How can people participate in decision-making if they don’t have access to information? Can those denied both education and knowledge of governance in any form be held responsible when they elect corrupt leaders?
Transparency is fundamental to accountability and an inclusive society.
Reading an article in the New York Times this morning on the lives of two women in Angola, Two Women, Opposite Fortunes, I discovered Transparency International. Transparency International was started in 1993 by Peter Eigen, a former director of the Word Bank programs in East Africa, Its purpose is to expose corruption in government and to reverse the practice of accepting government corruption as inevitable.
It is an accepted fact that if you want to do business with many governments, you have to pay bribes. In order to help provide medical care to the poor, you have to look the other way when most of the funds go into the pocket of the rich—even in a catastrophic emergency like the earthquake in Haiti.
Transparency in Government
Transparency International develops a wide range of resources for understanding and resting corruption:
- Tools including business principles for countering bribery, a business integrity toolkit, corruption fighters toolkit and integrity pacts.
- Research on corruption, including a Corruption Perceptions Index, national assessments, anti corruption helpdesk, and a Bribe Payers Index.
- Numerous publications, programs, and other activities
On the Index of Corruptions Perceptions Index of 2014, the United States ranks 17th with Denmark, New Zealand, Finland, Sweden, and Norway perceived to be the least corrupt.
The Extent of Mind Boggling Corruption
It’s hard to understand how bad corruption is many countries. We are talking about corruption on the scale of billions of dollars, not a free trip to the Azores to study international progress in farming. Or the gift of a new mink coat. Or paying for your daughter’s wedding. Or the free cup of coffee offered to police officers.
With a Corruption Perceptions Index score of 19 with the lowest score being 100, Angola is an example of one of the most corrupt nations in the world. When the International Monetary Fund first studied Angola’s financial records for 2007-2010, $32 billion dollars was missing. Most of the $58 million allocated to renovate one hospital just vanished.
Angola’s life expectancy and infant mortality rates are among the highest in the world. Income inequality in a country rich in diamond mines, oil, and other lucrative resources is extreme. After the decades long civil war ended in 2002, Angola adopted a nominally democratic government but lineages of kings still exist in some areas. The power is controlled by the president. According to an article in Forbes, the president’s daughter, Isabel dos Santos, is worth $3 billion in a country where 70% of the people live on $2 a day.
The Effects of Corruption
The effects of corruption run deep. For diamonds sold on the world market to create billionaires, the poor suffer deep deprivation. A very small percentage goes to education, healthcare, or economic development for the bottom 70%.
The majority does not rule in all democracies.
Only 54% of Angolan women are literate; 83% of men. In 1995, only 61% of children are even enrolled in school and many rural areas had no school buildings or teachers. Those children uneducated in 1995 are now adults. Democratic ideals expect them to determine how their country will be governed.
Sociocracy would be a start.
Living on $1 a Day. A 53-minute documentary in which four college students live for two months on $1 a day in rural Guatemala. This award-winning film has been called “A Must Watch” by Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus
The depth of such deprivation goes even beyond daily food. And daily food in some households is not sufficient to maintain normal activity. Available on Netflix and often shown my non-profit groups combating world hunger, economic development, and micro economies.
Guatemala is 115 on the Perceived Corruption Index with a score of 37 out of a perfect low corruption score of 100.
There is also a book (that I haven’t read) by the award-winning photographer Renée C. Byer and Thomas A. Nazario, founder and president of The Forgotten International.