UN Calls on Private Sector to Fight Corruption

The United Nations Global Compact called upon the private sector to mobilize against corruption at a high-level meeting of business and civic leaders in New Delhi this week.

The call to action, the full text of which is available online, asks business leaders to refuse to engage in graft and appeals to governments to adopt anti-corruption policies.

Speaking at the meeting, Olajobi Makinwa, head of transparency and anti-corruption initiatives for the UN Global Compact, called corruption "one of the greatest systemic barriers to healthy societies and economic growth."

"Corruption distorts markets, undermines development and makes business unsustainable," said Makinwa. "It is time for businesses to showcase their commitment to bring this critical global challenge into the centre of global development debates."

India's capital city was an all-too suitable location for the meeting on corruption, as the country regularly ranks towards the bottom of Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index. More than half of Indians say they have paid bribes to or engaged in influence peddling with public officials.

Officially dubbed the Global Compact's Working Group on the 10th Principle Against Anti-Corruption, the meeting was part of the UN's work to develop a new global development framework as the Millennium Development Goals 2015 deadline approaches.

There is broad agreement among business leaders that corruption must be significantly reduced before most, if not all, of the development goals, which include the eradication of poverty, the reduction of child mortality and the promotion of gender equality, can be achieved.

"The UN Global Compact's Call to Action is an important step in fostering greater public-private collaboration to combat corruption and achieve development goals," said Elaine Dezenski, senior director of the World Economic Forum's Partnering Against Corruption Initiative, which will convene a joint session with the Global Compact during the final day of the meeting this week.

The call to action, she added, "underlines not only the crucial role business, government and civil society have to play but how this collective action is critical to the business agenda - when companies collaborate to eliminate corruption and build a more transparent environment for doing business, everyone benefits."

Studies have repeatedly shown a negative correlation between corruption levels and economic development. More corrupt countries have difficulty attracting foreign investment and promoting entrepreneurship. It is estimated that corruption cost India the equivalent of $285.5 billion over the past decade.

The call to action asks the more than 7,000 Global Compact signatories to work with governments to promote anti-corruption measures, particularly in the area of public procurement. Already, delegates from Egypt, Germany, Nigeria and India - many of which are already engaged in anti-corruption projects - expressed support for the call to action.

In September at its triennial Leaders Summit, the Global Compact will publish a complete list of companies and other organizations that have signed on to the call to action. The Global Compact is a UN initiative that seeks to get companies to commit to responsible business practices in the areas of human rights, labor, environment and anti-corruption.

Image credit: kmillard92, Flickr