Magazine article UNESCO Courier

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Magazine article UNESCO Courier

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Article excerpt

In one of the opening scenes of a satirical film that enjoyed an enormous success in France a few years back, a seasoned - and corrupt - police officer describes his philosophy of life to a young and as yet untainted colleague as they stroll through the Paris streets. He explains how he uses his position to extort money from the local tradespeople. The young officer retorts that the police aren't there to break the law, but to enforce it. Taking him gently by the arm, the veteran points out that people all around them are violating the law without even realizing that they are doing so. He concludes that the law cannot be fully enforced without bringing social life to a standstill. An intelligent policeman should accept that this is how things are and - why not? profit from it.

This disingenuous episode contains most of the sophistical arguments that are often used to justify corruption: trivialization (a pedestrian crossing a street against a traffic light is placed on the same level as a policeman running a protection racket); the use of non-sequiturs (illegal practices exist, therefore it is impossible to stop them); making a quantum leap from a factual observation to a value judgement ("Corruption is everywhere, long may it prevail!").

This issue of the Courier sets out to show that corruption is not inevitable and that it can and must be countered. We have endeavoured to look at corruption as a historical phenomenon, analysing the reasons for it and the forms it has taken at different times and places; to trace the borderline - if there is one - between excusable irregularity and unpardonable criminality; to identify ways and means of fighting the latter. …

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