No Gifts…No Problems…

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Image credit: Collective Action Coalition against Corruption

By Pana Ratanabanangkoon, Thailand’s Private Sector Collective Action Coalition against Corruption (CAC) Project Director

In Thailand, it is customary for businesses to give gifts to customers, business partners and government officials during the holiday season. Gifts can range in size from a bottle of wine to a car. This is common throughout Asia, where the holiday season typically runs from Christmas through the Lunar New Year and can include multiple occasions when gifts are expected.

From the point of view of anti-corruption compliance, these holidays are fraught with risk, as many businesses feel compelled by tradition to give presents to government officials. This clash of cultural expectation with the need to manage corruption risk can be a major source of tension within companies. That’s why my organization requires its certified member companies to have strong procedures in place for gift-giving as part a corporate anti-corruption compliance program.  Read More...

LGBTI+ Rights and Corruption: What’s the Connection?

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Photo credit: David Yu

By James Reston, a Washington, DC-based researcher, whose work focuses on human rights, corruption, internet freedom, and security.

Global business leaders can reduce corruption and boost productivity by upholding LGBTI+ rights.

Even with rapid progress on LGBTI+ rights in the last decade, 69 countries still criminalize same-sex relations and 155 lack anti-discrimination protections. At the same time, 91% of Fortune 500 companies have prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation – in their operations globally.

In societies without legal protections, LGBTI+ employees are under constant threat of violence, extortion by corrupt officials, and decreasing productivity due to exclusionary workplace environments. According to the United Nations, the global economy faces at least $120 billion in losses per year because of rampant discrimination against LGBTI+ people.

Personal cases of extortion are commonplace. For example, before 2003, same-sex relations in the small country of Armenia were criminalized under the country’s “Article 116,” a Soviet-era law that carried a penalty of 3 to 5 years in prison.  Read More...

Don’t Let High Tech Have the Last Say in Risky Emerging Markets

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Photo Credit: OECD

By Louisa Tomar, Program Officer with CIPE’s Global Team

It goes without saying that cutting-edge technologies are transforming the way multi-national companies and government agencies provide goods and services. At the same time, much of the developing world continues to rely on relatively low-tech solutions to tackle complex problems like poor service delivery, weak governance, trade barriers, and corruption. This disparity is what brings the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE)  to this year’s Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Anti-Corruption and Integrity Forum. CIPE will be leveraging the experiences of partners from two emerging markets to discuss how local business communities are using technology to fight corruption and how they can benefit from global tech innovation.

Local businesses, including small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and family-run firms, are vital elements of global supply chains. From a corruption point of view, SMEs also represent an outsized part of the corruption risk in global value chain.  Read More...

Searching for Transparency in the Maldives

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Photo Credit: Frank Brown

By Frank Brown, Director of CIPE’s Anti-Corruption and Governance Center

For an organization that specializes in bringing corruption to light, exposing hidden deals, and calling public attention to injustice, Transparency Maldives is hard to find. Its offices are located in a nondescript concrete building with no number on it, down an unmarked road just off the capital city’s main shopping street. One button marked “TM” next to a steel-grated door is the only indication that the group’s bustling offices are located above.

As an independent voice at a time of intense public outrage over years of corrupt government deals, Transparency Maldives staff sometimes attract unwanted attention, such as death threats. It is certainly a twist that the institution with a huge role at a pivotal point in the Maldives’ history must keep a low physical profile to remain in existence.

Now is a tricky time for the Maldives, a sprawling, idyllic archipelago of 187 islands inhabited by some 400,000 people.  Read More...

FIFA and Corruption: An Eye Towards the Women’s World Cup

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Photo Credit: ShareAlike 2.0

By Eliza Pugh, Program Coordinator with CIPE’s Program Coordination Unit

This June, women from the world’s top 24 national soccer teams will play in nine cities across France in the most acclaimed tournament of their lives. The Women’s World Cup, like the men’s, is organized and run by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). FIFA has long been embroiled in corruption schemes, the most recent of which was in May 2015 when 14 high-level officials were indicted on charges having to do with soliciting over $150 million in bribes over a 24-year period. The same conditions that allowed FIFA officials to invite such lavish gift-giving and under-the-table bribes are the same conditions that continue to allow FIFA to display inequitable treatment of men’s and women’s teams.

FIFA has a history of maintaining different standards for the Men’s and Women’s World Cups. In the 2015 Women’s World Cup, the 24 teams split a mere $15 million in prize money[1], stayed in the same hotels as opponents[2], and played on less desirable and less safe artificial turf fields[3]  – none of which would have happened in the men’s tournament.  Read More...

Collective Action: A Cause for Hope

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Image Credit: Thai Institute of Directors

By Caroline Elkin, Assistant Program Officer with CIPE’s Europe and Eurasia team.

On December 5, CIPE hosted the Private Sector Collective Action to Counter Corruption Summit in Kyiv, Ukraine. The event gathered participants from business, government, civil society, and international organizations, representing Armenia, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Nigeria, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, and the United States, among others. This is the third in a series of blogs based on the summit. 

What do we talk about when we talk about corruption? The anti-corruption movement has made significant strides in raising awareness of the specter of corruption through investigative reporting and advocacy. But the staggering price tag of corruption worldwide, combined with the ever-growing list of newly uncovered scandals, can leave the counterproductive impression that corruption is intractable.

Indeed, research into the link between development aid and corruption shows that, in some cases, the more you talk about corruption, the more people perceive the problem to be hopeless.  Read More...

Armenia: Promoting Anti-Corruption Conduct and Reforms

Photo credit: Armenian Lawyer’s Association

By Liza Lenz Jedwab, Assistant Program Officer with CIPE’s Europe Eurasia team, and Monica Nates, Program Assistant with CIPE

Until recently, democratic reform in Armenia seemed unlikely, with oligarchs maintaining a tight grip on the country’s economy and political agenda. For years, observers such as Freedom House had classified Armenia as a semi-consolidated authoritarian state. However, through massive street protests that erupted in spring 2018, the Armenian public pushed back on decades of systemic corruption and shifted the country’s outlook. In a country of 3 million citizens, a quarter million Armenians flooded the streets of the capital and other cities, pushing President Serzh Sargsian to resign as prime minister, with opposition leader Nikol Pashinian elected in his place.

Pashinian quickly put fighting corruption at the center of his policy platform. That decision was validated by Parliamentary elections in December that gave his party 70 percent of the voteRead More...

Armenian Businesses Commit to Compliance

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Photo credit: Armenian Lawyer’s Association

This blog originally appeared on the FCPA Blog, linked here.

By Natalia Otel Belan and Yulia Glubokaya, respectively the regional director for Europe and Eurasia at the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) and the deputy director for compliance at VimpelCom Russia.

Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in emerging markets in Eurasia must demonstrate the ability to assess and mitigate corruption risks in order to do business with multinational firms. The vast majority of SMEs in the region are unable to do so. While corruption risks remain high, these firms are unable to access opportunities for growth. Until recently, Armenia was a case in point.

As discussed here by our colleague Katya Lysova, Armenia now has significant political momentum to fight corruption and the business community wants to do the “right thing.” To support this extraordinary opening, CIPE has recently launched an anti-corruption compliance program for the Armenian business community.  Read More...

The Price We Pay: What Does Corruption Cost?

Photo credit: CIPE

By Caroline Elkin, Program Assistant with CIPE’s Europe and Eurasia team.

On December 5, CIPE hosted the Private Sector Collective Action to Counter Corruption Summit in Kyiv, Ukraine. The event gathered participants from business, government, civil society, and international organizations, representing Armenia, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Nigeria, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, and the United States, among others. This is the second in a series of blogs based on the summit. 

In the past ten years, the OECD, World Bank, IMF, Transparency International and leading scholars have published dozens of empirical studies showing how corruption, in its different shapes and forms, negatively affect every economic parameter. Worldwide, all citizens – not just businesspeople – are subject to a “corruption tariff” that makes buying and selling goods and services more expensive.

How do you measure the effects of that tariff? Numerous studies and investigative reports have revealed the financial value of bribes paid within a specific sector or infrastructure project.  Read More...

Building Foundations: Countering Corruption in Difficult Environments

Photo credit: CIPE

By Caroline Elkin, Program Assistant with CIPE’s Europe and Eurasia team.

On December 5, CIPE hosted the Private Sector Collective Action to Counter Corruption Summit in Kyiv, Ukraine. The event gathered participants from business, government, civil society, and international organizations, representing Armenia, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Nigeria, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, and the United States, among others. This is the first in a series of blogs based on the summit. 

When you think of an anti-corruption activist, what comes to mind? Perhaps it’s someone you follow on Twitter, or a civil society organization that focuses on unearthing politicians’ corrupt acts.

These figures make real contributions to the fight against corruption. They attract public attention within their own country and from abroad. They push the envelope by challenging political elites. But in countries at war, with repressive regimes, undergoing post-conflict reconstruction, or undergoing financial crises, it is nearly impossible for individual activists acting alone to achieve change.  Read More...