Week of 24 January 2022
Corruption and violation of fundamental freedoms and civil liberties are closely inter-twined
Our key takeaway: The link is made. Countries that routinely violate fundamental freedoms and civil liberties are more corrupt, and in turn repression of civil rights leads to more corruption. Nearly all of the murders of human rights defenders over the last decade occurred in countries ranked as highly corrupt.
Transparency International’s annual Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) ranks 180 countries by their perceived levels of public sector corruption according to experts and business people. The index uses a scale of zero to 100, where zero is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean.
- Corruption levels are stagnating or worsening across regions: Corruption levels have stagnated or worsened in 86% of countries worldwide over the last decade. What’s more, 68% of countries score below 50/100 and the global average is 43/100 (the same as last year). While 25 countries have made significant improvements in their scores since 2012, 23 countries have significantly worsened over the same period and previously high-scoring democracies are “deteriorating” and “remain[ing] safe havens for corrupt individuals from abroad. Overall, the top scoring countries for 2022 are Denmark, Finland and New Zealand, each scoring 88. Other countries in the top ten are Norway, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Germany. The lowest scoring countries are South Sudan, Syria and Somalia; “Countries experiencing armed conflict or authoritarianism tend to earn the lowest scores, including Venezuela, Yemen, North Korea, Afghanistan, Libya, Equatorial Guinea and Turkmenistan.”
- Human rights abuses feed corruption, and vice versa: The report points out that “[r]especting human rights is essential for controlling corruption because empowered citizens have the space to challenge injustice. The global COVID-19 pandemic has also been used in many countries as an excuse to curtail basic freedoms and side-step important checks and balances.” Countries that routinely violate fundamental freedoms and civil liberties score lower on the CPI. In turn, repression of civil rights leads to more corruption in these countries: “Fundamental rights such as freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and access to justice guarantee public participation and keep corruption in check.” Transparency International suggests that the growing global trend towards authoritarianism is driven by “gradual efforts to undermine democracy” by limiting media and press freedoms, tamping down free speech, and undermining the autonomy of election and oversight bodies.
- Human rights defenders are at higher risk in corrupt countries: The CPI finds that 98% “of the 331 murders of human rights defenders in 2020 occurred in countries with high levels of public sector corruption, as shown by a CPI score of below 45. At least 20 of these cases were human rights defenders specifically focusing on anticorruption issues.” What’s more, nearly all of the murders of human rights defenders over the last decade occurred in countries ranked as highly corrupt. Transparency International underscores that weak democratic and judicial institutions, corruption in law enforcement and courts, and impunity for crimes are contributing to a “dangerous climate” for rights defenders.