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Learning curves are chances to do things better

Last week the  American Congress failed to ratify an international treaty protecting people with disabilities. The treaty was based on existing American law — the famous Americans with Disability Act.

It had broad and bipartisan political support, as well as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and veterans’ associations.

But opponents raised the specter of dominance by the United Nations or “potentially overzealous international organizations with anti-American biases that infringe upon American society.”

Proponents promised to try again next year.

Also this week, TI continued its decades of pioneering work, issuing its annual Corruption Perceptions Index 2012 to worldwide acknowledgement.

America was not in the top 10. Actually at the 19th spot, it has a learning curve, as TI’s Shruti Shah cogently put it:

“This ranking while not terrible, still showcases that the U.S. has a lot of work to do to eliminate both corruption and the perception of it in this country. People in the U.S. are as concerned about corruption and transparency issues in state, local, and federal government institutions, and the political culture driven by special interest groups, as people in other countries. While the U.S. government has an impressive record of enforcing the foreign bribery laws, it needs to improve its focus on issues of domestic corruption.”

Sometimes America leads the way, as in passage and enforcement of the FCPA and the ADA.

Sometimes another global partner, like TI, leads the way, pressing nations for more active enforcement and for interdependent global norms or expanding data in the CPI.

No country or organization has all the answers, but good dialog, that rejects name calling and scare tactics, provides critical information to make progress on serious problems, like corruption and programs for the disabled.

Here’s hoping for better dialog in 2013 — one that leads to American ratification of the disability treaty and to learning from TI’s CPI about uprooting corruption around the globe — including in America.

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Michael Scher is a contributing editor of the FCPA Blog.

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