Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Church speaks out against corruption

The Uniting Church in Australia has just produced a remarkably good, carefully researched and far-reaching report into corruption. It deserves to be read very widely.

While the report has a significant Australian focus, it contains a multidude of good things which are relevant at a global level. Here are a few snippets.

While lecturing developing countries about corruption, wealthy countries often play a role in fostering, rewarding and benefiting from corruption in developing countries. Eliminating corruption globally will require significant effort by all countries.

Exactly right. And one of the report's co-authors, Mark Zirnsak, told Ecumenical News International that contrary to popular opinion it is not always the poor nations of the world that are the most corrupt. As he said:

Some wealthy countries actively foster corruption, reward it and seek to benefit from it. The rich are the secret and usually unnoticed players in the global corruption game, and yet they always come out as the winners.

Indeed. This is just as we have been arguing. The report looks at many other things. It contains an interesting section on the theology of corruption and good governance; it agrees with TJN's possible suggested definition of corruption, to replace Transparency International's; it looks closely at the role that tax havens, secrecy, lawyers, bankers and accountants play in the global infrastructure of corruption; it looks at the importance of tax competition in fostering this global environment. It also looks at the role of western nations in harbouring looted assets from poor countries - an especially pertinent subject in light of the recent research that has emerged in the United States on the accumulated six hundred billion-odd dollars drained from Africa.

And the report highlights an appropriate quote from the World Bank and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)

While the traditional focus of the international development community has been on addressing corruption and weak governance within the developing countries themselves, this approach ignores the “other side of the equation”: stolen assets are often hidden in the financial centres of developed countries; bribes to public officials from developing countries often originate from multinational corporations; and the intermediary services provided by lawyers, accountants, and company formation agents, which could be used to launder or hide the proceeds of asset theft by developing country rulers, are often located in developed country financial centres.

This quote itself shies away from the issue of tax evasion (but the report it comes from does explore the issue, rather timidly.) In any case, well said.

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