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Fighting Corruption, Internationally

From the Anti Corruption G20 OECD  high level conference in Paris I come back with 2 main feelings. They are both related to the issue of how to fight corruption worldwide through a supranational approach driven mostly by a subset of (richer) countries.

Not an easy topic.

1) A first tool that was seen favorably was “Collective Action” by firms (typically large multinationals) that agree to resist the temptation to bribe through an explicit joint commitment. In such a way it is hoped that citizens (often in developing countries) will benefit from the lower costs due to lower corruption.

Tricky issue. As Adam Smith would have said, it is hard that entrepreneurs meet during a party or a social event without ending up conspiring against the greater good of society. I would posit that the risk here is that less corruption comes, to be optimistic, at the cost of the greater collusion that such collective actions talks among firms would encourage.  In such case citizens (often of developing countries) would not only see zero benefit from collective action, but only a more expensive procurement with extra profits shared among cartel members of firms (often from richer nations), either alone or together with corrupt government politicians and/or officials.

2) A second tool proposed to reduce corruption at the international level is common rules imposed in a single country by the international community (typically richer countries).

Tricky issue here too. Those who push for this approach claim that corruption is a global phenomenon and should be thus tackled globally. If corruption is instead seen as a cultural phenomenon affected by globalization, it comes naturally to leave the fight aganst corruption to local forces, and let the international community identify ways to sustain those governments that show the greatest improvements in such a struggle.

In this sense, international indicators of national corruption like the ones produced by Transparency International - which rank countries worldwide without taking into account that it makes no sense to compare the anti corruption stance of a country with a 5000 $ income per capita with one with a 30.000 $ one - are extremely dangerous. They might rather fast become a blackmailing tool for rich countries to deny financing and support to poor countries that do not open sufficiently to multinationals or that conduct foreign policy that is considered against the interest of those.

Much better it would be to monitor, rather than the level of corruption of any given country, its improvement over time, rewarding it if some (jointly) established targets are achieved.

Until then, don’t let the fight against corruption become a new (neo) colonialist tool in the South-North never-ending interaction.


  1. Luigi Biagini

    29/04/2013 @ 06:32

    Il secondo strumento è accattivante anche se politicamente irraggiungibile nel breve periodo. Si potrebbe pensare iniziare ad un sorta di “cooperazione rafforzata” tra alcuni stati. Tramite un moral suasion pressante poi questi stati dovrebbero cercare di fare entrare gli altri stati


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