Maggie Murphy, Senior Global Advocacy Manager for Transparency International, contributes today's guest post:
Remember the big headline from the recent G20 Summit in Hamburg, about what leaders are going to do to tackle corruption head-on?
No, we don’t either. Corruption remains a bit of an afterthought in G20 thinking on progressing the G20’s objective of “strong, sustainable, balanced and inclusive growth” (page 14 of the most recent Communiqué), despite the almost plaintive opening line in the current G20 Anti-Corruption Action Plan that “[r]educing corruption remains a top priority for the G20.”
Corruption should be preoccupying for G20 leaders. In the last 12 months alone, the presidents of G20 members South Korea and Brazil have been impeached (and Brazil’s current president is also facing corruption allegations) and the former Argentinian president was indicted for corruption.
Despite the lack of public emphasis on fighting corruption, the G20 does have well-functioning G20 Anti-Corruption Working Group (ACWG). The ACWG meets three times a year, works to biennial Action Plans, and advises G20 leaders on where to channel their energy in tackling corruption. The ACWG touches on a wide range of topics, from asset recovery, to open data, to the illegal trade in wildlife. The ACWG adopts principles, issues individual country guides, conducts self-assessments, and develops good practice, research, and toolkits on certain issues. The 60 documents the group has developed since 2010 can be found on a helpful but hidden website compiled by the German Ministry of Justice.
But we don’t hear much about the ACWG's work, even less its impact. Clearly it needs a shake-up.
As new G20 host, Argentina should lead the development and adoption of a new biennial Anti-Corruption Action Plan. But that would be simply more of the same. Is it time for the G20 ACWG to have a rethink?
Here are some ideas they could consider for changing the way they work. I’d love for you to comment on them and add your own in the comment section below.
- Step out of the silo: The G20 Anti-Corruption Working Group should aim to have a lot more impact on the other G20 working groups and other work-streams than it currently does. The ACWG could seek a permanent seat on the other G20 working groups so that any G20 pledge made on say, infrastructure, trade or international financial architecture incorporate and consider corruption risks. And it should convince Finance Ministers to include corruption into their work-stream as a standing item.
- Narrow the focus: Perhaps the G20 ACWG should not have an Action Plan at all, but should instead devote the whole two-year cycle to tackling just one single issue, in depth and until they make a serious dent in the problem.
- Stop generating new stuff. Apply the old stuff. The ACWG has adopted a number of Principles, but little effort has been made to substantially implement and then assess how well they are working. Maybe it’s time for all G20 members to make a serious and honest effort to implement existing commitments and analyze whether they are having an impact. How about each country choosing a sample sector — health, extractives, or infrastructure, for example — and applying and testing the existing G20 Principles to measure success and impact, share lessons learned, and explore potential for wider application?
- Set up champion taskforces – Rather than drag all G20 members into agreeing to lowest common denominator language on an issue in which they have limited interest, how about setting up small task forces of just 4-5 countries, willing to test and learn first, and share their experiences with the group? A small group making a genuine attempt to pilot the Open Contracting Principles or the Open Ownership Beneficial Ownership data standard, for example, could generate cold hard data and be a better way of convincing laggard countries to get on board. It could also generate welcome feedback for the external groups running the initiatives themselves.
So what do you think?
Should the G20 ACWG continue to develop 2-year Anti-Corruption Action Plans? Should it continue to develop Principles (and if so on what issues?) How should the group hold itself accountable? And what about the ACWG’s wider role in the G20? Do we even need a G20 ACWG or should it be mainstreamed? I’d love your thoughts! Please comment below.