The past year saw little progress in tackling global corruption due to greater violence and insecurity, according to the organization Transparency International's "Corruption Perceptions Index 2022." However, there are some encouraging signs that corruption is being successfully tackled in parts of Africa.
"Most of the world continues to fail to fight corruption: 95 percent of countries have made little to no progress since 2017," the report says. "Governments hampered by corruption lack the capacity to protect the people, while public discontent is more likely to turn into violence. This vicious cycle is impacting countries everywhere from South Sudan to Brazil."
For the sixth year running, South Sudan, Syria and Somalia are at the bottom of Transparency International's Corruption Perception index.
"South Sudan is in a major humanitarian crisis with more than half of the population facing acute food insecurity — and corruption is exacerbating the situation," the report reads. "A Sentry report from last year revealed that a massive fraud scheme by a network of corrupt politicians with ties to the president's family siphoned off aid for food, fuel and medicine."
Conflict and corruption create a vicious cycle, said Transparency International's Roberto Kukutschka.
"Having weak and corrupt police and defense sectors — including … other law enforcement organizations or institutions such as the courts or the judiciary itself — it is very unlikely that we will be able to tackle organized crime or the effects of organized crime and terrorism," Kukutschka told VOA.
The report says Russia's invasion of Ukraine last February exemplifies the threat that corruption poses for global security.
"Kleptocrats in Russia have amassed great fortunes by pledging loyalty to President Vladimir Putin in exchange for profitable government contracts and protection of their economic interests," the authors say. "The absence of any checks on Putin's power allowed him to pursue his geopolitical ambitions with impunity. This attack destabilized the European continent, threatening democracy and killing tens of thousands."
Transparency International says perceived corruption worsened in Brazil under former president Jair Bolsonaro. His supporters attacked the parliament, supreme court and presidential palace following his election loss in January.
"It is much easier for corruption to occur when these checks and balances are weaker," said Kukutschka. "That's why one of our main recommendations this year and also in the past has been to really focus on establishing very clear separation of powers across the judiciary, the legislature and the executive whenever we have those three branches of power."
The index ranks 180 countries by the perceived level of corruption, using data from 13 external sources including the World Bank and the World Economic Forum.
Denmark, Finland and Norway top the index. "Strong democratic institutions and regard for human rights also make these countries some of the most peaceful in the world," says the Berlin-based anti-corruption watchdog.
Several European countries are at historic lows, though, including Britain, which has slipped 10 places in the past five years following a series of political scandals. Qatar and Guatemala also have fallen to historic lows on the index.
Four other traditionally top-scoring countries — Australia, Austria, Canada and Luxembourg — saw a significant decline in their assessments, as VOA recently reported, while the U.S. scored 69, a "negligible" increase of 2 points, according to a Transparency International expert who called the rating "troubling."
Some African nations have made significant progress and are rising on the index, including Angola, Ivory Coast, Ethiopia and Senegal.
"Seven of the 24 countries that we see improving are actually in Africa, so this is one of the regions that is stuck at the bottom of the index, but where we also see progress happening," Kukutschka told VOA.
"Many of them have also ramped up their anti-corruption commitments. There's been a lot of work also within the framework of the African Union to have to fight against corruption," he added.