December 9, is observed as the International Anti-Corruption day since the year 2005. The United Nations General Assembly on October 31, 2003, adopted the United Nations Convention against Corruption and designated December 9 International Anti-Corruption Day, in order to raise awareness about corruption and of the role of Convention in fighting and preventing it. This convention came into force in the year 2005, and since then the day is being observed annually.

There is a very intimate and symbiotic relationship between integrity and sustainable development. Integrity is vital not only for economy, government, business and public service but also acts as a building block of a strong, moral and just society. Today, integrity, accountability and vigilance have become the order of the day. Governments and organizations have understood the importance of integrity in day to day dealings. The 2030 Agenda on the other hand, clearly recognizes that the rule of law and development have a significant interrelation and are mutually reinforcing.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) now make an explicit link between corruption and peaceful, just and inclusive societies. SDG 16 and its targets on reducing bribery, strengthening institutions and accessing information are not only valuable aspirations in their own right, they are also vital conditions for the achievement of all the 17 SDGs. Tackling corruption is vital to achieving the SDGs, particularly Goal 16 – Peace Justice and Strong institutions.

Corruption undermines human development. It diverts public resources away from the provision of essential services. It increases inequality and hinders national and local economic development by distorting markets for goods and services. It corrodes rule of law and destroys public trust in governments and leaders. Corruption affects everyone and can lead to insecurity, less employment and prosperity, weaker institutions and injustice as well as Environmental disasters. Some of the world’s daunting environmental challenges are caused by corruption.

Four years of implementation is a relatively short time to capture what the SDGs have delivered so far. Nevertheless, it is enough to reflect on preparedness in SDG implementation: having a solid foundation and building an inclusive process to achieve priority SDG areas. State parties to the United Nations focus on SDGs two times in a year, at the SDG High Level Political Forum (HLPF) and at the UN General Assembly. In the former, progress towards Goal 16 was also reviewed in HLPF held in New York from July, 2019. Growing inequalities were addressed as they drive conflicts in many countries; they are serious barriers to eradicating poverty, the bedrock goal of the 2030 Agenda. But inequality is not natural or inevitable. It stems from many issues but policies, laws, cultural norms and corruption form the core. Inequality is killing the peace for which we all long.

Progress towards the achievement of the SDGs would be undermined without responsive and accountable governance frameworks. The United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), the only global legally binding anticorruption instrument, is mobilizing action for honest, transparent and accountable governance. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), as the custodian of UNCAC, actively contributes to the implementation of the 10th principle of the United Nations Global Compact, which states that “Business should work against corruption in any form, including bribery and extortion”.

We have a long way to go as civil societies and mandate-based organizations, and we have urgent work to do. Here are some things that civil society organisations (CSOs) can do to successfully achieve SDGs by eradicating corruption:

  • We must assess how corruption plays a role in relation to our area of SDG work.
  • Look at corruption risks at different stages of your SDG implementation plan.
  • We must pressure our government and companies to report on their SDG commitments.
  • Do spotlight reporting and focus on your priority topic, its very impactful
  • We must share captured data, success stories and challenges in SDG implementation and measure progress – online and offline.
  • Build a concerted voice with yourlocal, regional and international partners and networks, to make your campaigns and projects impactful. Stop working in silos, go for collective action.
  • Bring attention to minority communities in your country, as we know the motto of SDGs is to leave no one behind.

This Anti-corruption day let’s support United Nations’ action platform to be ‘United Against Corruption’, as corruption is one of the biggest obstacles to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).


Author: Arya Dev, Programme Analyst (Legal), Center of Excellence for Governance, Ethics and Transparency, Global Compact Network India