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The Long War Against Corruption
BEN W. HEINEMAN, JR., is a Senior Fellow
at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard's Kennedy School
of Government and former Senior Vice President for Law and Public Affairs of General
Electric. FRITZ HEIMANN, a Co-founder of Transparency International, was
Chair of Transparency International-USA from 1993 to 2005.
A WAYS TO GO
Since the mid-1990s, the issue of corruption has gained a prominent place on the global agenda. International organizations, including the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the UN, have adopted conventions requiring that their members enact laws prohibiting bribery and extortion. International financial agencies, notably the World Bank, have announced programs aimed at ensuring fair and open contracting for their projects and stopping misappropriation by government officials. Most nations have enacted some type of anticorruption law. International business groups have promulgated model codes of behavior, and multinational corporations (MNCs) now claim to be implementing antibribery programs. The leading nongovernmental organization (NGO) in this area, Transparency International, has conducted analysis and advocacy through chapters in over 90 nations. The international media report instances of corruption in high places virtually every day (often at great risk).
Underlying these changes in rules, rhetoric, and awareness is the growing recognition that bribery and extortion have demonstrably deleterious consequences. Gone is the day when some pundits seriously argued that corruption was an efficient corrective for overregulated economies or that it should be tolerated as an inevitable byproduct of intractable forces. The true impact of corruption is now widely acknowledged: corruption distorts markets and competition, breeds cynicism among citizens, undermines the rule of law, damages government legitimacy, and corrodes the integrity of the private sector. It is also a major barrier to international development -- systemic misappropriation by kleptocratic governments harms the poor.