Corruption, defined as “misuse of power, authority or public function with a view toward seeking personal benefit” is an endemic dysfunction that affects everything from the State’s sovereign functions to economic, social and cultural activity. It extends into public services (education, healthcare, energy, water) and even food aid in the least privileged countries. It takes on the most varied forms, from misappropriation of public funds, to unwarranted remuneration to secure a right or benefit. It is even sometimes accepted, thus making its eradication all the more complicated. By essence difficult to quantify, it is estimated by the World Bank and the IMF at USD 1000 billion, or 5% of global GDP, with great regional disparities. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime deems that the State that fight effectively against corruption can count on an increase in their revenue on the order of 400%.
As the negation of the values of the State and democracy, it brings about the erosion of civic values, weakens institutions by chipping away at citizens’ confidence and contributes to a drop in safety. It hinders the efficiency of the public services, lowers available resources for infrastructure expenditure, and creates an environment that is not conducive to business, thereby contributing to the criminalisation of financial channels. As a source of political and social tension, it can sometimes lead entire countries to serious excesses.
Aimed at removing this major hindrance to development, the fight against corruption has given rise, for instance, to the elaboration of a position statement by the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs.
The direct connection between corruption and State downfallings are such that transparency and responsibility have become the basic principles guiding the actions of French Cooperation. The aim is to build a professional ethical culture in all of the fields over which the public or State-related regulatory authorities have power: public finance, police and justice, healthcare, education, vital records, and international trade.
This illustrates how the fight against corruption cuts across a large number of different objectives:
strengthening democracy, by confining inappropriate financing for political groups and influence-peddling;
consolidating the Rule of Law, by guaranteeing, in particular, independence, impartiality and equity in the legal system.
protecting public funds, by guaranteeing the legality of the markets’ workings, the proper workings of the tax and customs systems, and by banishing the misappropriation of public assets.
guaranteeing fair competition, by deterring the use of commissions in the private sector.
fighting against organised crime, the activities of which are developing in part due to corruption.
To achieve those targets, the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs supports the full implementation of national anti-corruption systems. It encourages the development of a definition of corruption that encompasses local realities, the institution of a culture of inspection and checks and the improvement of detection and disciplinary action in the face of ascertained fact. Tighter checks, both financial (by the Courts of Auditors and Administrative Courts) and political (by the national assemblies), make it possible to limit the discretionary powers of the federal and local administrations and, thereby, to reduce the risk of deviant behaviour. Training programmes for civil servants, the adoption of professional criteria in recruitment processes, the organisation of career plans and increase compensation all contribute to limiting the said risk. The fight against corruption also implies simplifying administrative procedures, as well as awareness-raising and the involvement of civil society. The Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs works to provide the populations with greater means of action, in particular by implementing information and legal assistance centres, as well as toll-free numbers.
In the countries where a large portion of the economy is derived from the mining of natural resources, the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs supports the EITI Initiative, in favour of the transparency of financial streams from the said resources (link to financial governance).
Lastly, France supports the incorporation into national law and the implementation of international agreements in the relevant countries (so-called “Palermo” Agreement on organised crime, the OECD Convention on the Corruption of Foreign Public Civil Servants, the United Nations Convention Against Corruption known as the “Merida Convention, the World Bank’s Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative (StAR) and the UNODC). It also plays a very active part in appealing to the international authorities and promotes greater coordination between the players involved in the fight against corruption, at all levels and in all areas of activity.