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Youthink! Issues - Corruption

Lack of integrity or honesty -- especially susceptibility to bribery
© Ryan Rayburn | The World Bank

What is it?

Corruption is the abuse of public power for private gain. Bribery, misappropriations of public goods, nepotism (favoring family members for jobs and contracts), and influencing the formulation of laws or regulations for private gain are common examples of corruption.

Why should I care?

Between $1 trillion and $1.6 trillion dollars are lost globally each year to illegal activities, according to World Bank estimates. Corruption decreases the amount of wealth in a country and lowers the standard of living. Corruption affects you even if you don't come into direct contact with it. For example, corruption:

  • Discourages businesses from operating in a corrupt setting, reducing the overall wealth in a country.
  • Reduces the amount of money the government has available to pay workers and buy supplies such as books, medicine and computers.
  • Distorts the way the government uses its money, lowering the quality of the services it provides: schools, health clinics, roads, sewer systems, police.
  • Allows those with money or connections to bend the law or government rules in their favor.
  • Undermines everyone's trust in government.

When countries tackle corruption they increase their national incomes by as much as four times in the long term. Business can grow as much as 3% faster, and child mortality can fall as much as 75%. Four reasons that corruption can thrive are:

  • Opportunity: People get involved in corruption when systems don't work well and they need a way to get things done regardless of the procedures and laws.
  • Little chance of getting caught: A lack of accountability comes when there is little transparency (for example, public officials who don't explain what they are doing, how and why), and weak enforcement (law agencies who don't impose sanctions on power holders who violate their public duties).
  • Bad incentives: For example, a clerk who is not earning enough to live on, or not sure that he will have a job tomorrow, might supplement his income with bribes.
  • Certain attitudes or circumstances that make average people disregard the law. They may try to get around laws of a government they consider illegitimate. Poverty or scarcity of key goods such as medicine may also push people to live outside the law.

What is the international community doing?

Corruption and good governance concern everyone in the international community: donors, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), governments, and citizens in developing and industrial countries alike. The key to curbing corruption is disabling its causes. Some of the ways the international community is helping to curb corruption include:

  • Providing assistance to countries that ask for help in curbing corruption
  • Contributing to international corruption-fighting efforts
  • Striving to prevent fraud and corruption in donor-financed projects

Fighting corruption is a key focus of the World Bank's analysis and consideration of lending to a country. In September 2007, the World Bank, in partnership with the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), launched an initiative called the Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative to help developing countries recover assets stolen by corrupt leaders, help invest those assets in effective development programs, and combat safe havens internationally.

What can I do?

Corruption won't stop unless we choose to stop it. Make the right choices:

  • Choose not to give or receive bribes
  • Choose to achieve things on the basis of personal integrity
  • Choose to speak out when you see corruption around you

You can also:

  • Lobby your government for changes to the current system and to create laws that protect whistle blowers
  • Write articles to your local newspaper when you see corruption in action
  • Join campaigns to fight corruption and for good governance around the world

For more information: Anti-Corruption
Integrity Vice Presidency

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