INTERNATIONAL ANTI CORRUPTION DAY
UN Statement by Ms. Kanni Wignaraja
UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Representative
Lusaka, 9 December 2012
Guest of Honor, Acting Vice President and Minister of Justice, Wynter Kabimba;
Chairperson of the Anti-Corruption Commission;
Chairperson of the African Parliamentarian Network Against Corruption in Zambia;
All Hon. Cabinet Ministers present;
British High Commissioner and Cooperating Partners;
Vice President, Transparency International Zambia, other senior government officials;
Civil Society partners and media colleagues;
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a privilege to be here with you, representing the United Nations System in Zambia. The commitment to the elimination of corruption at the national and international levels that Zambia is demonstrating is commendable, and I wish to congratulate those who continue to persevere in this fight, and demonstrate what can and must be done – from the national leadership, the Anti-Corruption Commission, the African Parliamentarian Network Against Corruption, civil society organisations and the media, all of whom must be centrally engaged and be persistent and unwavering in ensuing accountability on all fronts.
As Zambians strive to achieve the national development goals they have set for themselves, including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for Zambia by 2015, making sure the energy and resources goes towards these ends, and does not get side tracked and wasted along the way, becomes even more urgent than ever before. To quote the UN’s global message on this, the International Anti-Corruption Day: “Corruption destroys opportunities and creates rampant inequalities. The cost of corruption is measured not just in the billions of dollars of squandered or stolen government resources, but most poignantly in the absence of the hospitals, schools,
clean water, roads and bridges that might have been built with that money and would have certainly changed the fortunes of families and communities.”
The nature of the challenges that national anti-corruption agencies face, across countries, varies with the level of economic development. These challenges get more acute and complicated if the pace of economic development is rapid. The responsibilities of such agencies multiply, often their scope becomes wider and more demanding, and the increasing complexity often requires more specialized capacities with such institutions. As an economy expands fast and becomes more integrated with the evolving global economy, a challenge before a country’s anti-corruption agency is to keep pace with these rapid developments.
And as Zambia heads into Middle Income Country status, hoping to attract more and more foreign direct investment, the combatting of corruption becomes much more than a signalling device to the market – it actually determines levels of investment not just coming in, be it through sovereign bonds, local or international private sector, but also long such is willing to stay in the country, so that the economic growth it generates can reduce persisting poverty and inequality.
Many country findings suggest that by tackling corruption and improving the rule of law, countries can increase their national incomes by as much as four times in the long term – so if you take one indicator – child mortality can fall by as much as 75 percent, as these monies can now be used for their intended development purposes. Corruption digs a deep hole in what public services can deliver, but it also has another insidious effect – it digs an even deeper hole in the peoples trust in public institutions. And that erosion can sometimes take generations to build back.
No country is free of corruption. But the greater this scourge, the closer people get to saying enough is enough. Country corruption perception surveys, no matter where in the world one is, shows that what people feel most strongly about is a sense of justice, equality and fair play. Not about being poor, but being unequal. And corruption strikes hardest at those who are poorest as they have to spend a higher share of a small income on bribes. Similarly, with small businesses, who get much more hurt than the big ones. So where such practices are not excused and not permitted, a citizen’s sense of fairness and justice is more secure.
In this spirit, let us work together to constantly raise awareness, so all are well informed about the existing laws and encouraged to become part of fight against corruption. Whistle-blowers should be protected by law. And confidence should be
created among people that they are protected when they stand up for justice and the public good, to expose corrupt acts. Confucius said, “Faced with what is right, and to leave it undone, shows a lack of courage”. So using all carrots and sticks, and mind-set change to increase transparency and the courage to do what is right, in both the private sector and public administration is key, remembering that it always takes two to tango.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we know corruption is not inevitable. It flows from greed and the triumph of the undemocratic few over the expectations of the many. And it takes courage, the courage of individuals and of institutions, to expose corruption, to resist the temptations to be corrupted and to do the right thing. Aristotle said “You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind, next to honour.”
So to end with a short quote from a brave poet – Maya Angelou (I quote): “One isn’t necessarily born with courage. But one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue, with consistency. With courage, we can be kind, merciful, generous and honest.”
Here’s to the deep foresight, perseverance and commitment to the continued very real fight against corruption in Zambia – here’s to courage!