dhaka, Bangladesh (AP Images)

The April Global Corruption Report by Transparency International, an anti-corruption group, drew attention this year to the corruption risks related to climate mitigation, particularly to funding from governments and multilateral institutions for mitigation efforts in the most affected countries. None of these affected countries, including Bangladesh — where streets in Dhaka, shown in this photo, may experience more floods due to climate change — ranks high on anti-corruption measures in the group’s corruption perception index.

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ALT= People watching boats at port of Bissau (AP Images)

The first Trans-Atlantic Symposium on Dismantling Transnational Illicit Networks in Lisbon discussed inter-regional collaboration against such networks, which engage in illegal activities from drug trafficking to counterfeiting. The agenda included West Africa — the port of Bissau in Guinea-Bissau is shown here — which has become a cocaine trafficking hub. The May symposium proposed improving the exchange of information/intelligence and legal assistance as well as intensifying efforts against a well-known crime facilitator: corruption.

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ALT= Banner welcoming President Obama in San Salvador (AP Images)

El Salvador, which welcomed President Obama’s visit in March as shown, is the first partner country under a new U.S. initiative launched by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in May. The Domestic Financing for Development initiative is designed to help partner nations take full ownership of their economic development by using their domestic resources more effectively — making their tax policies more effective, improving budgetary transparency and fighting corruption.

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ALT= Children at destroyed settlement in Port Harcourt, Nigeria (AP Images)

Development aid may not reach these children in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, because of corruption or waste. In June, an international coalition of civil society groups launched a campaign called Make Aid Transparent, which calls on aid donors to publish better information about the money they give. The related petition said aid transparency “will help save lives, reduce corruption and waste.” The issue is on the agenda of the Fourth High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, South Korea, from November 30 to December 2.

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ALT= European Commission’s headquarters building (AP Images)

Addressing the need for a comprehensive policy to combat corruption in member states, the European Commission (shown is its headquarters in Brussels) will craft country-specific anti-corruption measures and publish a regular report, setting a precedent for European Union–wide monitoring of corrupt practices. The package of anti-corruption measures, announced in June, will help member states enforce laws and international obligations.

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ALT= People watching voter and election worker at table (AP Images)

Activists from Egypt, Libya and Tunisia observed the October parliamentary elections in Poland. Earlier, in June 2011, those and 29 other countries from the Arab region and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development participated in a conference on “Putting Anti-Corruption Commitments into Practice: Transparency, Participation and Rule of Law” in Rabat, Morocco. Participants called for moving from commitment to implementation and involving the private sector and other nongovernmental stakeholders in good-governance efforts.

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ALT= Officials with seized drugs on display (AP Images)

In July, the White House released its Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime (PDF, 800KB), which defines 56 priority actions aimed at undermining criminal networks’ economic power and protecting the financial system. It proposes developing legislation to allow U.S. authorities to investigate international illicit networks and prosecute their members, and it pledges to build a global consensus around the strategy’s major objective.

In the photo, Thai police show 100 kilograms of heroin they seized in 2008 thanks to cooperation with U.S. authorities.

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ALT: Dilma Rousseff and President Obama seated at table (AP Images)

In September, President Obama and Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff launched the Open Government Partnership, an international initiative designed to support national efforts to promote transparency, fight corruption, strengthen accountability and empower citizens. The eight founding governments have committed to increasing public integrity, strengthening corporate accountability and ensuring effective management of natural-resources revenues. Forty-two other countries have announced their intent to join the partnership.

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ALT= Tyson Foods Inc. sign in front of company’s headquarters (AP Images)

The fourth Conference of State Parties to the U.N. Convention Against Corruption in Marrakesh, Morocco, focused on the prevention of corruption, international cooperation and the implementation of a review mechanism. The October conference took steps to promote civil society’s interaction with that mechanism and cooperation to remove barriers to recovery of assets stolen by corrupt officials. Among the first nations reviewed was the United States, which has aggressively pursued foreign corporate bribery, including a case against Tyson Foods Inc.

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ALT= Activists dressed as clowns and police officers (AP Images)

Activists, shown protesting against tax havens at the November summit in Cannes, France, at which leaders of 20 major economies (G20) said their countries made “significant progress” in implementing their anti-corruption action plan agreed on a year earlier. They committed to sustain their anti-corruption agenda and tackle the issue of illegal financial flows, and they agreed to sign a multilateral convention to exchange tax information within the G20 and to crack down on tax havens that had failed to deliver on tax transparency.

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ALT= Pile of pirated CDs, DVDs and sunglasses being destroyed (AP Images)

Counterfeit goods, here being destroyed by police in the Philippines, were on the agenda of an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) working group at its November forum in Honolulu, Hawaii. The APEC leaders endorsed open governance, ethical business practices and the fight against corruption as guiding principles of their program. They endorsed combating bribery through public-private partnerships and stopping illicit trade through greater supply-chain integrity.

(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov/iipdigital-en/index.html)