Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Global Anti-Corruption Initiative

Dr. Prospero E. De Vera

Anti-corruption and good governance have definitely become global mantras for politicians, civil society organizations, multilateral agencies, and the private sector.

Under the theme Restoring Trust: Global Action for Transparency, the 14th International Anti-Corruption Conference that is now on-going in Bangkok has brought together some 1300 delegates from 135 countries to tackle what Thai Prime Minister Abhisit calls a “global menace that must be fought at all fronts”.

As a member of the delegation from the Philippines that includes Dr. Bernd-Markus Liss of the German Cooperation Agency, DENR ASec Danny Nicer, NICP Director Leilene Gallardo, ELAC Deputy Director Gerthie Anda, and Indigenous Peoples leader Venancio Cueno, I was amazed by the continuing expansion of the anti-corruption and good governance debate into areas that have rarely been discussed in the Philippines – corruption, peace and security; fuelling transparency and accountability in the natural resources and energy markets; climate governance; global action for an accountable corporate world; and reaching the MDG’s.

Perhaps, as IACC Chair Justice Barry O’Keefe asserted in his opening speech, this is part of the phenomenon where many countries over the course of the last two decades have “moved from a paradigm of denial that corruption was widespread within their borders to an acceptance that corruption affects all of us, rich and poor, developed and underdeveloped countries, north and south alike.”

Or maybe it’s because many political leaders, like Thai Prime Minister Abhisit, are now putting a face and staking their political future on an anti-corruption agenda.

Buoyed by a newly-released Bangkok University Research Centre opinion poll that ranked him as the most trustworthy Thai politician, Abhisit delivered a well applauded anti-corruption speech to open the conference. Materials on Thailand’s anti-corruption programs also flooded the conference venue. Abhisit’s fighting words were uttered despite surveys showing that 72.3% of Thais believe that the corruption problem in the country will not change, while only 15.5% think it will improve despite Thailand’s hosting the 14th IACC.

Surprisingly, while the Philippines is one of the 149 signatories to the UN Convention Against Corruption and President Aquino was swept to power on an anti-corruption platform, there was no case study, presentation, or even a printed report on the Philippines anti-corruption initiatives in any of the four plenary sessions and more than forty interactive sessions. There was also no high level official, not even someone from the much-hyped Truth Commission, attending the IACC.

Which made we wonder - what is keeping the Aquino administration from rolling-out a similar anti-corruption framework to show the rest of the world that he is ready to stake his leadership in the global anti-corruption movement? Or even better, to at least give a roadmap for Filipinos who want to walk the Daang Matuwid?

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This note appears as a column on Political Mirror at www.thelobbyist.biz

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