Stanley's blog

Corruption requires at least two parties. There is constant criticism of corrupt Middle Eastern and African governments. However, six EU Member States have still not ratified the October 2003 UN Convention against Corruption, including two G8 members, Germany and Italy. Japan, another G8 member has also not ratified.

Transparency International has just published a damning report. Japan, the UK and Canada have failed “to demonstrate enforcement of their foreign bribery laws.” Japan and Canada have each only brought one minor bribery prosecution under an OECD Convention which has been in force since 1999. The UK has not prosecuted anyone but the US has brought 103 cases.

The UK has pride of place for stopping in 2006 the enquiry into the bribery allegations against BAE Systems in its arms sales to Saudi Arabia, clearly due to Saudi pressure.

Transparency International praised the US and Germany for taking action against some of their largest companies.

It is timely to reflect, just ahead of the G8 Toyako summit on the big gap between rhetoric and reality (seen also in aid to Africa and climate change) and ‘western’ hypocrisy, which appears to include Canada and Japan, but not the
US.

At the root of the problem is the fear of being put at a competitive disadvantage. And here lies the fundamental problem. Despite their declarations of morality, economics comes first. The object of the UN Convention is to create a level playing field, eliminating all bribery and corruption, but this is a dream, although a worthy one.

The only way forward is for the wealthier countries to set an example, albeit losing business, and applying peer pressure to the others. This is easier to say to political leaders than it is for them to act, but if they are not prepared to act, they should say so and stop the hypocrisy.

In the long term, a substantial reduction in bribery and corruption will benefit everyone, except the corrupt governments. But then, today’s political leaders rarely think and act long-term. ‘Pain now, gain later” is not a popular political maxim.

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  1. When it comes to the European states, I do not see a hypocrisy here. Both European states mentioned as non-ratifiers of the UN convention are members of GRECO (the Group of States against Corruption), a monitoring body that works under the roof of the Council of Europe (see: http://www.coe.int/t/dg1/Greco/general/members_en.asp). Maybe they just do not see an added value in the UN convention (so far).

    Not being member of a specific international convention is in no way saying that there are no other means to work on other issues. In contrast, some states might just join certain conventions to pretend that they are doing something…

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