Reprinted from hcrenewal.blogspot.com
Many issues brought up at the 18th International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) in Copenhagen, Denmark, were relevant to the problems of conflicts of interest, crime and corruption in health care which we often discuss on Health Care Renewa l, and hence bear repeating here.
The discussion certainly got at the complexity of fighting corruption, seemingly one of many necessities that has come into light in the new political era. Unfortunately, while the complexity is fascinating, it suggests this fight will hardly be simple. Since warnings about corruption go back thousands of year, we already knew it would not be easily, if ever totally won.
Reported in the order they came up at the conference...
Whistle-Blowing Holding Leadership Accountable
The hazards of being a whistle-blower, activist, and/or journalist holding the powerful accountable were emphasized by Huguette Labelle, Chair, International Anti-Corruption Conference Council, in that same session, who remembered those who have lost their lives for doing so. Also at that session, Delia Matilde Ferreira Rubio, Transparency International Chair, warned that despots may hijack the narrative, turning watchdogs into their lapdogs, and into attack dogs against their political opponents. On the other hand, watchdogs who refuse to cooperate may be punished or killed.
At the Day 2 Plenary 3 Session on Exposing the Corrupt, Knocking Out Impunity, Barbara Trionfi, Executive Director, International Press Institute, noted that deception, propaganda, and disinformation may be used to mobilize attacks against whistle-blowers and real journalists, perhaps government responses to such attacks might help, at least if the government has not been totally captured.
At the Day 3 workshop on Is the American Anti-Corruption Model Broken, Frank Vogl, Advisory Council Member, Transparency International, noted that there are now daily threats in the US to the free press, while the opposition party is assailed as a "mob." Moreover, the US government institutions, such as the Department of Justice and the FBI, that often used to protect the free press, among others, from threats of violence, are themselves under constant attack from the top of the administration.
Authoritarian/ Despotic Rulers Hijacking the Anti-Corruption Cause in an Era of Conspicuous Corruption
At the Day 1 Fighting Corruption in"Post-Truth" America workshop, Danielle Brian, Executive Director of the Project for Government Oversight, noted that pre-2016, her organization was mainly concerned with the problem of conflicts of interest created by the revolving door, especially to and from the defense industry and big pharma. Since the election, the administration generated an atmosphere of "conspicuous corruption in which shame does not matter, and in which human rights are now under threat." (See what we recently posted about fighting corruption under a corrupt regime.)
Furthermore, people subject to corruption may tend to go down extremist pathways, as noted at the "Post-Truth" workshop by Sarah Chayes, former Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for Peace. At that workshop, Nora Gilbert, Director of Strategic Projects and Partnerships, Represent.US, asked whether populist anti-corruption rhetoric, e.g., about "unrigging the system," could be leveraged without going down the authoritarian pathway? If not, corruption may generate despotism, which in turn generates more corruption, a positive feedback cycle.
The concern about how emphasis on fighting corruption could have the unintended effect of boosting authoritarian or despotic rulers was the subject of the Fight Against Corruption as a Threat to Democracy workshop. The audience was asked not to attribute quotes to participants, but I noted the following sorts of observations. The war on corruption can be seen as a war on politicians, parties, and institutions, and so can increase cynicism while risking pulling the whole system down. Even so, since strong supporters of certain politicians tend to disbelieve any negativity about them, including corruption allegations, such a war can leave the most corrupt offenders standing.
Yet corruption is itself a huge threat to a reasonable democratic political system, because it robs people of votes, free speech, and the rule of law. Corrupt politicians do not shrink from protecting themselves by attacking votes, speech, and legal actions that threaten them.