Democracy on the Decline
|January 9, 2007||Posted by Staff under Archive, Progress Report, The Progress Report|
Democracy on the Decline
Bribes Eroding Democracy, Warns Transparency International
Corruption is rife in so-called democracies. Why is that?
by Ramesh Jaura
A global anti-corruption watchdog calling itself Transparency International (TI), has expressed concern over bribe payments to political parties in some of the world’s most developed and democratic countries as well as in the developing and former eastern European states.
These constitute a dangerous trend undermining democratic institutions, Berlin-based TI’s chairman Peter Eigen said Thursday.
”The current wave of corruption scandals we are witnessing across Europe is not about personal enrichment – it’s about the purchase of access to policy-makers, and political parties are the prime target in this game,” he said.
In Germany, for example, former chancellor Helmut Kohl was forced to resign as honorary chairman of the Christian Democratic Union last January over a party funding scandal which shook the country’s political establishment to its core.
Eigen said there was clear evidence that high-level political corruption was leading to growing disillusionment with the democratic process.
”In many young democracies it is even threatening the viability of democracy itself. We need to stop this development,” he added.
As a concrete step, TI is urging the member states of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to prohibit bribe payments to foreign political parties.
In its view, the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions does not prohibit bribe payments made to foreign political parties and their officials.
”Payments to political parties may be used to circumvent the intended impact of the Convention and it is urgent that action be taken to prevent this,” Eigen warned.
The Paris-based OECD brings together 29 countries that claim to be ”sharing the principles of the market economy, pluralist democracy and respect for human rights”.
The original 20 members of the OECD are located in Western countries of Europe and North America. Next came Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Finland. More recently, Mexico, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland have joined.
TI calls upon the OECD to ensure that bribe payments to foreign political parties and their officials are effectively prohibited through its instruments. Such a prohibition would cover bribe payments made – to obtain or retain business or other improper advantage – in order to have the same scope as the prohibition against the bribing of foreign public officials.
In some countries such action could include a prohibition against – trading in influence – as provided for in the Council of Europe’s Criminal Law Convention Against Corruption.
In order to achieve greater transparency, political parties in countries that have signed the OECD Convention would be required to make prompt and appropriate disclosure of contributions and expenditures. Corporations would also be required publicly to report political contributions and to comply with reporting and other requirements imposed by the countries where such contributions are made.
The states that have signed the OECD Convention would prohibit corporations based in their own countries from making political party contributions in violation of the laws of the foreign countries where the contributions are made.
The meeting was of the view that the development of effective mechanisms to deal with bribery within the private sector was a matter of growing urgency. Action in this area might also be a means by which to address aspects of political party corruption.
The landmark OECD Anti-Corruption Convention has now been ratified by 24 countries, which account for the bulk of global exports.
Founded in 1993, Transparency International is the only global non-governmental and not-for-profit organisation devoted solely to containing corruption.
Publisher’s note — they should have rephrased that last sentence — unless you want to be known as containing corruption!
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