Corruption and Justice

Anna Triponel

February 2, 2024
Our key takeaway: Corruption is on the rise across the world. Over two-thirds of countries score below 50/100, which is a concern given that Transparency International uses a scale from 0-10 with 100 being ‘very clean’ and 0 being ‘highly corrupt.’ Why is corruption on the rise? Because governments across the political spectrum - in both authoritarian and democratic contexts - are undermining the impartiality and independence of justice systems so that they can act with impunity. Weakened justice systems are a breeding ground for corruption. Therefore, the fight for justice and the fight against corruption is intrinsically-linked and must be tackled together, rather than treated as separate issues. Why is this relevant for companies? Simply put, corruption breeds human rights abuse. Companies who are operating in countries that score as high-risk for corruption will have to conduct heightened human rights due diligence to assess whether the operating context has pushed corruption to the top of the company’s salient human rights risks and whether it needs to be prioritised for action. François Valérian, the Chair of Transparency International, issues a call to action: “Leaders should fully invest in and guarantee the independence of institutions that uphold the law and tackle corruption. It is time to end impunity for corruption.”

Transparency International published Corruption Perceptions Index 2023 (January 2024):

  • Corruption is thriving globally: The Corruption Perceptions Index 2023 (CPI) uses a scale from 0-100 with 100 being ‘very clean’ and 0 being ‘highly corrupt.’ The report highlights how corruption is a prevalent issue across the world: "Over two-thirds of countries score below 50 out of 100, which strongly indicates that they have serious corruption problems. The global average is stuck at only 43, while the vast majority of countries have made no progress or declined in the last decade.”
  • The weakening of justice systems and the rule of law is the cause: The report states that governments across the political spectrum - in both authoritarian and democratic contexts - are undermining justice systems and the rule of law, which forms the basis for corruption to take place. Corruption “ranges from bribery to embezzlement to the organised, complex schemes of grand corruption, which is the abuse of high-level power that causes serious and widespread suffering in societies.” The people impacted by corruption are suffering in situations where they have no recourse to justice and public sector actors are able to act with impunity. The report emphasises that “the fight for justice and the fight against corruption go hand in hand.” More specifically, “where the justice system is unable to uphold the rule of law, corruption thrives. At the same time, where corruption is the norm, access to justice is often hindered for the most vulnerable, and justice institutions may be captured by political, economic or special interest groups.”
  • What can companies do?: While the report focuses on recommendations to governments, businesses can think about leveraging these recommendations in their work with governments to ensure an enabling environment conducive to corporate human rights respect. The report recommends that governments: 1) “Strengthen the independence of the justice system.” For instance, governments can ‘[p]romote merit-based rather than political appointments”; 2) “Introduce integrity and monitoring mechanisms”, such as, whistleblowing and reporting channels so that people can report any instances of abuse of power; 3) “Improve access to justice”, which is the first step against corruption. This includes “granting civil society organisations (CSOs) the right to initiate and bring forward cases of corruption”; 4) “Make justice more transparent” to ensure justice systems are held accountable for the decisions and actions they take; 5) “Promote cooperation within the justice system.” An example is connecting the synergies between formal and informal justice systems to leverage learnings and collaboration; and 6) “Expand avenues for accountability in grand corruption cases”, where governments are unable or unwilling to penalise offenders.

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