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German policy

New strategy for tackling corruption

by Laura Hinze

In brief

Wall in Kenya’s energy ministry in late 2010

Wall in Kenya’s energy ministry in late 2010

Corruption thwarts progress. Therefore Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) has drafted a new approach to tackle the issue. The former one was finalised in 2002. By Laura Hinze

The new approach is geared to action at three levels:
– support for developing countries that implement reforms,
– managing risks of disbursing German funds and
– endorsement of international agreements.
According to the BMZ, government agencies, civil society organisations and private sector companies need to play active roles.

Corruption is particularly rampant in places with bad governance, the BMZ authors argue. Accordingly, they call for the rule of law, transparency of government authorities and politicians with iintegrity. The document stresses that international transactions are of increasing relevance. Apart from bribes, it mentions money laundering and other illegal financial flows.

The BMZ wants to rely on the institutions and procedures of partner countries for implanting measures in order to strengthen national systems. Where such systems are corruption-ridden, the BMZ wants to take counter-measures, for instance by supporting reforms or training staff members. Crucial issues, according to the BMZ, are a strong and independent judiciary as well as awareness raising and good public information. Finally, the BMZ wants whistleblowers to enjoy legal protection.

In the future, the BMZ pledges to address corruption related issues from the very start of any kind of cooperation. Funding levels will similarly depend on cooperation countries’ reform orientation and the progress they make on improving governance. The Ministry insists that all donors should harmonise their action in regard to these matters.

In the eyes of the BMZ, the media are part of civil society. Its priority is to instil a wish for transparency in society so people demand public accountability. It considers non-governmental organisations (NGOs) watchdogs and independent monitors (please note essay by Anthony Mulowa on p. 322 f.). At the same time, the BMZ points out that NGOs themselves must act transparently and accountably.

Private sector firms must also assume responsibility, according to the BMZ strategy paper. It praises industry associations’ initiatives such as the anti-corruption programme of the International Chamber of Commerce. Moreover, the authors emphasise that public-private partnerships can contribute meaningfully to enforcing private-sector accountability. The BMZ explicitly supports the anti-bribery convention of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. This convention is designed to keep international transactions clean.

Corruption must be fought in all sectors, the BMZ argues, including education, health care or natural resource exploitation. It praises the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), which is said to be a model. EITI is a multi-stakeholder initiative that involves partners from the public and private sectors as well as civil society. It is geared to making public all mining-, oil- and gas-related payments to governments (see interview with Peter Eigen in D+C/E+Z 2012/06, p. 242 f.).

The new BMZ strategy, moreover, promises more diligence in the disbursement of German development funds. BMZ staff will be trained, and a behaviour codex will guide their action. The situation in partner countries is to be assessed thoroughly. Financial flows and programme goals are to be spelled out precisely. In addition, the BMZ argues that non-governmental monitoring should further safeguard integrity.

At the supra-national level, the BMZ welcomes international agreements. Accordingly, it has been supporting partner countries’ efforts to implement the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) since 2004.

Edda Müller, the chairperson of Transparency International’s German chapter, praises the new strategy and demands that action be taken accordingly. She maintains Germany should serve as a role model in this field, and points out that it might be easier for German officials to negotiate in partner countries with serious corruption risks if Germany finally ratified UNCAC.

Laura Hinze