UNDP report highlights potential pitfalls of anti-corruption strategies

Dec 8, 2014

Many countries in Asia-Pacific have undertaken the challenging task of developing an anti-corruption strategies. This is laudable effort, which shows that corruption is not seen as a taboo anymore. More importantly, it is a signal that governments are reaching out to different sectors of society to join forces against the evil of corruption. 

This echoes the global call for “Breaking the corruption chain”, which is the main message of the International anti-corruption day that will be celebrated on the 9th of December across the region and beyond.

Yet anti-corruption strategies often fail, says a new report by the UN Development Programme. This is true in Asia Pacific and more generally at the global level. And evidence shows that progress is slow in the region, with corruption remaining a major hurdle to development. Public sector corruption is perceived as significant in 64% of the countries in the region (Transparency International). And it is estimated that about 40 per cent of investment in electricity, water and sanitation is lost to corruption.

The report points out that anti-corruption strategies often lack teeth when they are not fully integrated into national development plans. Anchoring anti-corruption into national development plans is a pre-condition to encourage cross-agency cooperation and avoid silo approaches in promoting human development. For example, in Malaysia, anti-corruption is one of the key national result areas pursued through the Government Transformation Programme. This has become a key driver for change as part of its Vision 2020 to become a high-income country.

Anti-corruption strategies have sometimes been mistaken as a generic roadmap that can be developed by a few bright minds in government to set overly ambitious goals. On the contrary UNDP experience in the region shows that it is essential to involve a range of stakeholders to build ownership and ensure the effectiveness of strategies adopted. State institutions (executive, legislative and judiciary) at national and sub-national levels, civil society organizations, private sector, media, professional societies, trade and industry associations and labour unions, academic institutions, youth and cultural organizations, are important allies in the development of anti-corruption strategies. They can also reduce the vulnerability of reform efforts to changes in political leadership by empowering the public to monitor these commitments.

Another common pitfall of anti-corruption strategies is the lack of attention to implementation, monitoring and evaluation. Government and development partners can be occasionally more concerned with drafting an anti-corruption strategy to fulfil international obligations under the UN Convention against Corruption than with ensuring its implementation. One of the exceptions is the Hong Kong’s Independent Commission against Corruption that carries out annual opinion surveys to track changes in public perception over time on the effectiveness of anti-corruption efforts.

Recognizing the lack of guidance in this area at the international level, this groundbreaking report features the Kuala Lumpur Statement on Anti-corruption Strategies. Initially developed at the regional level, it has become part of the global normative framework against corruption endorsed by the Conference of States Parties to the UN Convention against Corruption in November 2013 in Panama. It is referred to in Resolution 5/4: Follow-up to the Marrakech declaration on the prevention of corruption. In addition the report provides detailed country-per-country information on anti-corruption strategies that were developed in fourteen countries in the region, as well as measurement tools used to assess progress


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