Reducing poverty means fighting corruption, say global faith leaders

By staff writers
November 6, 2009

Faith communities from around the world have urged politicians to recognise that corruption is undermining attempts to reduce global poverty.

Over 100 faith leaders have written to the United Nations Secretary-General ahead of a crucial international meeting on corruption. They are supported by organisations including CAFOD, Christian Aid, Islamic Relief and Tearfund.

Campaigners and academics have long insisted that corruption hits the poorest and most vulnerable the hardest. They point out that it leads to the diversion of public funds, loss of investment and a reduction in tax revenues.

“Put simply, corruption is at the heart of people’s experience of poverty,” said Professor Tariq Ramadan, “For poor communities, corrupt practices constitute an insurmountable barrier to quality education, affordable healthcare and decent livelihoods. The opportunity and hope for so many in society is stolen by corruption.”

Governments in both rich and poor countries have been accused of not taking corruption seriously in recent years. Last year, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) heavily criticised the UK authorities for dropping a corruption investigation into the multinational arms company BAE Systems.

This week’s meeting in Doha will attempt to revive negotiations over the implementation of the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC). The faith leaders say that its success depends on the adoption of an effective review mechanism to monitor its implementation.

“Without effective monitoring the convention is just empty rhetoric,” said Rabbi Alan Plancey, insisting that “We cannot afford further delays.”

There are two essential elements to a review process, according to Archbishop Cyprian Kizito of Kampala, the President of Caritas Africa. He said that the first is transparency, “via the publication of reports and recommendations”. The second is civil society organisations, including faith groups, which “provide an important link to communities experiencing poverty”

Kizito insisted that “The review mechanism must make room for the voices of men and women living in poverty. Indeed, if those most affected by corruption are not accorded space to feed in to the review, it will be impossible to accurately measure UNCAC’s effectiveness”.

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