I can still see the girl, staring at me through the car window. Her filthy, tattered clothes. Her lifeless face. The dead eyes. There I was in India, on a fancy research grant, studying the impact of anti-bribery enforcement on developing countries. I was in the hired car, she was begging at the stop light. We were separated by an eighth-inch of glass, and yet by a chasm of privilege, comfort, and opportunity that she would never, ever cross. Never.
And I asked myself, “does my work help her? At all?”
How does anti-bribery law impact the victims of bribery? Or even, the victims’ victims: the neglected and mistreated children whose parents are too poor, and governments too inept, to do anything for them at all? Can anti-bribery enforcement make their life circumstances better? Even a little bit?
And then, last week, the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to two advocates for children such as these: Kailash Satyarthi, a Hindu Indian rights activist, and Malala Yousafzai, the 17-year old Muslim Pakastani activist whom the Taliban shot in the head because she insisted girls be able to go to school. And it’s a reminder, to all of us.
We should be sure that our stance on anti-corruption issues — the actions we take, the views we advocate — accrue in the end to the benefit of bribery’s true victims: the citizens of developing countries, especially the most vulnerable citizens, whose governments and societies have failed them. Whatever we do, whatever we say, we should be able to look that young girl in the eye and say:
“I’m doing my part.”
Andy Spalding is a senior editor of the FCPA Blog. He is an Assistant Professor at the University of Richmond School of Law.