Co-operation is key to fighting corruption

The International Summit of Cooperatives in Quebec will be a good opportunity to promote transparency through co-operation, believes Huguette Labelle, Chair of Transparency International (TI). 

The International Summit of Cooperatives in Quebec will be a good opportunity to promote transparency through co-operation, believes Huguette Labelle, Chair of Transparency International (TI). 

Transparacy International's mission is to have a world in which government, business, civil society and the daily lives of people are free of corruption.

Mrs Labelle, who will attend the opening session of the International Summit, thinks co-ops can play a major role in both preventing and tackling corruption. She explained that with their local approach, co-ops improve the lives of the local people, fighting poverty, a key corruption enabler.

The International Year of Co-operatives is another flag being raised and also brings the world’s attention to the issue,” said Huguette Labelle. “Co-ops have been able to move in and also work with communities and get communities involved, and they have played a very important role in helping people in developing and even emerging countries to have access to credit, to start a small business and even buy a home”.

She explained that in spite of their ethical dimension, co-ops are not immune to the danger of corruption. According to Mrs Labelle, it is important for co-ops to have systems in place so that “if something goes wrong they can detect it and deal with it without hesitation”. She said it is equally important for the employees to know that corruption is punishable, and should they accept the bribe, they will have to deal with the judicial system.

In co-operation with the World Economic Forum (WEF), TI has recently released a set of videos to help companies train their staff to see corruption coming. The organisation is also currently trying to get oil and gas companies to publish everything they pay to governments and for governments to publish everything they receive.

Huguette Labelle said there has to be a certain balance between the need for regulation and an over-supply of regulation. Without regulation it is impossible to enforce measures and prevent corruption from emerging, too much regulation can also lead to corruption “creating a space for opacity to set in" enabling the bribing of "those who are responsible for ensuring that regulations are respected".

With the General Assembly’s adoption of the UN Convention Against Corruption in 2000, corruption has become an important issue on the global agenda and, according to Mrs Labelle, there are reasons to be optimistic.

Calling the Convention "a big watershed," she said: "what we now have for the first time is a complex global world tool for those 150 countries that have ratified the Convention now to establish the laws which they may not have had and to enforce them.

“Corruption is global. Thus co-operation between countries is extremely important and so is the opening of the financial sector so that they do not hide illicit money under secrecy. We have a good opportunity now that the G20 seems to be taking this seriously.”

Although there have been a lot of positive changes, globalisation has made it much easier to move money around, which is why vigilance and enforcement are needed.

Another big step forward, is in Mrs Labelle’s view, the commitment of the G20 countries to mutual administrative assistance in tax matters, including a multilateral approach for the exchange of information, which enables co-operation on investigations between countries. The Chair of TI believes improvements are still needed, particularly in terms of enforcement of laws. She also said it is necessary to convince people that they do not have to live with corruption and that impunity is not acceptable.

”We need a strong justice system. In most countries the supreme court is independent, fair, impartial, professional, but as you get closer to the local courts very often justice is not administered in a way that serves the people,” said Huguette Labelle.

Transparency International consists of more than 100 chapters – locally established, independent organisations – that fight corruption in their respective countries. The anti-corruption global movement aims to create a world free of corruption. Transparency International is non-partisan and has worked with various organisations and governmental bodies, among which UN Global Compact, the International Chamber of Commerce, the World Economic Forum and with the private sector.

Every year TI published the Corruption Perceptions Index, and this year’s Index is due to be released in December. Huguette Labelle revealed that the organisation has upgraded its methodology, with the aim of making the Index more comprehensive.

Huguette Labelle holds a Doctor of Philosophy, Education. She is a Companion of the Order of Canada. She is currently Chancellor of the University of Ottawa and Chair of the Board of Transparency International. She was also President of the Canadian International Development Agency from 1993 to 1999. She provides advisory services to national and international organizations.





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