A new report concludes that corruption continues to plague much of the world, and democratic reforms alone are not enough to guarantee honest governance. VOA's Michael Bowman has details from Washington.
Fighting corruption remains an exceptionally difficult challenge around the world. That is the conclusion of Global Integrity, a Washington-based non-profit monitoring group that focuses on issues of governance.
A report issued Wednesday shows that of 55 countries studied, more than 60 percent received overall ratings of "weak" or "very weak" when it comes to fighting corruption and ensuring integrity in government. No country qualified for a top rating of "very strong" and only 16 percent got an overall rating of "strong."
Global Integrity Director Nathaniel Heller says corruption presents a huge barrier to any nation's development and progress.
"It [corruption] most often targets the poor," he said. "The poor are inordinately bearing the costs of corruption. So there is, from a development perspective, a very negative impact. The reality is that corruption over time, when left unchecked, really undermines faith in government and starts to unwind a lot of the linkages between governmental institutions and citizens."
The report concludes that many countries in Latin America and other parts of the world have enacted tough anti-corruption laws and regulations. But, it says in far too many nations, enforcement of those laws is weak. As an example, Heller points to Pakistan.
"Pakistan is a fascinating case, because you have a huge gap between theoretical laws on the books for anti-corruption and their enforcement," he added. "In many developing countries you will have outstanding laws, but the problem in most, and in a place like Pakistan, is that you have very little implementation and enforcement. And that really, ultimately, goes back to political will."
Also scoring low on anti-corruption enforcement is China, which the report says should serve as a warning sign of risks to foreign investors who want to capitalize on the country's rapid economic expansion.
The world's leading democracies, including the United States, Canada, and much of Europe, do not escape criticism. The report notes that corruption may not be as pervasive in the United States as in the developing world, but says many leading democracies have weak laws governing the financing of political campaigns.
How best to combat corruption? Heller argues individual citizens have a vital role to play.
"I think there have been a lot of lessons learned that top-down solutions from the outside are not the most effective," he noted. "And you are going to get very little traction [positive response] from governments when you just fly in a team of experts and pontificate on the right solutions for a country. What is a lot more effective is when you have voters and citizens on the ground voting with their feet and really demanding reform."
Those wanting more information on the subject, including country-by-country assessments, can read the full report at Report.GlobalIntegrity.org.