Setting the Global Agenda on Transparency and Anti-Corruption

IMG_20151026_110613.jpgBy: Blair Glencorse, Executive Director of the Accountability Lab and a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Transparency and Anti-Corruption

As Klaus Schwab has pointed out, the fourth industrial revolution is underway- think 3D printing and mind-reading machines- and this revolution is faster, more complex and more innovative than ever before. It is transforming the way that states, businesses and societies interact. It relates in one way or another to all of the key global challenges that the World Economic Forum (WEF) has identified as critical over the coming years- and as such heralds huge possibilities as well as dangers.

This was the context at the recent Global Agenda Council (GAC) meetings in Abu Dhabi in which our Council met to consider issues of transparency and anti-corruption. We spent two days thinking through how we can collectively address these issues- to make sure that this next period of economic growth is based on greater integrity and accountability than those of the past. A number of macro-level themes emerged from our discussions, including the following:

i) These challenges are cross-cutting– just as the impacts of the fourth industrial revolution are ubiquitous, so too are effects of corruption. Building transparency and accountability are absolutely central to global prosperity and stability. Leaders across the board- in manufacturing, financial services, mining, real estate and others- recognize that transparency brings value; and that they need to know more about how to address these challenges. They are looking to our GAC for guidance. Our first step is a new “transformation map” that will show clearly the links between sectors, issues and vectors as they relate to transparency and anti-corruption, and begin to show pathways for change.

ii) There is political will to follow-the-money– illicit financial flows and unethical business behaviors are a significant part of this problem. Illicit financial flows from developing countries alone total as much as $500 billion a year. We simply cannot ensure development- and progress towards the SDGs- without tackling this issue head on. Thankfully, global norms around these issues are beginning to shift- the G8 and G20 are showing increasing interest; while the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) High Level panel has taken on these issues directly. The new Task Force on Financial Integrity and Economic Development and BEPS framework are also steps in the right direction. Our GAC is now working on a paper ahead of the WEF meetings next year that will lay out a clear set of ideas and ways forward for the international community around these issues.

iii) A focus on youth is essential– fighting corruption and making governments more transparent is going to take a generation shift. Over half the global population is now under 35- and this is the generation leading the fourth industrial revolution. Conversations in Abu Dhabi continued to highlight the creativity of youth around the world, and their energy to disrupt the status quo. At the Accountability Lab, our discussions with millennials indicate clearly that their aim is not to become part of a corrupt system but to change it. This requires new approaches that do not dictate frameworks for action but engage them where they are using media, technology, arts and culture. Through the GAC- and building on the impact of corruption survey of millennials last year- the Lab and APCO Worldwide are now discussing a series of youth-related campaigns over the coming year.

iv) Collective Action is key to progress– as the economic landscape evolves more rapidly than ever before, it takes joint efforts on the part of business, government and civil society to ensure transparency and integrity. Our discussions highlighted the impressive progress that has been made with Collective Action- with the Maritime Anti-Corruption Network in Nigeria for example; or the Clear Wave Initiative in Lithuania. The recent Siemens and UN Global Compact handbook on Collective Action– led in part by Sabine Zindera of the GAC- is a hugely useful resource for countries and companies working to address these challenges. Collective Action tools are evolving rapidly as new ideas are tried and tested- and that flexibility going forwards will be critical for continued success.

In Abu Dhabi, discussions with other Councils focused on related issues- such as justice, values and civic participation, among others- validated our thinking and reinforced the centrality of transparency and anti-corruption to the global agenda going forwards. Ahead of the WEF meetings in Davos in early 2016, now is the time to translate talk into meaningful action.


About Accountability Lab

Making power-holders accountable in the developing world

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