Why Corruption Matters

WASHINGTON, DC – Pope Francis has called corruption “the gangrene of a people.” US Secretary of State John Kerry has labeled it a “radicalizer,” because it “destroys faith in legitimate authority.” And British Prime Minister David Cameron has described it as “one of the greatest enemies of progress in our time.”

Corruption, put simply, is the abuse of public office for personal gain. As leaders increasingly recognize, it is a menace to development, human dignity, and global security. At the anti-corruption summit in London on May 12, world leaders – together with representatives from business and civil society – will have a critical opportunity to act on this recognition.

Corruption is decried across cultures and throughout history. It has existed as long as government has; but, like other crimes, it has grown increasingly sophisticated over the last several decades, with devastating effects on the wellbeing and dignity of countless innocent citizens.

For starters, corruption cripples prospects for development. When, say, public-procurement fraud is rampant, or royalties for natural resources are stolen at the source, or the private sector is monopolized by a narrow network of cronies, populations are unable to realize their potential.