Earlier this fall, I led a delegation to the International Anticorruption Conference, the largest global civil society gathering dedicated to combating corruption. The message from civil society was clear: we have sound standards for fighting graft and want our governments to follow through on their commitments. We agree. Corruption facilitates transnational crime, hinders economic growth, undermines good governance, and threatens global security. On International Anticorruption Day, the United States reaffirms its commitment to working with our partners in fighting corruption.
INL works with over 90 countries to help establish transparent, effective criminal justice institutions and promote the rule of law. I recently traveled to Ukraine, where INL’s assistance is helping to build citizen trust in government institutions and strengthening law enforcement. With our support, Ukraine established a modern protect-and-serve-force, which is now one of the most trusted law enforcement entities in the country. On International Anticorruption Day, I will be in Kenya, another strong partner in our fight against transnational crime and corruption. We are helping the country’s anticorruption organization better manage complex, transnational cases. As a result, U.S. and Kenyan law enforcement officers and prosecutors are working closely together on cases that have an international link.
The United States is also taking action at home to deny safe haven to corruption. Through financial sanctions and visa restrictions, the United States prevents corrupt officials and their family members from traveling to the United States or stashing their ill-gotten gains in our financial system. Our visa bans send a powerful message. We’ve even seen our visa sanctions galvanize local authorities into starting their own prosecutions. If other countries join us in shutting their doors, together we can make it harder for criminal networks that threaten our global security to operate.
Finally, through diplomacy, we build political will for reform and encourage governments to engage civil society and the private sector. We support treaties such as the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) because they establish comprehensive frameworks that countries have almost universally agreed to adopt, making them an important starting point for these discussions.
We are closing out a year that has seen governments come together at the highest level to fight against corruption – from the Summit of the Americas to the African Union. Countries are elevating this fight because the cost of corruption is greater than ever. According to this week’s report from the UN Secretary General, corruption accounts for at least $2.6 trillion or 5 percent of global GDP.
It has been over 20 years since the first international anticorruption treaty was adopted. Enforcing our national laws and the global standards – helping prevent corruption and making the corrupt feel the pain – are now where the rubber hits the road. We stand ready and call on our partners to join us in taking action against this challenge.
About the Author: Kirsten D. Madison serves as Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.
Editor's Note: This entry also appears in the U.S. Department of State's publication on Medium.