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How does corruption and weak governance undermine development?

Corruption is the single greatest obstacle to economic and social development around the world. It stifles economic growth, undermines the rule of law, and squanders talent and precious resources. Where corruption is rife, companies are reluctant to invest as the costs of doing business are significantly higher. Ultimately, corruption prevents people, countries and businesses from fulfilling their potential.

Corruption undermines democracy, governance and human rights by weakening State institutions that are the cornerstones of fair and equitable societies. Vote buying at elections distorts the democratic process and justice is challenged when criminals are able to bribe with impunity.

With funds intended to provide essential services such as health care, education, clean water, sanitation and housing diverted by corruption, there is less provision of services.

Criminals use resources from illicit activities to bribe law enforcement officials, neutralize courts, purchase or intimidate politicians and journalists, and engage business leaders in criminal activities.

Cumulatively, corruption, crime and weak rule of law tear at the social fabric, undermining the legitimacy of the state, driving out licit economic activity, and endangering public security.


What is the United Nations doing to tackle corruption and promote the rule of law?

The only legally binding universal anti-corruption instrument is the United Nations Convention against Corruption(UNCAC) which now has 174 states parties. The Convention contains innovative and globally accepted anti-corruption standards applicable to both the public and private sectors. The Convention encourages states to successfully attack corruption by providing equal and fair justice for all and creating an environment where the rule of law can prevail.

A global community of anti-corruption experts is being created through the peer review mechanism set up to support the implementation of the UNCAC. The mechanism is also helping to desensitize and depoliticize the issue of corruption, enabling a frank and constructive global dialogue among regions and legal systems. The country reports have become a benchmark against which countries can measure their progress which is helping build up a global picture of efforts against corruption.

UNODC has trained more than 1,400 anti-corruption practitioners from across the globe and provided assistance to dozens of States to draft or amend their legislation.

UNODC also partners with the World Bank on the Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative (StAR Initiative), which supports efforts to end safe havens for corrupt funds. StAR works closely with developing countries and financial centres to prevent the laundering of the proceeds of corruption and to facilitate more systematic and timely return of stolen assets.


What can I do?

Add your voice to the Rule of Law campaign – send us a photo or video explaining what the rule of law means to you and we will post it on the UN Crime Congress social media platforms.

Join the Break the Corruption Chain campaign, by raising awareness of the causes of corruption and spreading the word on how to make a difference against it.

Inform yourselves about what your governments are doing to tackle corruption.

Use social media to raise your voice, using the hashtag #breakthechain, or use campaign logos and factsheets to educate further. Find out more about the campaign and what you can do to help, here.