Bribery and corruption

In the Public Interest: Taking Integrity to Higher Standards - opening remarks at the 2017 OECD Global Anti-Corruption & Integrity Forum


Opening Remarks by Angel Gurría

Secretary-General, OECD

OECD Paris, 30 March 2017

(As prepared for delivery) 



Welcome to the 5th edition of the OECD Global Anti-Corruption and Integrity Forum. Let me begin by thanking the Prime Minister of Slovakia, Mr. Robert Fico, and the Vice President of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, for joining us for this opening.

I would also like to thank the UK government for supporting the Forum, as well as our knowledge partners with whom we are deeply engaged in the fight against corruption: The OECD’s Business and Industry Advisory Council (BIAC), the U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre, the Alliance for Integrity, the German development agency GIZ, Business for Social Responsibility, the International Anti-Corruption Academy, Transparency International, and all the other participating partners.

The presence here of so many leading organisations, policymakers and experts shows the strength of our shared commitment to fight corruption and promote a culture of integrity.

Corruption is a threat to our economies and societies

We’ve said it many times, in many ways. Corruption destroys human progress. It corrodes the foundations of our societies, our economies and our well-being. It feeds inequalities, distorts markets, finances wars and terrorism, helps smuggle people, guns and drugs, diverting public and private funds into illicit activities. It is a threat to development, to the environment, to human dignity, to global security and to public trust.

Recent corruption scandals in the private and public sector have contributed strongly to the erosion of public trust in business, government, public institutions, and the media. And more broadly, corruption and its impunity, confirms the perception that globalisation is working for the few and leaving many behind. The Edelman Trust Barometer for 2017 revealed that only 15% of people feel the system is working for them, with 69% of those surveyed expressing concerns about ‘corruption’ and 62% about ‘globalisation’.

This erosion of trust is the ideal setting where populism, protectionism and exclusive nationalisms grow. This is creating a series of dangerous synergies that can lead to international fragmentation and confrontation. We need to reverse these trends. We need to restore the trust of citizens in their governments, in our democracies and in the ability of global integration and openness to improve lives for the better. Combatting corruption effectively is essential to advance in this direction. This is why our joint efforts are so important.

The contribution of the OECD

As many of you know, the OECD has been at the leading edge of anti-corruption efforts for years. Our policy tools are helping countries tackle corruption in all its forms. Thanks to the OECD’s Anti-Bribery Convention, foreign bribery is illegal in 41 economies; soon Costa Rica, Lithuania and Peru will raise the number to 44! Our standards for business are complemented by the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and the revised G20/OECD Principles of Corporate Governance provide globally-recognised standards on transparency, accountability and business integrity.

Earlier this year, the OECD Council approved the OECD Recommendation on Public Integrity, which provides policy makers with the blueprint for a public integrity strategy. It shifts the focus from ad hoc integrity policies to a comprehensive, risk-based approach with an emphasis on cultivating a culture of integrity across the whole of society. We are also providing targeted anti-corruption tools in key risk areas. The OECD Recommendation of the Council on Public Procurement, for example, helps mitigate the risk of corruption in a sector that accounts for approximately 29% of government expenditure in OECD Member countries.

And of course anti-corruption efforts benefit from our broader drive to reduce tax evasion and avoidance. G20 Countries have already identified almost 80 billion euros in additional, unplanned revenues through voluntary disclosure programmes and other initiatives.  

We also support the G20 Anti-Corruption Working Group with expert data and analysis. For example, the OECD helped develop the G20 High-Level Principles on Financial Disclosure; High-Level Principles on Beneficial Ownership Transparency; High-Level Principles on Mutual Legal Assistance; the G20 Guiding Principles on Integrity in Public Procurement; Guiding Principles on Enforcement of the Foreign Bribery Offence; and G20 Anti-Corruption Open Data Principles, to name just a few.

And we work directly with national governments. At this Forum the new Integrity Review of my own country, Mexico, will be presented. The OECD just launched a review of integrity in education in the Ukraine and we are also supporting the Greek government with a project to prevent corruption and strengthen law enforcement and business integrity. In Thailand and Indonesia, we are assisting the government to review their public sector integrity policies.

All these initiatives have been game-changing. And yet it is still not enough. Corruption continues to blight our economies and our societies. We have to do more! We have to seize the opportunity presented by this meeting to scale up our effort, and take it into new areas.

Creating new partnerships and expanding our stakeholder engagement, for example through our Trade Union Advisory Committee (TUAC), our Business and Industry Advisory Committee (BIAC), and Forums such as this one, which bring together a wide variety of stakeholders, from government, business, civil society, academia and think tanks.

The Global Anti-Corruption and Integrity Forum

Over the next two days you will be looking at inequality, exclusion and disillusionment as the real costs of corruption, you will discuss how to tackle corruption in development co-operation, in climate finance, in infrastructure projects, and in the SME sector. You will also hear about the linkages between corruption and terrorism. You will look at preventing policy capture and countering bribery, at ensuring independence for regulators and promoting due diligence and responsible business conduct.

The OECD will be launching new studies to shape discussion and guide action, such as Preventing Policy Capture: Integrity in Public Decision Making and a new contribution on the crucial objective of restoring trust: Trust and Public Policy: How Better Governance Can Help Rebuild Public Trust. These studies draw on the knowledge and collaboration of many of you and they provide powerful new tools to tackle vested interests and eradicate corruption.

Trust and Public Policy proposes a new framework for understanding trust in public institutions, organised around two principal drivers of trust: demonstrating competence and upholding values. Responsiveness and reliability are critical dimensions of competence; with regard to values, citizens expect integrity, openness and fairness.

So we have to keep these tools sharp. All the more because the mechanisms and vehicles of corruption are becoming more sophisticated and difficult to trace. We have to stay ahead of the game. To do this we have to work together, sharing our experiences and co-ordinating our actions.

We are also committed to increase the relevance and impact of our work, and I look forward to receiving at the end of this opening session the Recommendations and Full Report of the High Level Advisory Group on Anti-Corruption and Integrity, which I convened in March 2015.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The American writer Buckminster Fuller once said that “On personal integrity hangs humanity's fate.” It’s certainly true that a culture of integrity makes our economies more productive, our public sector more efficient, our institutions more trusted, our societies and our economies more inclusive and cohesive. In short, integrity delivers better lives.

With this goal in mind, I wish you a rich and fruitful Forum. Thank you.



See also

OECD work on bribery and corruption

OECD and trust in government


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