Measuring corruption: importance, developments and added value of Anti-Corruption Working Group 2021

The need for new and additional corruption measurement systems has become an essential element of debate in the main multilateral anticorruption fora.

Measuring corruption: importance, developments and added value of Anti-Corruption Working Group 2021

The corruptive phenomenon afflicts, although to a different extent, countries all over the globe and for this reason it is one of the main themes at the center of the international debate. Objective 16 of the 2030 Agenda, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly for Sustainable Development, also calls for the need to “significantly reduce corruption and abuses of power in all its forms”.

Corruption, in addition to undermining the concept of the rule of law and trust in institutions, damages international credibility, distorts competition and reduces investment, especially foreign one. According to the World Bank, corruption is the biggest obstacle to a country’s social and economic development. The G20 Anti-Corruption Working Group highlighted this negative correlation between corruption and growth as early as 2014, with the High-Level Principles on Corruption and Growth, negotiated under the direction of the Italian co-presidency.

The negative effects of corruption on the countrywide system are therefore numerous, transversal and have a potentially destructive impact on the social fabric. The perception of the phenomenon as a threat and reality to be prevented and countered is unanimous.

Measurement indices based on the perception of the level of corruption have gradually shown some inherent limitations due to a subjective analysis of the phenomenon that can generate biased and partial results. Therefore, the need for new and additional corruption measurement systems has become an essential element of debate in the main multilateral anticorruption fora.

The creation of new measurement systems based on real, objective, identifiable and verifiable data is, in fact, an essential precondition for the affirmation of the rule of law and the principle of legality: the better is the knowledge of the corruptive phenomenon and its measurement, the higher and more focused the policies put in place by the countries for prevention and contrast.

Italy has been one of the pioneering countries in this field, having sponsored resolutions and recommendations aimed at the adoption of multidimensional tools based on economic and statistical data on crime and criminal justice as, for example, the numbers on complaints, criminal proceedings, convictions and confiscations.

Pivotal in this regard was UNCAC Resolution 8/10 on Measuring Corruption, adopted by UNODC at the Eighth Conference of States Parties (CoSP) held in Abu Dhabi in December 2019. The G20 Anti-Corruption Working Group, following a specific Italian initiative, mentioned in its 2019-2021 Action Plan the group’s intention to deepen understanding and consider possible actions on emerging issues, such as measuring corruption. The same ACWG of 2020, under the Presidency of Saudi Arabia and the co-Italian Presidency, included in the Agenda an exercise focused on the measurement of corruption that remains the priority of the Italian multilateral Anti-Corruption proposals also for its G20 Presidency in 2021.

The Corruption Measurement Questionnaire, negotiated in the format with G20 countries, was sent to each delegation for compilation on a voluntary basis. The questionnaire, through a series of specific questions, aims to collect information on existing practices and approaches used in G20 countries to measure corruption. G20 countries responded enthusiastically and a Compendium of Good Practices on Measuring Corruption is now being drafted with the hope that it will lead by example towards a system of prevention and repression of corruption that recognizes the essential role of measurement and evaluation of the corruptive phenomenon.

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