Academic journal article Demokratizatsiya

Corruption: What Can Be Done about It?

Academic journal article Demokratizatsiya

Corruption: What Can Be Done about It?

Article excerpt

A Practitioner's Perspective through a Russian Lens

In this article, I synthesize and analyze the current state of key research and programmatic experience relating to global corruption and the transition countries of the Former Soviet Union (FSU)--particularly Russia. Second, I advocate a holistic prescription of preventive and remedial anticorruption medicine that includes balanced doses of prevention, investigation, and public awareness. Third, I argue for collaborative local, country, regional, and global anticorruption trade and investment/civil society strategies that are grounded on political will, "good governance" principles, and global technological, business, and democratic trends and practices. Fourth, I propose a broad, flexible framework for action, including eight high-priority areas of programmatic intervention and strong support for regional public and private initiatives. And fifth, I call for leadership and action--particularly from the business, academic, and foundation communities--as well as for more transparency, accountability, and informal and formal information sharing among donors, governments, businesses, and the law enforcement community, particularly when there is evidence of corrupt or criminal activities. Moving in this general direction now will strengthen the enforcement teeth of private and public ethics codes and new and planned global and regional anticorruption treaties and country initiatives such as those just inked by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the Organization of American States (OAS).

Historical Regional Perspective and the Causes of Corruption Russian Lessons Learned/Global Admonitions

The chapter on corruption is necessarily being constantly rewritten as we learn more about its causes and nature and the countries in which we are working and investing. New information technologies and dramatic global economic and political forces are all contributing to this evolving process. And as the full, long-term political and economic effects of corruption play out on the world stage, the international political and business community, as well as a more engaged and vested citizenry, is now less willing to accept corruption as a price they are willing to pay to protect the status quo and to maintain close-knit political and business alliances.

A historical perspective is important to understanding this "new" global phenomenon. Whether in the days of Peter the Great or Louis XV in eighteenth-century Europe, or South Korea, Italy, or Mexico in the twentieth century, corruption has been a serious, although infrequently discussed, phenomenon. Until recently there has been no appreciation of the full costs of corruption and no consensus on a wide range of governance and business issues. There has also been a conspiracy of silence among virtually all of the key players--donors, companies, and governments alike.

In 1894, a French/Russian scholar, Anatole Leroy-Beaulieu, observed that corruption and lawlessness was a centuries-old problem for Russia and that it had been a major deterrent to Russia's becoming part of the world community for centuries. After noting the progressive reforms initiated by Czar Alexander in the 1860s, including an effort to create an independent judiciary, he wrote that the fundamental causes of corruption in Russian history remained the same: (a) a society ruled by men instead of law; (b) a secretive, restrictive bureaucracy that stifles justice and the press and the development of strong state institutions; (c) a weak civil society unable to check governmental action; and (d) a citizenry cynical and distrusting of government and the law. These are among the key problems that must be addressed by Russia and numerous other countries even today. However, the difference in Russia and some other FSU countries is that corruption appears to be systemic throughout all levels of society. Many are beginning to believe that this profound problem is the most enduring legacy of the Communist system, under which corrupt practices were a totally acceptable, and often necessary, method of making virtually anything happen on an everyday basis. …

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