HomeEditorial CommentEnding corruption to achieve SDGs

Ending corruption to achieve SDGs

By Bishow Parajuli

It was an honour to share my perspectives at the National Anti-Corruption Indaba organised by Transparency International.

The indaba was timely and very important to stepping-up efforts to support the government’s commitment and vision to end corruption in Zimbabwe.

Ending corruption is at the heart of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which aim to end poverty, hunger, inequality and advance quality education, universal health coverage, gender equality, human rights, justice and environmental sustainability.

The specific target set for ending corruption within the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development calls, under SDG 16, for the substantial reduction in corruption and bribery in all their forms.

The United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) recognises corruption as a global concern which undermines good governance and human development.

Thus, the United Nations System recognises ending corruption as a critical step to achieving the ambitious targets set for Financing for Development.

The Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index has shown that Zimbabwe currently ranks at number 160 out of 180 countries as of 2018 from a ranking of 154 in 2016. The Transparency International Corruption Perception Index is one barometer to check if one is on track. Although this shows a marginal deterioration, Zimbabwe must remain positive and continue to urge the fight against corruption forward.

The measure that has been put in motion in Zimbabwe by the country’s top leadership taking a strong stance against all forms of corruption is commendable.

This is an essential part of the national response, when a spirited government commitment in ending corruption from the very top, stating that corrupt practices, will not be tolerated.

Yes, it cannot be taken for granted that all the country will follow, and that is when societies put in place tighter laws and regulations that are then followed through; when parliamentary and local council oversight moves up many notches higher; when citizens groups, civil society and the media play a watchful checking function and where all, irrespective of alliances and affiliations, are held to the same higher standards and thereby to account.

Regrettably, regardless of which country, it is the most vulnerable and poorest populations who are disproportionately affected, increasing costs and reducing access to services, including health, education and justice. Corruption also diverts resources from their intended purposes and sends a country down a dismal development path.

The most evident signs are when roads and bridges that should have been built to last always fall fast into disrepair; when the riches of a nation are in the hands of a few who gained by corrupt practices and the poor do not get to see their kids live a healthy life or complete a basic level of education; when
forests and wildlife are over-exploited — all examples of development policy and investment choices that went astray.

Corruption is a threat to peace, democracy and impedes investment, with consequent effects on economic growth and jobs. Countries capable of confronting corruption use their human and financial resources more efficiently, attract more investment, and grow more rapidly.

It is with all this in mind, that the United Nations puts serious focus on fighting the root causes of corruption in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. The global UN ACT campaign, which stands for Against Corruption Today, promotes partnerships among the public sector, private sector, civil society organisations and the media in addressing this issue head-on.

As with government and ordinary citizens, the private sector stands to gain enormously from effective action in this regard as well, as the reducing of corrupt practices helps the cost of doing business go down. This is something the government of Zimbabwe is pushing to succeed and we all must support.

In this regard, I would like to take this opportunity to share five short reflections on how such partnerships could move forward on common ground:

First, fundamental to reducing even the potential for widespread corruption is a normative and legislative base that promotes greater transparency and accountability across all the arms and functions of the state. It is an opportune moment for Zimbabwe to address this, as it aligns laws and repeals laws such as the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act and Public Order and Security Act to its national constitution and as part of this looks to
domesticate in full the relevant set of international conventions including the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), which Zimbabwe ratified
in 2007.

Second, knowing the value and return to investments in human capital, management systems and the broader institutional transformations that will increase the efficiencies and effectiveness of both public and private sector institutions. In a more transparent and accountable institution the opportunities for leakages are minimised and development results are better delivered.

Third, supporting the independence and capacities of the media and civil society organisations that play such a key role is essential to win this battle. The tried and tested instruments across the world that nurture and promote such engagement and capacities is deepening education, and greater public access to information and independent media.

Fourth, successful anti-corruption efforts are often led by a “coalition of concerned” — politicians and senior government officials, the private sector and by citizens, and communities with visionary and committed leadership at the top. Increasingly, successfully addressing corruption will require the concerted attention of both governments and businesses, as well as the use of the latest advanced technologies to capture, analyse and share data to prevent, detect, and deter corrupt behaviour.

A fifth and final reflection is a repeat of that old phrase “a mindset change”. When the public interest is put ahead of the individual interest, where leaders, family members, educators at all levels, voice and model a different set of attitudes and behaviours as to what is right and what will just not be tolerated — then we see the blossoming of a wise and clean culture that is a powerful and positive force for the young to follow.

As you may know, the United Nations in Zimbabwe, through the 2016-2020 Zimbabwe United Nations Development Assistance Framework (Zundaf), supports national development priorities in the areas of food and nutrition security, gender equality, HIV and Aids, poverty reduction and value addition, public administration and governance and social services and protection, delivering US$400 million per year in various projects and programmes. These resources come from donors and member states in which the UN System delivers to the intended beneficiaries with a high level of transparency and accountability that ensures value for money.

In addition, the United Nations has responded to humanitarian needs such as the current drought and the recent Cyclone Idai with an appeal totalling US$294 million targeting 2,47 million people. Continued full accountability and transparency in managing and implementing donor resources is critical going forward.

As the United Nations delivers such massive development and humanitarian results, the UN System operates under zero tolerance to corruption and bribery and has strong mechanisms in place for reporting and taking swift action on reports of fraud, corruption, bribery and abuse of resources within the UN work place and across partners.

The United Nations stands ready to continue supporting the government and the people of Zimbabwe as they push ahead and engender a culture that values and rewards ethical accountable behaviour.

Bishow Parajuli is the UN ambassador to Zimbabwe.

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