*Special thanks for the collaboration of Iñaki Albisu
Corruption is a plague that does not differentiate between developed and emerging countries; corruption exists all around the world and has a complete disregard for borders. It has become the main barrier to achieving social and economic development. It erodes the confidence in governments, affects the economic and financial stability, thwarts investments and prevents citizens from exercising their rights.
In a context where corruption cases are becoming increasingly frequent at a transnational level, national endeavors are not sufficient to prevent corrupt practices. Therefore, international forums where States can reach agreements and coordinate public efforts to fight corruption in an effective way are of the highest importance in order to avoid this very real danger.
The G20 was first created in order to maintain international financial stability. It is currently a forum of the upmost importance, where emerging countries seated alongside more established market counterparts debating on matters affecting the global agenda. Its objective is to promote policies that aim to reduce the existing development gap at the global level, to optimize coordination in financing infrastructure and service projects, to promote employment, to implement inclusive social policies, and to fight against corruption.
In regards to the fight against corruption, the G20 has a specific area: the Anti-Corruption Working Group. Its main purpose is to support States in the adoption of public policies that fight corruption from three complementary angles: prevention, investigation and sanctioning.
The G-20 has several tools that it uses to urge its Member States to adopt public policies linked to the fight against corruption, including high-level studies, recommendations, guidelines and principles. The most significant of these tools and recommendations include: High-Level Principles on Asset Disclosure by Public Officials (2012), G20 Guiding Principles on Enforcement of the Foreign Bribery Offence (2013), G20 High-Level Principles on Beneficial Ownership Transparency (2014), G20 High Level Principles for Promoting Integrity in Public Procurement (2015), G20 Anti-Corruption Open Data Principles (2015). In the 2013 G-20 Declaration, there is a recommendation to Member States regarding the ratification and implementation of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC). And, last but not least, there is the G20 Anti-Corruption Action Plan concerning the establishment of a standard for the protection of whistleblowers.
Despite G-20 principles not being binding, the commitment to these principles by the G-20 member countries is generally weak. It is important to note that some progress has been made in recent times in the fight against corruption thanks to the work of the G-20.
It is noteworthy that in the past three years, in line with the recommendations made by the Anti-Corruption Working Group, India and Saudi Arabia have ratified the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC). This means that all G20 member states, with the exception of Japan, have done so. Commitments that encourage G20 member countries to ratify the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Convention against Transnational Organized Crime , have also had a positive impact in the number of countries that have adopted and ratified this Convention.
In addition, as a consequence of the adoption of the High Level Principles on Transparency in Effective Beneficiary, the United Kingdom has established its own public beneficial owner registry. It should be noted that France, South Africa and Australia have taken steps to establish or consider the creation of such registries.
To accomplish and to deepen the objective of fighting corruption from a prevention angle, it is important that the Anti-Corruption Working Group keep expanding the range of subjects it addresses, integrating crucial subjects such as public ethics and political financing. In this regard, political financing is the principal meeting point between the private sector, political candidates and elected officials. If not regulated properly, and if transparency in this area is lacking, political financing can becoming the driving force for corrupt behaviors.
In regard to the investigation and sanction angles, some recent advances were made thanks to the G20’s work. For instance, through G20 recommendations, several of its Member States —including Argentina— have adopted and reinforced the legislation on whistleblower, a central tool to fight corruption.
In December, Argentina will assume the G20 Presidency and will share the presidency of the Anticorruption Working Group too. The country has the opportunity to delineate the working agenda and strengthen current international standards to better prevent, detect and sanction corruption. Marking a strong stance with the Working Group agenda will allow Argentina to better coordinate its actions not only with the other States but also with its civil society and the private sector and thus provide a united and defiant stance against corruption.