‘No coincidence’: Anti-corruption efforts stagnate with democracy under assault, says CPI


Corruption levels remain at a standstill worldwide, with 86 per cent of countries making little to no progress in the last 10 years, according to the 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), released today by Transparency International.

“Complacency in fighting corruption exacerbates human rights abuses and undermines democracy, setting off a vicious spiral,” the survey states. “As these rights and freedoms erode and democracy declines, authoritarianism takes its place, contributing to even higher levels of corruption.”

The CPI ranks 180 countries and territories by perceived levels of public sector corruption, with the results rated on a scale of 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean):

This year, the global average remains unchanged for the tenth year in a row, at just 43 out of a possible 100 points. Despite multiple commitments, 131 countries have made no significant progress against corruption in the last decade. Two-thirds of countries score below 50, indicating that they have serious corruption problems, while 27 countries are at their lowest score ever.

“As anti-corruption efforts stagnate worldwide, human rights and democracy are also under assault. This is no coincidence,” the survey adds. “Our latest analysis shows that protecting human rights is crucial in the fight against corruption: countries with well-protected civil liberties generally score higher on the CPI, while countries who violate civil liberties tend to score lower.”

“Human rights are not simply a nice-to-have in the fight against corruption,” said Delia Ferreira Rubio, Chair of Transparency International. “Authoritarian approaches destroy independent checks and balances and make anti-corruption efforts dependent on the whims of an elite. Ensuring people can speak freely and work collectively to hold power to account is the only sustainable route to a corruption-free society.

Despite extensive legislation and a regional commitment to action, corruption in the Americas continues to undermine democracy and human rights, according to the 2021 CPI. While corruption levels remain at a standstill worldwide, only two countries in the Americas have made significant progress in their CPI scores in the last 10 years, with the US dropping out of the top 25 for the first time since 2012, the Index states:

The Americas faced heavy blows to the press, freedom of expression and freedom of association – civil and political rights fundamental to building healthy and corruption-free democracies…..From Guatemala (25) to Venezuela (14), governments across the region have attacked civil society organizations and activists to silence dissent and maintain corrupt power schemes. Populist presidents such as Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil (38) and Nayib Bukele in El Salvador (34) have claimed to fight corruption while implementing regressive measures.

“The countries of the Americas are at a complete standstill in the fight against corruption,” said Delia Ferreira Rubio, Chair of Transparency International. As corrupt leaders go after activists and consolidate power, the rights of the press, freedom of expression and freedom of association are under attack. Decisive action is needed to reverse this trend, protect civil society, and defend human rights and democracy.”

The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) conferred its 2021 Democracy Award on Guatemala’s Myrna Mack Foundation in recognition of its efforts to combat corruption, fight against impunity, strengthen the rule of law, and support peace and democracy.

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