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Tackling corruption: familiar questions, emerging challenges

La lucha contra la corrupción: Preguntas comunes, retos emergentes

Tonusree BasuandHelen Turek|

Corruption has always been a force to contend with. The work done by anti-corruption champions and reformers has made significant progress over time and created new global norms. Yet much remains to be done. Every time a new laundromat scandal emerges, our choice to continue work is reaffirmed. Corruption is a challenge of global complexity that needs transnational collective action. And it’s only getting more complex as new challenges emerge.

Democratic institutions and processes are increasingly playing out in the digital realm, and it’s important that they are structured to work for and be accountable to all citizens, not just the few who control them. Digital transformation – for all its potential – poses clear risks for misuse. That’s why the focus on new technologies at OECD’s Anti-Corruption and Integrity Forum this year is so important.

More than 74 Open Government Partnership (OGP) members have already made anti-corruption commitments in their OGP action plans, focusing on issues such as beneficial ownership transparency, open contracting and extractives transparency. We’re also noticing action plans evolve to match the emerging policy discussions on AI ethics, transparency of algorithms, data privacy and private sector data use.

With 50 OGP members (both national and local) developing new action plans this year – and OGP’s 6th Global Summit taking place in Ottawa at the end of May under the leadership of the Government of Canada – we have clear opportunity to make progress. Here are three anti-corruption topics we urge government, civil society, private sector and other stakeholders to work on with us in 2019:


  1. Advance ambition and implementation on beneficial ownership transparency. The Panama and Paradise papers have spurred governments into action, leveraging years of advocacy and expertise provided by civil society and business leaders.Currently, 18 OGP countries have made commitments related to beneficial ownership transparency (BOT), advancing progress on some of these international standards – in 2018 alone we saw OGP commitments from Armenia, Canada, Chile, Indonesia, Kenya, Macedonia, and Ukraine. We have seen a range of policy approaches – establishing registers of information related to company beneficial ownership, and publishing these registers in open data formats. But we see real challenges concerning data infrastructure, interoperability, legislative frameworks, and gaps in technical and financial expertise.

At this tipping point, there is an urgent need and opportunity for the international anti-corruption community to coordinate its support to governments in their implementation efforts. For that purpose, the UK government is establishing a coalition of early policy adopters to share expertise and strive for greater ambition. Leaders from civil society, governments, and international organisations will meet to discuss some of these issues – including a disclosure standard for beneficial ownership – on the margins of the OECD Forum at a breakfast roundtable co-hosted by OGP and OECD.


  1. Build robust policy frameworks to safeguard against digital threats to democratic institutions and anti-corruption systems. Surveillance, disinformation, fake news, privacy invasion, hate speech, and targeted attacks have all had an undisputed adverse impact on democratic participation and decision-making. We are also witnessing the risks and complexities from applying AI systems to governance decisions such as welfare distribution, judicial processes and tax assessments. In OGP we’re seeing a growing number of commitments on this topic, from countries including France, Netherlands, Uruguay, New Zealand and others, ranging from opening up algorithms to improving their data protection and privacy policies.

Reformers across government, civil society, and other sectors need to come together to share learnings about how to tackle these threats. We need to ensure that while building automated governance systems there is inclusive consultation with affected actors and experts. While digital services and decision-making can streamline and strengthen governance, it is important that these are built using principles and international law governing human rights, ethics, and transparency.


  1. Protect inclusive dialogue and civic space to work on issues and impacts related to corruption.  Attacks on civil society and media, and shrinking space for dialogue, pose a significant threat to our collective anti-corruption efforts. We need to defend spaces for democratic accountability and advocacy, while at the same time expanding these spaces to include new and important voices. As a community we need to recognize which groups are impacted more adversely by corruption, and ensure that they have a seat at the table.

To this end, the  B20, C20, and W20 have urged countries to take concrete action to identify and address forms of corruption that specifically target women, and publish gender-disaggregated data on the impacts of corruption. Under the Government of Canada’s leadership of OGP, we are mobilizing OGP members to make concerted efforts to better integrate voices of women as well as other groups who are often left out of policy discussions. We also encourage OGP members to strengthen the enabling environment for civil society in order to protect their space to credibly lead, monitor and advise anti-corruption reform efforts.


We look forward to meeting the anti-corruption community at the OECD next week to take forward some of these ideas, and again at the 6th OGP Global Summit in Ottawa to take stock of progress.


If you are interested to join the OGP-OECD roundtable session “Beneficial Ownership as an Emerging Global Norm: Building a Coalition of Early Adopters” at the OECD Anti-Corruption & Integrity Forum on 21 March, please contact View more details at

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