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ISS ESG: Is the Age of Large-Scale Bribery Over? Marking International Anti-Corruption Day 2020

International Anti-Corruption Day 2020: How Far Have We Come?

December 9, 2020 marks International Anti-Corruption Day, established to raise awareness and support the global battle against corruption. And indeed, the landscape around corruption as a notion has changed. Once seen as a trivial offence, there is now broader acceptance of the illegality and grave adverse impacts of the practice. Nonetheless, the message from United Nations Secretary General António Guterres remains urgent – the fight against corruption continues and it requires everyone’s participation to work on innovative solutions to win this battle.

The stakes remain high. Corruption undermines social and economic development globally, weakens democracy, furthers governmental instability, and ultimately prevents institutions from serving their ultimate stakeholders – the people of the world. According to the UN, bribery payments amount to $1 trillion every year, while over 5% of the global GDP (approximately$2.6 trillion) is lost through corruption.

International Anti-Corruption Day was established in 2003 as part of the adoption of the UN Convention Against Corruption, which the UN describes as the only legally binding universal anti-corruption instrument. The Convention also triggered the addition of the 10th Principle on Anti-Corruption in 2004 to the existing UN Global Compact Principles. The other nine principles have been in place since the formation of the UN Global Compact, the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative, in 2000. To drive and enforce sustainable progress, the UN introduced its “Agenda 2030” in 2015, presenting 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that define “the world we want.” In particular, SDG 16 – Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions – encourages entities to “promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.”

A notable development in 2020 has been the absence of major large-scale bribery controversies, in contrary to previous years, which saw scandals such as the well-known “Operation Lava Jato,” also known as “Operation Car Wash,” which unearthed a widespread bribery scheme spanning multiple countries and implicating numerous companies since 2014. ISS ESG has delved into its data to identify whether this signifies the beginnings of a trend or merely represents a minor and temporary deviation in the overall history of bribery. Is the age of large-scale bribery over?

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